Our mission is to “continually educate our patients and ourselves…” Here are some dental terms that may help you understand more about dentistry as a whole:
Abscess: A painful area of inflamed tissue that is filled with infected material due to a bacterial infection.
Anesthetic: The numbing agent. First, a topical anesthetic gel is placed with a Q-tip, then the local anesthetic is given to numb the tooth we are going to work on. Usually, the numb feeling is gone 1-2 hours after it is given.
Bridge: A fixed unit that fills the space left by missing teeth with artificial ones, held in place by attaching to natural teeth or implants.
Bruxism: A condition in which people clench and grind their teeth.
Caries: Term for cavities; the decomposition of tooth structure.
Composite resin fillings: The white fillings generally used today. These fillings are bonded into place to seal all edges of the filling and the tooth.
Cosmetic dentistry: Services provided solely for the purpose of improving the appearance of teeth.
Crowns: Commonly known as a “cap,” crowns cover the entire visible portion of the tooth. Crowns are often recommended in cases where more than 40 percent of the tooth is missing or a whole cusp has broken off a tooth. Crowns take two visits: one visit to prepare the tooth and a second to have the final crown cemented in place. Between the two visits a temporary crown is placed to protect the tooth. Typically, there is no anesthetic needed for the second visit.
Dental Assistant: Prepares treatment rooms, assists the doctor during dental procedures, prepares materials, fabricates provisional crowns, sterilizes instruments, takes radiographs, and records impressions.
Dental cleaning: The removal of plaque and tarter from teeth to help prevent cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. This is generally done by a Hygienist.
Denture: Can be a replacement when all the teeth are missing or if just some teeth are missing. Dentures are can be held in by their suction with the tissues or by implants which will help them stay in place better.
Dry mouth: Also called xerostomia; a condition that results from an inadequate flow of saliva. Often a side effect of certain medications.
Endodontist: Dentist specializing in the treatment of the pulp or nerve of a tooth.
Erosion: The thinning or wearing of enamel, often caused by acidic foods and drinks.
Filling: Any material used to replace a missing piece of tooth structure. The most common filling done today is a composite resin filling – also known as a white filling.
General Dentist: Dentist specializing in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and conditions of the oral cavity.
Gingivitis: Reversible form of periodontal disease involving inflammation and bleeding of the gums due to plaque and bacteria.
Hygienist: Dental professional who is trained and licensed to clean teeth, take radiographs, and provide related dental services and care, under the supervision of a dentist.
Implant: An artificial tooth root that is used to replace a missing tooth or teeth. The implant itself is placed in the bone, usually by a specialist. After healing, an abutment is used to connect an implant to the crown or denture.
Impression: A negative imprint of dentition and soft tissues in the mouth from which a positive model is formed.
Night guard: A special appliance made to help relieve night time pressures of clenching and grinding. The night guard will protect teeth from breaking and can help to relieve muscle soreness and pain in the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ).
Pedodontist: Dentist pecializing in the dental treatment of children from birth through adolescence.
Periodontist: Dentist specializing in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease and the placement of dental implants.
Periodontal therapy: When your teeth are cleaned. There is a range of cleanings depending on your gums individual needs and health. Regular cleanings are the most common, but if there is infection in your gums, you may need a deep cleaning which is professionally known as Scaling and Root Planing. Scaling and Root Planning is used to remove tartar and bacteria below your gums and create a smooth surface so less bacteria can accumulate in those areas.
Porcelain: Ceramic material, oftentimes used to for crowns and veneers.
Prosthodontist: Dentist specializing in the restoration and replacement of teeth.
Radiograph: A picture of the bones or teeth inside the body. Often referred to as an X-ray.
Restorative: Restoring the function and contour of missing tooth structure.
Root canal therapy: When the nerve of a tooth has become infected, the nerve can be removed and the canal can be cleaned. After cleaning the nerve canal, an antibacterial sealing material is placed into the canal to prevent the infection from returning. Often times, a crown is recommended after root canal therapy is completed because the tooth will become more brittle and have a higher chance of breaking without the support of the crown.
Sealants: Protective coating placed in the grooves of back teeth shortly after they erupt to protect the deep down grooves of the tooth from bacteria in the mouth. No numbness is needed! The tooth is washed, dried, sealant material is placed and a light is used to make the material harden.
TMJ/TMD: Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint that connects your jaw to the base of your skull. When there is pain that joint the problem is usually associated with Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD). TMD can be associated with muscle problems or popping and clicking in the joint. These noises indicate slipping of the cushion of tissue between the two bones. Often times a night guard can help to reposition the joint while sleeping to provide relief from any pain or soreness.
Veneers: Any material used to replace the front side of a tooth. Usually veneers are made of porcelain and bonded onto front teeth to improve the color or alignment of the teeth.
Whitening: Is the process of lightening teeth to remove intrinsic and extrinsic stains. Typically involves a chemical oxidizing agent. Whitening your teeth can be accomplished many ways. Whitening toothpastes and rinses are a common way to whiten surface stains. Whitening strips are also over the counter products that are placed on the teeth to be whitened, they are able to remove stains deeper in the tooth. Whitening trays created in the office can also be used to remove deeper stains. The biggest advantage of trays is that the whitening material can be kept of the teeth for longer periods of time to make the process faster.
By: Dr. Nick Mattila and Jenna Ebenhoe
Additional source: “Glossary.” MouthHealthy. American Dental Association, 2014. Web. 2 Feb. 2015.