Keeping You Informed & Involved!

Posted on Aug 26, 2013 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Recently, I used the term “gingiva” to a patient. When she asked me to explain what I meant, I was slightly caught off guard. It occurred to me that this term has become so common to me that I assume it is a familiar one to my patients. However, that is an unfair assumption. Many terms I use on a regular basis are those I learned in college or dental school and anything but commonplace to others, as they have become to me now.

Below are some terms you may hear us use, along with brief explanations of what they mean. And if you ever hear any term used by my staff or me that you aren’t sure what it is, feel free to ask. We want you to be involved in your oral health in an informed way!

Alveolar Bone – The jaw bone that anchors the roots of teeth.

Anterior Teeth – The six upper or six lower front teeth.

Bite – Relationship of the upper and lower teeth on closure (occlusion).

Bone Resorption – Decrease in bone supporting the roots of teeth, which is a common result of periodontal gum disease.

Bruxism – Grinding or gnashing of the teeth, most commonly while the patient is asleep.

Calculus – Hard residue, commonly known as tarter that forms on teeth due to inadequate plaque control.

Caries – Tooth decay or “cavities.”

Curettage – Removal of diseased tissue from a periodontal pocket.

Cuspid or Canine – The four “eye teeth”.

Fistula – The channel that emanates pus from an infection site, which is a gum boil.

Flap surgery – The lifting of gum tissue to expose and clean underlying tooth and bone structures.

Frenectomy – The removal or reshaping of thin muscle tissue that attaches the upper or lower lips to the gum, or the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

Gingiva – Gum tissue.

Gingivectomy – The surgical removal of gum tissue.

Gingivitis – The inflammation of gum tissue.

Gum Recession – The exposure of dental roots due to shrinkage of the gums as a result of abrasion, periodontal disease or surgery.

Halitosis – Bad breath of oral or gastrointestinal origin.

Hyperemia – Increased blood flow that may cause sensitivity to temperature and sweets.

Incisors – The four upper and lower front teeth, excluding the cuspids (canine teeth).

Mandible – The lower jaw.

Maxilla – The upper jaw.

Palate – Hard and soft tissue forming the roof of the mouth.

Plaque – A soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth and is composed of bacteria and food debris due to inadequate dental hygiene.

Prophylaxis – Cleaning of the teeth for the prevention of periodontal disease and tooth decay.

Restoration – The replacement of a portion of a damaged tooth.

Rubber Dam – A soft latex sheet used to isolate one or more teeth from contamination by oral fluids and to keep materials from falling to the back of the throat.

Scaling & Root Planning – The meticulous removal of plaque and calculus from tooth surfaces.

Tartar – A common term for dental calculus, a hard deposit that adheres to teeth and produces a rough surface that attracts plaque.

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