Monday, August 4, 2014

Dental Terms 101

Common Dental Terms

You may hear several words or phrases at your dental cleaning that are not in your day-to-day vocabulary. You may be more familiar with some than others, but let’s review to make sure that you get the most out of each visit to the dentist.


Plaque is the soft, sticky, typically white to yellowed colored film that builds up on teeth. Plaque is made up of colonies of bacteria (bad germs) that can negatively affect your teeth and gums. The bacteria in our mouths are constantly trying to build plaque, whether we have eaten or not. Because plaque is soft, it can be removed daily at home with proper brushing and flossing technique. Plaque is often so close to the color of our teeth, that it is hard to see. Plaque begins formation at the gum line and not brushing the bristles up onto gums can lead to tartar formation.

Tartar the term for what is formed when the soft plaque isn’t removed and is allowed to harden on the teeth. Tartar can be considered as the calcified form of bacterial plaque and can wreak havoc on gum health. Because tartar is hardened on, it must be removed by your dental hygienist.
                The dental textbook term for tartar is calculus – just in case you hear this word.

This is the term used for gums that are red, puffy, and/or bleeding. If you have any areas of gums that are inflamed, this means that extra bacterial colonies (plaque) have set up in this area and your body is trying to fight this bad bacteria off. Extra hygiene attention may be needed or even a localized antibiotic. Your dental professional can help identify and aid you in healing these bacterial infected areas. Regular bleeding of the gums is not a healthy sign and is often also called GINGIVITIS.

This might be a term you hear when we are talking about the start of a cavity. An incipient cavity is small enough that it does not need a filling yet and can possibly be re-hardened. See in the picture the decay is just into the enamel. Incipient cavities can occasionally be re-mineralized (hardened back) by extra cleaning attention with brush and floss, and by incorporating extra fluoride. The Meiners’ Dentistry Team can customize your routine to help re-strengthen your teeth!

Recession of the gums is when the gum tissue begins to move away from the top of the tooth toward the root. This can leave areas of the tooth’s root exposed. Occasionally these areas are sensitive, but not always. Recession is a slow process but needs close monitoring to ensure keeping your teeth. Recession can be caused by a few different things or can even just increase as we age; Dr. Meiners can help diagnose your causing factors and how to help combat recession.

                We recognize that there are a lot of “dental words.” At Meiners Dentistry we always welcome questions about terms or procedures that you may not be quite as familiar with. The above words are commonly used at recall cleaning visits, but are very important to understand as they can lead to more serious issues. Don’t be afraid to inquire about your mouth! We plan to keep you smiling (and eating) in those pearly whites!