Common Terms Used By Dentists and Their Meanings

So you walk into a dental office. You are scared and confused, not to mention worried what the bill will amount to. You are terrified of the dental drill, and all the while, everyone is smiling at you in the office. You think no one understands your situation right? Wrong. We do.

But yes a major fault in us dentists is that most of us lack in the proper communication skills to get the concepts and ideas across. Therefore, the patient ends up knowing a lot of fancy words but doesn’t know exactly what procedure it is that the dentist has carried out. Here are few of the terms that we use.

Cavity: In a literal sense, we mean to say that your tooth has been so infected that some part of it has become rotten and broken off and the tooth now has a hole in it that needs to be filled.

Caries: It is the action of certain bacteria that feed off our food and sugars in the mouth and then use it to destroy the tooth structure. Depending on the duration and speed of the process, the caries may be very small or very large, leading to the cavities.

Root canal: sometimes the caries and cavity become so deep and so much tooth is involved that it reaches the small nerves in the middle of the tooth. When this happens the patient starts to feel pain and swelling. This means that the blood supply and the nerves are now getting infected and these should be removed mechanically as well as through medicine to treat the area. Once it is treated, we seal it and put a cap or crown on it to make sure it does not get infected again.

Plaque/tartar: We have a whole shelf stock of books displaying difference between the two but the process underlying it is the same. It means that bacteria are using the food particles in your mouth to attach themselves to the gums and teeth, and making a new city there. Sounds disgusting? It is. Through a highly organized manner, these bacteria are able to create substances that become a hard coating on the teeth. Many people when they have their teeth cleaned state that bits of their tooth came off. Its not tooth, it’s the plaque and tartar that have become so hard they start resembling the hardness of a tooth. In very simple terms, plaque and tartar are very bad and should be removed.

Scaling: scaling is the mechanical method with which the plaque and tartar is removed from the tooth surface. Think of it as machinery to demolish an illegal building. The building of plaque and tartar is removed and what is left is the original  structure of tooth and gums. Do not think that meanwhile no damage is done. After removal of the plaque, the second step of recovering the gums and teeth takes place. But please bear in mind, certain level of damage is permanent which cannot be restored. So take care of the teeth.

Polishing: After scaling it is very common for the patient to feel that the tooth surface has become roughened. It is indeed the case, for the bacteria before adhering to the surface chemically release substances to make the tooth surface rough. It helps them stick to the tooth more effectively. To remove this roughness, since it has a potential to attract new bacteria, polishing is carried out. Polishing is the use of a special kind of tooth paste which has more abrasive power than a regular tooth paste. With lots of fluoride and other healing substances, the polishing allows smoothening of the tooth structure, while fortifying it with enamel. This helps reduce the speed with which further bacteria may deposit. Remember, a scaling does not absolve you from your responsibility of cleaning your teeth. If you do not take care of the teeth properly, the chances of having plaque deposits again are very high, meaning repeated scalings.

Bleaching: Many people confuse bleaching with polishing but both have different purposes. Polishing is a mechanical process of smoothening out a surface so that it looks smoother and shinier. Bleaching is a chemical process of improving the whiteness of the tooth structure. Polishing is carried out first. This is because many people have very nice enamel shades that do not require unnecessary bleaching. Secondly, a well-polished tooth surface will respond better to the bleaching process which follows it. Bleaching is carried out in a number of ways, but your dentist determines which option is better for you.

Extraction: Extraction is the removal of a tooth or a piece of a tooth. This tooth most likely is damaged and so infected that it cannot be repaired. Other cases include pain due to pressure caused by wisdom tooth. Still other cases may involve a treatment plan for an orthodontic treatment. Sometimes only roots of the teeth remain, meaning all the other part of the tooth has been broken already. In this case, we call it extraction of the broken down root or BDR.

Ulcer: Ulcer is a discontinuation of the oral lining. This means that the mouth surfaces that are pink and shiny may become injured or infected leading to a small gape and wound in the area. Ulcers are caused by many reasons and are indicative of many conditions. However, each type of ulcer is different and only through proper diagnosis can a proper medication be prescribed.

Braces: Braces is a simplified term used for orthodontic treatment. Simply put, it is a treatment to straighten the teeth in the most beautiful anatomical alignment that nature has made for it. We use a system of wires and brackets (in most cases) to push the teeth into their right positions. We then retain that position long enough so that the teeth become accustomed to their new space. The orthodontic treatments were primarily designed for people who had so misplaced teeth that eating, talking and facial features were affected. However, now most people are interested in the aesthetic benefits of the treatment.

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