I asked my twelve-year-old son what he would like to know about dentistry in an effort to determine this week’s blog. He said, “What exactly is a denture?” That combined with a TikTok video I saw that showed what people really hear when the dentist is talking, has led me to this conclusion…Our patients have no idea what we’re talking about. So, I thought I would give some basic dental terminology.
Teeth: Most humans have 32 teeth. The front ones are incisors. Most people know what your canines are. Some dentists refer to them as “I” teeth. The smaller teeth behind your canines are your premolars, and the big teeth in the back are your molars. Dentists use a numbering system that starts in the upper, right wisdom tooth as #1 and goes across the top of the mouth and then back across of the bottom teeth until we get to the lower right wisdom tooth which is #32. So when you hear the dentist say a tooth number, they are just identifying the exact tooth.
Sides of Teeth: You may hear your dentist say weird words when they are talking about your teeth.
Mesial(M)-Facing the front of your mouth
Distal(D)-Facing the back of your mouth
Buccal(B)-Facing your cheek
Lingual(L)-Facing your tongue
Occlusal(O)-On the biting surface of your tooth
For instance, if you have a cavity on your upper molar in front of your wisdom tooth and the cavity is on the part of your tooth that is facing the front of your mouth and then the part of the tooth that you bite on, you may hear your dentist tell the assistant that you need a MO on #2.
We aren’t trying to be difficult, this is just the way we are taught in school so that universally all dentists know what other dentists are talking about.
Denture: A removable, typically all acrylic appliance, that replaces ALL of the teeth on one arch of your mouth.
Partial Denture: A removable acrylic or part metal appliance that replaces SOME of the teeth on one arch of your mouth. This is a very economical option for patients that are missing multiple teeth but still have other teeth that are good.
Bite Guard: An acrylic appliance most often worn at night to protect your teeth and jaw.
Filling: A procedure where the decay is removed from a tooth and then we replace the missing tooth structure with a resin substance called composite.
Crown: A procedure done to strengthen a tooth that has either broken, cracked, or has a lot of decay. Think of how a thimble protects a finger.
Root Canal: A procedure done to remove bacteria and infection from inside of the root of the tooth. The nerve of the tooth is removed so that it can no longer cause pain. Most rootcanal treated teeth will need a crown after the rootcanal to protect the tooth.
Bridge: People often confuse bridges and partial dentures. They are not similar at all. A partial denture is removable or comes in out of your mouth, and a bridge is cemented in your mouth and does not come out. A bridge is a group of crowns that are fused together. It is cemented in your mouth. If you are missing a tooth in between two solid teeth, the two teeth on either side of the gap can be crowned and a fake crown in the space connects the two crowns together. You are basically “bridging” a gap. Bridges can also be long spanning involving multiple teeth.
Implant: An implant is a titanium screw that is placed into the jawbone. The screw can have different tops put on it for different uses. Some implants replace single teeth. Some implants are used to hold bridges. Some implants are used to stabilize dentures and partial dentures. And some implants are used for full mouth restorations. They are very multifunctional.
I hope this clears up some of the dentist lingo! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes we forget that you don’t know what we’re talking about!!!