The world of dental care is filled with its own terms that you might have never heard of before. And that could make things pretty confusing pretty quickly. So knowing a variety of dental terms before your appointment could help ensure that you won’t be caught off guard when your dentist throws a new word at you. Plus, when you’re more informed, you might even have fewer questions to ask your dentist, or you might be ready to ask more in-depth questions about your oral health and treatment options.
To help you become a more empowered dental patient, we’ve compiled a list of some of the many dental terms that you ought to know.
Just a Few Conditions That Could Affect the Mouth
- Abrasion – your dentist might mention this term when he or she notices that your tooth is showing wear as a result of actions like brushing your teeth too hard.
- Abscess – this is a term used to describe inflammation that involves a collection of pus. Symptoms could include destruction of the tissue and swelling.
- Bruxism – this is the term used to describe unconscious clenching or grinding of the teeth.
- Calculus – also referred to as tartar, this is the hard deposit that occurs when you’re unable to remove all of the plaque from your teeth. As the tartar builds up on your teeth, it could cause your gums to become inflamed, and you’ll need a professional dental cleaning to remove it and restore your dental health.
- Caries – this is a term used to describe tooth decay.
- Cavity – this is the term used by your dentist when you’re missing some tooth structure as a result of erosion, abrasion, or decay.
- Dry Socket – this refers to inflammation and pain within a tooth’s socket after the tooth has been extracted.
- Gingivitis – this is an early stage of gum disease, typically the result of plaque buildup. The gums will usually be inflamed and red, as well as bleed easily.
- Impacted Tooth – this occurs when a tooth is blocked, either by soft tissue, bone, or another tooth, from coming up through your gums. It commonly occurs in wisdom teeth.
- Malocclusion – this is the term used when there is misalignment of the teeth or jaws.
- Periodontitis – also referred to as periodontal disease, this is a serious infection of your gums that could develop if you have gingivitis that isn’t properly treated in time. The bones and gums supporting your teeth could deteriorate, causing the teeth to become loose and fall out.
- Plaque - this is the sticky film containing bacteria and various other substances that ends up coating your teeth daily. When not properly removed using regular brushing and flossing, it could harden into calculus (tartar) and result in gum disease.
- Temporomandibular joint disorder – also referred to as TMD, this is a condition that could result in symptoms that include clicking and pain within the temporomandibular joint.
So Many Different Branches of Dentistry!
- Endodontics – this is a branch of dentistry that deals with conditions that affect dental pulp. An endodontist has more training in order to treat your problem if it’s more advanced, such as if you have to undergo a root canal.
- Oral or Maxillofacial Surgeon – this specialist treats conditions that affect the jaw and teeth.
- Oral Pathologist – this is a specialist who knows how to examine your mouth for abnormalities that include cancer.
- Orthodontist – this is a dentist who specializes in correcting the alignment of teeth using tools that include braces.
- Pediatric Dentist – this is a dentist that only treats children’s teeth.
- Periodontist – this is a dental specialist who treats the tissues surrounding the teeth.
Some of the Treatments Your Dentist Might Recommend
- Amalgam – this is a type of dental filling that could be used to restore teeth that have cavities. It contains a mix of various metals, such as silver, mercury, and copper.
- Bridge – this appliance might be recommended if you’re missing one or more teeth. It will be used to attach artificial teeth to your natural teeth, bridging the gap between them and restoring your smile.
- Composite – this is another type of dental filling that could be used to restore the health of a tooth when a cavity is found. It is colored like the rest of the teeth, allowing for a more natural appearance.
- Extraction – this is performed when all or part of a tooth is removed by the dentist because other treatments were not possible.
- Prosthesis – this is an artificial replacement for missing teeth.
- Root canal – during this treatment, the pulp, or nerve, of a tooth is removed and the space is sealed before a crown is used to cover and protect the tooth.
- Scaling and root planing – this procedure is used to provide a deep clean below the gumline.
- Sealant – this is a plastic resin that could be applied to the biting surface of a tooth in order to prevent decay and cavities.
- Veneers – these are thin covers that could be applied to your teeth in order to improve their appearance. They could be made of various materials, such as ceramic or acrylic resin.
Getting to Know Your Dental Anatomy
- Buccal – this refers to the areas of your teeth that are near your cheeks.
- Cementum – this is the thin tissue covering tooth roots.
- Crown – this is the top part of a tooth (note: this term could also refer to the cover that’s used to restore the appearance and function of a tooth).
- Dentin – this is the part of your tooth that lies beneath the enamel and the cementum.
- Enamel – this is the hard surface on the exterior of your teeth.
- Gingiva – this is another term for gums, which are the soft tissues that surround the teeth.
- Lingual – this refers to the areas of your teeth that are near the tongue.
- Occlusal Surface – this refers to the area of a tooth that is used for chewing.
- Palate – this is the roof of the mouth.
- Pulp – this is the soft tissue that is found inside your teeth. It contains nerves and blood vessels.
- Root – this is the bottom part of a tooth. It anchors the tooth into your jaw and it is covered by the gums.
- Temporomandibular joint – also referred to as TMJ, this is the joint that connects the skull and the lower jaw.
Feeling Smarter and Ready for Your Next Appointment?
Knowing these dental terms might help you feel more in control the next time that you have to see your dentist. And your dentist might even appreciate the fact that you’ve taken the time to become more informed and to take charge of your health.