Dawson Dental’s Glossary of Dental Terminology: Vol. 2

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This is part two of a blog series. Click here to read the first entry.

The team here at Dawson Dental believes that an essential part of any effective dental care routine is education, education, education! The more you know, the brighter—and wiser—your smile.

That’s why we’ve been compiling this glossary of dental terms. In the first entry of our dental dictionary, we discussed alveolar bones, edentulism, bicuspids and a whole host of other common dental terms so that you can ward off periodontal disease with wisdom… teeth. This time around, we’ll take a look at terms such as deciduous teeth, apexification, curettage and xerostomia so that you can stay cavity free.



Abutment: In dentistry, the term “abutment” can have a few different meanings depending on the specific scenario. An abutment crown, for example, refers to an artificial tooth that supports the structural integrity of a larger dental prosthesis. A natural tooth abutment, on the other hand, refers to a natural tooth that supports one end of a dental implant. In any event, know that when you hear the term “abutment” what your dentist is talking about is some way to reinforce your new and improved smile.

Acid Etching: You’ve probably heard that acidic foods such as lemons and limes are bad for your teeth. While that’s definitely true—acidic foods can and do erode your enamel—it’s not always such a bad thing. In fact, dentists and dental surgeons use “acid etching” to prepare teeth for dental bonds.

Apex: The apex of the tooth is the portion of the tooth at the very end of the root. It’s easy to think of the apex as the “south” end of your tooth that lies beneath the gumline. If the apex becomes exposed—usually through trauma or injury—the soft tissue that surrounds it becomes susceptible to infection (acute periradicular apical abscess) that can lead to gum disease. Which is why your dentist may recommend apexification…

Apexification: Apexification is a dental treatment that induces your body to create a calcific barrier to protect an open or otherwise exposed apex. Apexification usually requires several visits to the dentist’s office and treatments with calcium hydroxide but a 2009 study showed the effectiveness of mineral trioxide aggregate (MTA).

Artificial Teeth: Artificial teeth refers to any type of dental replacement for a natural tooth or set of teeth. Artificial teeth come in as many shapes, sizes and materials as the smiles they are designed to fix. Artificial teeth can be fixed in nature—implants, crowns and bridges—or removable such as dentures. Dentists used to craft artificial teeth out of wood but modern dentists use mostly porcelain, acrylic, metal or a combination of thereof.



Calcium Hydroxide: Calcium hydroxide—Ca(OH)2—is a chemical compound that has many clinical, medicinal and even cultural uses. Outside of the dentist’s office where oral care professionals use it for “linings, indirect and direct pulp cupping, root dressing, root canal sealant [and] apical closure”, calcium hydroxide has many more names. Hydrated lime, caustic lime, builders’ lime, slaked lime and pickling lime to name a few.

Curettage: Curettage is the process of scraping off—with a curette—soft tissue or growths inside of bodily cavities. In a dental context, dentists have used curettage on some of the soft tissues in the mouth such as gums to treat infections. As a form of treatment of disease, however, curettage has fallen out of favour with dentists.



Deciduous Teeth: More commonly referred to as primary teeth or baby teeth, deciduous teeth are the first set of teeth to develop in the mouth. The process of tooth eruption usually begins between 5 and 6 months of age and completes between 20 and 30 months of age. Most people will have lost or “exfoliated” their deciduous teeth by the time they are 13 years of age.



Eruption: Tooth eruption refers to the stage of tooth growth and development at which point the tooth emerges from the surface of the gums and becomes visible. Teeth will have been growing beneath the gumline prior to eruption and will continue to grow thereafter until they reach maturity.



Malocclusion: Malocclusion refers to a misalignment of biting and chewing surfaces of the mandible (lower jaw) and maxilla (upper jaw). Generally speaking, there are three (3) different types of malocclusions: Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3. The first two classes of malocclusion refer to varying degrees of severity of overbite while Class 3 malocclusions refer to underbites, crossbites are other forms of misalignment.



Natural Teeth: These are the teeth that erupt naturally into your mouth. The term “natural teeth” refers both to deciduous teeth—baby teeth, milk teeth, etc.—as well as adult or permanent teeth. Damaged or missing natural teeth can lead to any number of oral diseases the worst of which is likely a less radiant smile. Fortunately, dentists and dental surgeons can replace natural teeth with natural-looking artificial teeth to restore dental and oral health and brighten smiles.



Occlusion: Occlusion refers to the alignment of mandibular and maxillary chewing and biting surfaces. This includes the alignment of the upper and lower jaw, upper and lower teeth and even the tongue and the palate. Modern dental treatments can fix just about any misalignments—or malocclusions—with varying degrees of intrusiveness and success.



Palate: The palate is the combination of hard and soft tissue that forms the roof of the mouth. It separates the oral cavity (mouth) that houses all of your pearlescent teeth from your nasal cavities.



Xerostomia: Xerostomia is the clinical term for “dry mouth”. Those who suffer from xerostomia don’t produce enough saliva to keep the inside of their mouth wet. Dry mouth drastically increases your chances of developing gum disease and dental caries. Xerostomia is often a side effect of medication.


The A to Z of Dentistry

At Dawson Dental, we believe that a healthier, happier and more luminous smile is never more than an informed brush of the teeth away. And when we aren’t spreading the good word of dentistry far and wide, we’re making whiter smiles with our comprehensive dental services. Book your next appointment with us today.