What is My Dentist Talking About?

Sometimes your dentist just may forget that the mouth is a foreign place to patients. Even I have to catch myself from using terms that may confuse people. This post is to help you understand some of the common terms you may hear from the dental team so that you can actually understand what they are trying to say to you.


Arches: This refers to the two that can be found in your mouth, aka the area where the top teeth are found and the area where the bottom teeth are found

Buccal: A term that refers to the surfaces that are closest to your cheeks

Crown: Not because you are royalty. It is a type of restoration typically used when there is a cavity so large that giving it a filling won’t help the tooth.

Cavity: A more popular term, but not as understood as we may hope. Cavities are holes in your teeth from bacteria eating into it. They’re bad because if they dig deep enough, they can reach the sensitive parts of the tooth, causing pain and possible infection.

Dentin: This is the next structure within your tooth after enamel. It holds the important things like nerves and blood vessels. This is what gets painful when a cavity gets too deep.

Distal: If this is used to describe a surface of something, it refers to the back part of it.

Enamel: When you smile, you see the enamel of your teeth. It’s the hard and white surface, and what you generally may think of as your tooth.

Fluoride: There’s much controversy on this subject, but dental professionals see it as a tool to help strengthen your teeth and protect them from harmful situations.

Gingiva: Also called your gums. The pink stuff that surrounds your teeth.

Interproximal/ Interdental: Means between the teeth.

Incisors: These are a category of teeth that are positioned at the front of the mouth, both on the top and the bottom. They are the teeth that are flat and shaped as rectangles.

Lingual: Like buccal, it refers to surfaces that are closest to the tongue.

Labial: This is specific for the areas of the front of the mouth. They’re the areas closest to the lips.

Maxilla/ Maxillary: The maxilla is the top portion of your mouth, including teeth and gums and the roof of your mouth.

Mandible/ Mandibular: The bottom portion of the mouth. the jaw portion.

Mesial: The opposite of distal, the front part of something/ closer to the midline of the face.

Molars: Types of teeth- they refer to the larger teeth in the back of your mouth that feel more circular and have many ridges.

Occlusion: Also means the way that your teeth come together when you bite down.

Premolars: The teeth that are between the incisors and and the molars that have points in the front and back.

Plaque: You can feels this the best in the morning when your teeth feel “fuzzy.” It is the accumulation of fluids and bacteria.

Posterior: Towards the back of your mouth.

Quadrant: Your mouth can be sectioned into four parts- two on the top and two on the bottom. A quadrant would be one of those sections.

Recession: This occurs when you lose bone in your mouth, causing your gums to expose the roots of your teeth.

Scaling: The cleaning of the teeth by the hygienist with the tools, can cause a rough scraping sound.

Wisdom teeth: The last teeth to come in that often need to be removed.


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