We at South Charlotte Dentistry know dental terminology can be confusing, sounding a bit like jargon sometimes. We also recognize that a trip to the dentist can be stressful, so the last thing you need to worry about is not understanding what’s happening.

In order to make every visit to South Charlotte Dentistry stress-free, we have put together a list of Dental Terms we hope provide some clarity for your next visit.

Getting to know your mouth, the basics:

  • Tooth. Okay, we all have them, but what exactly is a tooth? According to Wikipedia, “a tooth (plural teeth) is a hard, calcified structure found in the jaws (or mouths) of many vertebrates and used to break down food. Some animals, particularly carnivores, also use teeth for hunting or for defensive purposes. The roots of teeth are covered by gums.”
  • Gums. Gums are defined by Wikipedia as “the mucosal tissue that lies over the mandible and maxilla inside the mouth.”
  • Palate. This is the roof or the mouth, separating the cavities of the nose and mouth.
Anatomy of a Tooth

Common issues:

  • Cavity. Cavities and tooth decay are one of the most common health problems around the world. Tooth decay can affect both the outer coating of a tooth (called enamel) and the inner layer (called dentin). What creates a cavity? According to WebMD, “When foods with carbohydrates like bread, cereal, milk, soda, fruit, cake, or candy stay on your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth turn them into acids. The bacteria, acid, food debris, and your saliva combine to form plaque, which clings to the teeth. The acids in plaque dissolve the enamel, creating holes called cavities.”
  • Tartar and Plaque. Which is which? Plaque starts out as sticky deposits on teeth. The plaque carries bacteria that can damage tooth enamel and lead to cavities. If you remove plaque regularly, you can prevent permanent tooth decay and gum disease. If plaque stays on your teeth it hardens into tartar. Tartar, also called calculus, forms below and above the gum line, which can become a much bigger problem.
  • Gum Disease. The mild variety of gum diseases is called gingivitis, which means your gums are infected. If this goes untreated, the infection can travel beneath the gum line and into the bones. This is the more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis.
Dental Visit

Common repairs and procedures:

  • Inlays and Onlays. Both inlays and onlays are considered “indirect” fillings, meaning they are made outside the mouth (usually at a dental laboratory), and then bonded to the tooth (either inside or on the tooth itself) by the dentist.
  • Crown. A dental crown is a tooth-shaped “cap” that is placed over a Crowns restore the tooth’s shape, size, strength, and they improve the appearance of your teeth.
  • Filling. A filling restores a tooth damaged by decay. It returns the tooth to a normal shape and function. Fillings can be made from the following: gold, porcelain, a composite resin (tooth-colored) or other alloys.
  • Extraction. Simply stated, extraction is when a tooth needs to be removed for a variety of reasons, such as decay, structural damage, or to make room for dentures or dental implants.
  • Root Canal/Endodontic Therapy. Also known as endodontic treatment (or root canal therapy), this is a treatment to eliminate infection from the pulp of a tooth and to protect the tooth from future issues.
  • Halitosis Treatment. At South Charlotte Dentistry, we offer tongue scraping to effectively cure your halitosis, plus specially formulated mouthwash to eliminate the bacteria that causes the bad breath.
  • Cleaning. Many people dread this bi-annual appointment, but it’s important for your oral health and there are five basic steps (from www.healthline.com):

1. A physical exam

Most teeth cleanings are performed by a dental hygienist. Before the actual cleaning process begins, they start with a physical exam of your entire mouth. The dental hygienist uses a small mirror to check around your teeth and gums for any signs of gingivitis (inflamed gums) or other potential concerns. If they detect major problems, the dental hygienist might call the dentist to make sure it’s fine to proceed.

2. Removing plaque and tartar

With the small mirror to guide them, the dental hygienist uses a scaler to get rid of plaque and tartar around your gum line, as well as, between your teeth. You’ll hear scraping, but this is normal. The more tartar there is in your mouth, the more time they’ll need to scrape a particular spot. Brushing and flossing stops plaque from building up and hardening into tartar. Once you have tartar, you can only have it removed at your dentist’s office. So if this is your least favorite part of the teeth cleaning process, the lesson is to brush and floss more often.

3. Gritty toothpaste cleaning

After your teeth are completely tartar-free, the hygienist brushes them with a high-powered electric brush, which makes a loud grinding noise. While it sounds scary, it’s a great way to get a deep clean and remove any tartar left from the scaler. Professional cleanings use toothpaste that smells and tastes like regular toothpaste, though you can often choose between flavors. However, it has a gritty consistency that gently scrubs your teeth. If done by a professional, this polishing of the teeth is deemed safe to do twice a year. But don’t be as harsh with your teeth at home, because you’ll wear down the enamel.

4. Expert flossing

Whether you floss regularly at home or not, nothing beats an expert flossing session. Your dental hygienist can get deep between your teeth and locate any potential trouble spots where you might bleed at the gums.

5. Rinsing

Next, you rinse out your mouth to get rid of any debris. Your dental hygienist will usually give a rinse that contains liquid fluoride.

X-rays are not painful and will likely be taken once a year to get a closer look at any hidden issues with your teeth. This will help to find cavities and other issues. Your dental team will ask you about any health concerns prior to the low-dose x-ray. Will it hurt? Your dental staff may identify issues that need to be addressed or that you are already aware of. Anesthesia may be used for complex issues, but in general, Novacaine or some other numbing agent will be administered prior to procedures such as extractions or fillings.

Bi-annual check-ups, which include cleanings and x-rays are an important way of staying on task with your dental health. Good dental health is part of your overall health! These are just a sampling of the procedures your dentist may recommend you need. Additionally, there are many cosmetic procedures to consider including teeth whitening and orthodontic improvements.

At South Charlotte Dentistry, our motto is, “We Create Smiles.” In addition to routine exams and procedures, we offer a variety of Cosmetic Procedures including Teeth Whitening, Porcelain Veneers, and Invisalign Braces for both teens and adults.

What is Invasalign? Invisalign is a tooth straightening solution for both adults and teens.  It takes a modern approach to straightening teeth using a custom made series of aligners designed for each individual patient. In fact, Dr. Wells and our team were early adopters of the Invisalign Braces.  Replacing traditional metal braces with a less invasive and more attractive straightening option has been a huge success with our clients.

If you have any questions prior to an appointment, please contact our staff. At South Charlotte Dentistry, we are here for you and want to be sure you understand what your appointment will entail.

Dental Visit