Dental Talk – Terms You May Hear

Posted on May 12, 2015 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

In patient conversations, I occasionally catch myself saying things like “…your mandible” when “lower jaw” is a more familiar way to say the same thing. As a periodontist, some dental terms are so common to me that I forget I can lose good connection with patients.

I hope I avoid discussing your oral health in unfamiliar terms. However, if I slip, never hesitate to ask questions so you fully understand everything during my explanations.

Some terms that aren’t always familiar ones may include:

• Anterior Teeth: The six upper or six lower front teeth.
• Bone Resorption: Loss of jaw bone that supports tooth roots.
• Bruxing: Grinding or gnashing of teeth, typically while asleep.
• Calculus: Hard residue that forms on teeth due to plaque buildup.
• Mandible: The lower jaw.
• Maxilla: The upper jaw.
• Palate: Hard and soft tissue forming the roof of the mouth.
• Plaque: A sticky substance composed of bacteria and food debris that accumulates on teeth.
• Prophy: Cleaning of the teeth for the prevention of gum disease and tooth decay.
• Scaling & Root Planning: Removing plaque and calculus from tooth surfaces above and below the gum line.
• Tartar: A common term for calculus, a hard deposit that adheres to teeth and can only be removed by dental tools.

We want our patients to always be in-the-know when it comes to dental wellness. I hope our conversations leave you fully informed so you are an active participant in achieving and maintaining a healthy smile!

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