Understanding dental terminology
Ever heard your dentist use a word or phrase you didn’t understand? You’re not alone!
It’s not uncommon for dentists to use words that might sound completely foreign to you. Dentists use very specific dental terminology to describe what’s going on in your mouth, and although they want you to know what’s happening with your teeth so you can take better care of them, sometimes things get lost in translation.
Recently in speaking with a new employee she described the frustration of trying to understand the various dental terminology used in our office, and just how foreign it really was to those who were not in the dental or medical field. In listening to her describe what she initially thought the definition of some of the most commonly used words were in our office, we couldn’t help but think that there must be a great number of our patients who probably had similar thoughts and beliefs. And more importantly, there was definitely valuable information that could be passed on in our monthly article.
First of all, never be afraid to ask your dentist to explain any dental terms you aren’t familiar with. What’s important is that you understand any dental problems you might be having, as well as your dental treatment options.
What’s in a word?
Listed below are just a few of the strange words and that were described as being very confusing to understand without further explanation. Just for fun, we have also listed what was described by patients as their first impression of the meaning of these words.
Bitewings — No they are not small bite size wings that you get from KFC, but rather a single X-ray that shows upper and lower teeth that are taken usually once a year before your cleaning and examination.
Crown — This is not something you where on your head or a sparkly tiara. A crown is the portion of a tooth above the gum line that is covered by enamel; (2) dental restoration covering all or most of the natural tooth; the artificial cap can be made of porcelain, composite, or metal and is cemented on top of the damaged tooth.
Scaling — This does not involve climbing a wall. Scaling and root planing: a deep-cleaning, nonsurgical procedure whereby plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line are scraped away (scaling) and rough spots on the tooth root are made smooth (planing).
Flipper — No this is not your favorite dolphin at Sea World. A flipper is a temporary device made mostly of acrylic resin, similar to a retainer, which are relatively inexpensive, partial dentures which will be in service while waiting for a more definitive treatment.
Retreat — Definitely not a camp for you and your family. Endodontic retreatment describes a dental root canal procedure that is carried out on a tooth that has previously had root canal treatment. For this reason it is also called “repeat root canal treatment”.
Tartar — You do not use this as a condiment. Tartar, also called calculus, is the hard deposit containing bacteria and minerals that adheres to teeth.
TMD — This is not text abbreviation for “Text Me Dear” or any other combination you might come up with, but instead is the Temperormandibular Disorder, or the term given to a condition characterized by facial pain and restricted ability to open and move the jaw.
Rubber Dam — What? Do they make dams out of rubber?. No of course not. A Rubber Dam is soft latex sheet used to protect one or more teeth from moisture and to keep materials from falling to the back of the throat.
Well you can certainly see how there can be great confusion in the meaning of words, not only in dental terminology but in everyday life. This list, could of course, go on for pages but the real story here is that if you don’t understand any dental term you should talk to your dentist. I’m sure they have heard most of your questions before, and although it may seem uncomfortable or embarrassing for your to ask, nothing is more important to your dentist than the care of their patients, which includes proper communication with them as well.