A Glossary Dental Terms Often Mistaken For Something Else

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Every industry has its own language and terms. These words and phrases can be confusing to anyone who is not part of the daily operations of a specific sector, and the dentistry business is no exception.

To help you understand the terms, acronyms, and phrases regularly used when availing of dental services or products, Dentists on Bloor have created this handy reference guide. Here you’ll find valuable information allowing you to comprehend and communicate your dental needs effectively.

1. Implant
A dental implant (also known as an endosseous implant or fixture) is a surgical component that interfaces with the bone of the jaw or skull to support a dental prosthesis such as a crown, bridge, denture, facial prosthesis or to act as an orthodontic anchor. In simple terms, an implant is a titanium (most common material) screw placed into the jaw bone, which then fuses with the bone (integration). On this screw, a tooth or teeth can be fitted, creating teeth that can be used for chewing and smiling with no movement. 

2. Post
This is often confused with the dental implant. A dental post is placed into the root of a natural tooth that has been treated with a root canal. It can be made of metal or reinforced fiber. A post is needed when the tooth is heavily restored or heavily carious to help support the structure of a crown that will recreate the tooth’s shape and function. 

3. Root canal
This is a procedure performed to save the tooth when a cavity or trauma has caused the tooth nerve to die or become infected. While the tooth remains intact, only the internal pulp, nerve, and blood supply are removed and filled with a material that prevents further infection. You can still get a cavity on a tooth that has a root canal as the tooth remains intact, but you will have no feeling on this tooth.

4. TMJ
We often hear people mention that they have “TMJ” or Temporomandibular Joint. Well, the Temporomandibular Joint is part of normal jaw anatomy. However, if you have any muscle or jaw pain, limitation in jaw movement, clicking, or popping, you may have TMD. TMD is defined as Temporomandibular Disorder. The jaw joints, or temporomandibular (TM) joints, connect the lower jawbone (mandible) to the skull. These flexible joints are used more than any other joint in the body. They allow the jaw to open and close for talking, chewing, swallowing, yawning, and other movements.

Many people experience jaw movement problems and pain in and around the jaw joints at some time or the other. These joint and muscle problems are complex. So finding the right diagnosis and treatment of TMD may take some time.

5. Bridge
A bridge is a fixed dental restoration (a fixed dental prosthesis) used to replace one or more missing teeth by joining an artificial tooth definitively to adjacent teeth or dental implants. This is cemented in place and cannot be removed unless it is drilled off.

6. Partial denture
It is often referred to as a “bridge.” A partial denture can replace one or multiple teeth, but It is different from a bridge as it can be removed after meals to clean, and at night to let the tissue rest. When in the mouth, it is supported by other teeth and tissue and has some movement.

7. Pocket
A periodontal pocket is a space that exists between the tooth and gum. Gingival and periodontal pockets (also informally referred to as gum pockets) are dental terms indicating the presence of an abnormal depth of the gingival sulcus near the point at which the gingival tissue contacts the tooth. In this space, bacteria and food accumulate. The smaller the pocket, the healthier the gum is. If the pocket is large, it may be inflamed, infected, and become a problem to keep clean. A deep pocket may lead to further issues like bone loss if not cleaned professionally.

8. Snore appliance
A custom-fitted dental sleep appliance developed for the treatment of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. It is a practical, comfortable, and durable alternative to CPAP therapy or corrective surgery. This appliance is worn at night and advances the lower jaw, therefore, opening up the airway allowing for better airflow. Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have sleep apnea. The primary type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax.

9. Clear aligner
These are orthodontic mouthpieces that help straighten your crooked teeth without the use of metal braces. There are many different brands of clear aligners. The most common brand is Invisalign that paved the way to the technology of straightening teeth without metal. The plastic aligner puts pressure on the teeth to move them. The plastic acts as the metal wire, and the white attachments that are on the teeth are like the metal bracket or ́ “train tack.” This technology has made it easy to get straight teeth and have the ability to keep the teeth clean with minimal additional effort. The only downside is there is the need for full compliance as you can wear them whenever you want rather than wearing them all the time.

10. Abrasion
Abrasion is the progressive loss of hard tooth substances caused by mechanical actions other than mastication or tooth-to-tooth contact. Abrasion is commonly associated with incorrect tooth brushing techniques, giving rise to notching at the junction of the crown and root of teeth. Attrition or dental attrition is a type of tooth wear caused by tooth-to-tooth contact, resulting in loss of tooth tissue, usually starting at the incisal or occlusal surfaces. Tooth wear is a physiological process and is commonly seen as a normal part of aging.

11. Porcelain
Dental porcelain (also known as dental ceramic) is a dental material used by dental technicians to create biocompatible life-like dental restorations, such as crowns, bridges, and veneers. It can be made into any shape and shade to match that of your natural teeth. Teeth made from porcelain are usually made in a dental lab and take up to two weeks to make, but they can also be made in a dental office with the help of a 3D printing machine.

12. Composite
A dental composite is often confused with dental porcelain. Composites are tooth-colored filling materials made of resin reinforced with silica or porcelain particles. They are used in dentistry as one of several alternatives to dental amalgams (silver metal fillings). These materials are used directly in the dental chair without any lab involved. Composites can be life-like and highly polished to resemble the natural tooth.

13. Calculus
Calculus not to be confused with the math you took in high school. This is the hard deposit that settles on the tooth when not cleaned well. It is caused by precipitation of minerals from saliva and gingival crevicular fluid (GCF) in plaque on the teeth. Calculus buildup can be removed with ultrasonic tools or dental hand instruments (such as a periodontal scaler). Calculus is also referred to as tartar.

14. Scaling
Scaling is a common dental procedure for patients with gum disease. This is a type of dental cleaning that reaches below the gum line to remove plaque buildup. The process of scaling and root planing the teeth is often referred to as deep cleaning.

15. Veneer
A veneer is a layer of material placed over a tooth. Veneers improve the aesthetics of a smile and protect the tooth’s surface from damage. There are two main types of material used to fabricate a veneer, they are composite and dental porcelain. A porcelain veneer may only be indirectly fabricated in a lab while a composite veneer can be made chairside.

If you’re looking for a dental clinic in Toronto, ON, reach out to the experts at Dentists on Bloor. Our goal is to assist our patients in achieving an ideal state of oral health in a professional, friendly, and safe environment. To achieve this, we make sure that our clients are aware of the condition of their teeth and gums and are comfortable with the procedures we suggest to improve their oral health. We specialize in many dental procedures and have an experienced team to execute them efficiently.

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