Most dental terms are not complicated if you understand how they are developed and related. In addition, the treatment
procedures are categorized by the procedure coding system. The terms are descriptive and often related to the anatomical part, e.g., a root canal treatment is treatment of the nerve canals in the root of the tooth; a crown is a restoration
that covers the crown of the tooth (also called a cap) and a filling restores the tooth by packing the filling material
(amalgam or resin) into the prepared cavity (derived from dentists telling the patients they were filling the cavity).
The function of the part or surface occlusal:portion of the tooth that occludes or the grinding surface incisal: edge of front tooth used for cutting off food
The shape of the part cusp and apex:point
Looks similar to some other familiar object pulp: looks similar to the "pulp" inside of grapes or other fruits
Example: Intern-ist: person who specializes in internal medicine Dent-ist: person who treats teeth Perio-dont-ist: person who treats the tissues around teeth Endo-dont-ist: person who treats the inside of teeth
Dent or Odont: tooth
-ist: person who treats or does the procedure
Example: Gingiv-itis: inflammation of the gums
Perio-dont-itis: inflammation of the tissues around the tooth
Pulp: nerve of tooth
Pulp-itis: inflammation of the nerve
Osseous: refers to bone
Osseous surgery: surgery involving manipulation of bone
Apex: tip or point
Peri-apical: around the point (root tip)
Peri-apical film: film that shows the end of the root
Bite-wing film: a film that has a tab (wing) on the side to bite on when taken
Overview of Dental Specialists: types and what they do
Pediatric dentist (pedodontist, children's dentist): limited to treatment of children, including special problems (handicapped, behavior problems, extensive dental disease in the young).
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons: mainly do extensive surgical extractions (e.g., impacted wisdom teeth), treat fractured jaws and perform surgical procedures involving the jaws and teeth.
Orthodontists: fit braces for malocclusions (crooked teeth).
Periodontists: treat diseases of the gums and bone (supporting tissues) - surgical procedures/scaling and root planing.
Prosthodontists: (Prosthetic appliances are artificial replacements for body parts.) Provide dentures, implants, fixed bridges, extensive reconstruction with crowns, etc.
Oral Pathologists: specialize in diagnosis of diseases and abnormalities by clinical examinations and analysis of biopsies or laboratory tests.
Public Health dentists: conduct studies involving patterns of dental disease, dental needs and access to care for populations; provide dental care in public health clinics and, on Indian reservations and study effectiveness of preventive public health measures such as fluoridation.
Endodontists: treat problems with the pulp, root canals and perform surgery of the tissues around the end the roots (periapical).
Arch: the horseshoe (U)-shaped arrangement of the teeth and bone (SEE FIGURE 1)
Maxillary arch: upper teeth and bone around the teeth
Mandibular arch: lower teeth and bone
Quadrant: area divided in fourths. For dentistry, the mouth is divided in the midline between the two central incisors and separated between the upper and lower arches for descriptive purposes (SEE FIGURE 1)
Upper right quadrant: teeth and bone in patient's upper right segment. Right and left always refers to the patient's right or left. Abbreviations refer to upper right, upper left, lower left and lower right (UR, UL, LL, LR).
The names of teeth are related to their shape and function and position in the arch. There are only four types of teeth: incisor, cuspids, bicuspid and molars. These terms are further defined by identifying the tooth's location: primary/permanent, upper/lower, right/left position on the quadrant in reference to the midline; for example, upper right permanent central incisor.
Incisor tooth: one of the four upper or lower front teeth that have an edge versus apoint and used for incising food (cutting it off) (SEE FIGURE 2)
Cuspid: pointed tooth at corners of each arch; also called canine because dogs have large cuspids or eye teeth because root is long and apex of the root is under the eye (SEE FIGURE 3)
Bicuspid: has two cusps, there are two bicuspids on each side of each arch (SEE FIGURE 4)
Pre-molar: teeth in front of molars (just another name for bicuspids)
Molar: multiple cusp teeth used for grinding food. There are three permanent molars in each quadrant. (SEE FIGURE 5)
These are the basic terms that are used in the dental office to describe common dental diseases and conditions.
Decay: decompose or come apart - opposite of compose or put together
Dental caries is the disease process referred to as "tooth decay," which causes cavities in teeth. It's a bacterial infection caused by a bacteria named Streptococcus mutans in the plaque that forms on teeth.
If the process continues and penetrates through the enamel surface, the cavity spreads more quickly in the dentin, the portion of the tooth that lies underneath the enamel and cementum.
When enough of the dentin has been destroyed, the unsupported layer of enamel will break off and the patient becomes aware of the "cavity" or hole in the tooth. At this stage there may be a sensitivity to sweets - originally referred to as a "sweet tooth" by those who liked candy.
Pit and fissure cavities start in the developmental grooves (wrinkles) where the cusps of the bicuspids or molars join. The pits are where the grooves join. Many molars have a pit on the side of the tooth, usually on the buccal surface of lowers and the lingual surface of uppers.
Smooth-surface cavities start on the smooth surfaces of the teeth, primarily between the teeth or along the gingiva.
Gingival cavities: smooth-surface cavities that start along the "gum" line. They are indicative of high caries activity and often poor oral hygiene habits.
Interproximal: cavities between the teeth - where the teeth are next to each other - mesial and distal surfaces.
Root caries: when the gingival tissues recede leaving exposed root areas, usually in older people or previous periodontal patients. Cavities may start on the exposed root areas which are covered with cementum and not enamel.
Bottle mouth caries: occurs when a very young child is susceptible and kept on the bottle, commonly filled with juice. It is extensive decay often by 12 - 18 months of age.
Prevention of Dental Caries
Sugars: control refined sugars in diet, especially frequency and length of time the sugar is in the mouth. Use oral hygiene practices to remove sugars from the mouth.
Bacteria: use oral hygiene practices to remove the plaque that contains pathogenic bacteria.
Fluorides: topical fluoride treatments make the teeth less susceptible to dental caries. Fluorides that are found in the water supply, processed foods, and the fluoride toothpaste are the most effective.
Sealants: thin layer of resin (plastic) placed in susceptible grooves and pits on the biting surfaces of the molars to prevent decay from starting.
perio (around): disease of the tissues around the teeth, bone and/or gingiva (gums) which are caused by bacteria and irritation from calculus (tarter under the gingiva). Bacteria are either aerobic meaning they need air to live, or anaerobic, which means they live in the absence of air.
Signs and symptoms: red, swollen, bleeding gingiva and loose teeth.
Gingivitis: is the early stage of inflammation of the gingiva which has not spread to the bone. (SEE FIGURE 6)
Prevention and Treatment
Good oral hygiene home care to remove plaque and impacted food and to reduce inflammation.
Restoration of cavities, especially interproximal cavities, which contribute to food impaction and oral hygiene problems.
Regular professional prophylaxes (cleanings) to remove calculus, which causes inflammation.
Root planing as a treatment and when indicated to prevent progression.
Surgical procedures to eliminate pockets may be indicated in treatment of severe cases with extensive loss of bone.
How to describe the various types of procedures used to examine, diagnose, and treat teeth and gums
Diagnostic and preventive procedures
Prophylaxis: cleaning, scaling and polishing the surfaces of the teeth to remove the stains and deposits (calculus).
Root planing: after there has been a loss of bone due to periodontal disease, the exposed root surfaces are smoothed with instruments to remove the deposits causing the irritation and inflammation.
Fluoride treatment: a gel or liquid fluoride compound is placed on the teeth for about four minutes. The enamel soaks up some of the fluoride and may remineralize areas where decay may have started and makes the teeth less susceptible to decay.
Radiograph: (X-ray) special photographic film when exposed and developed that provides a shadow image of the teeth and bone (hard tissues). The harder the tissues (more calcium) the more they block the X-rays making a lighter image on the film. Soft tissues do not block the X-rays as much and more exposure to the film makes it darker when developed. Decay dissolves the calcium out of the enamel and show up as dark areas on the film.
Amalgam restoration: silver filling made by mixing an alloy of silver, tin, copper and zinc with mercury; used for fillings in posterior (back) teeth.
Composite resin: tooth-colored plastic with silica particles as a filler; may be cured with a light or chemical catalyst; primarily used for restoring front teeth.
Cosmetic bonding: bonding refers to the process of etching the surface of the enamel and restoration with acid. A plastic resin material flows into the roughened surface of the tooth and the surface of the restoration to form a mechanical "bond" of the restoration to the tooth. Cosmetic refers to any procedure that is done for looks versus function, or for treating disease.
Veneers: partial crowns, done on front teeth where a thin layer of enamel is removed from the front surface (labial) and a thin layer of porcelain or plastic is bonded to the tooth.
Cast restorations: are used when the tooth has such a large cavity or fracture that it needs additional strength for support, also porcelain may be used for cosmetic purposes.
Porcelain: glass-like substance that is baked at high temperatures in the dental lab, similar to dishes. May be a full porcelain crown, an inlay or onlay.
Crowns: referred to as "caps." The restoration covers all five surfaces of the tooth and holds the tooth together.
Treatment of diseased pulp (nerve) (endo - inside the tooth)
Root canal treatment: Removal of the diseased pulp tissue to the ends of the roots and filling the canals with gutta percha.
When pulp dies due to an injury, or becomes infected due to decay, it causes an abscess at the end of the root. It is like removing a splinter. If you remove the infected pulp tissue, the source of the infection, the abscess will usually heal.
Pulp (nerve): tissue inside the tooth containing the nerve, blood vessels and cells that repair the tooth to protect it from approaching caries by forming a layer of dentin.
Root planing: When the disease has destroyed the bone around the tooth, it leaves pockets between the gingiva and root areas that are rough and accumulate deposits of calculus (tarter) on them. These pockets and deposits provide protective havens for bacteria, which further irritate the gingiva causing more inflammation. Instruments are used to remove these deposits, and to plane (smooth) the root surfaces so that the tissues can heal.
Curettage: similar to root planing. Technically, the procedure involves removing the lining of the periodontal pockets. Therefore, it is considered a surgical procedure.