Understanding Dental Jargon – A Guide
When it comes to our dental health, a visit to the dentist can sometimes leave us feeling confused. Often, we’ll come away with more questions than before. A lot of this is down to some of the confusing language around our oral wellbeing. Understanding some of this dental jargon is important in helping us make informed decisions about our dental health and learn how to better maintain our teeth and gums. At Victoria Road Dental Clinic, we are passionate about educating our patients on their oral health. So, we’ve put together a guide to some of the dental terminology you might hear on your next trip to the dentist.
Periodontal disease or periodontitis is a disease that affects the structures around teeth – the gums. It is one of the two main types of gum disease (alongside gingivitis). Gums become infected with bacteria and if the infection spreads, it can cause irreparable damage to your gums and possible tooth loss. The symptoms of gum disease include bleeding and swollen gums. Regular dental checkups can help identify and prevent gum disease.
Gingivitis is another form of gum disease. Symptoms of gingivitis include inflamed or swollen and bleeding gums, particularly during and immediately after brushing. Gingivitis can often progress to periodontal disease if left untreated.
When speaking in dental terms, restoration is any procedure that can restore the form, function and health of a tooth. This includes fillings, crowns and inlays.
A vitality test is used to determine the health of the pulp of the tooth (part of the centre of the tooth, made up of living tissue, containing the nerves and blood vessels). There are two types of vitality test. One involves a mild electric current being passed through the tooth, which is increased until the patient indicates that they can feel the current. The other involves using hot or cold agents, applied to the tooth until the patient can feel it. If there is no response from the tooth, this could indicate that the tooth has died and may require root canal treatment or tooth extraction, among other things.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jawbone to the skull. TMJ disorders affect the movement of the jaw. A TMJ disorder can be caused by excessive teeth grinding, known as bruxism.
Caries is another term for tooth decay or dental cavities. They are found in teeth that have begun to break down due to the presence of damaging bacteria, often as small, dark coloured holes in the teeth. They are treated normally with dental filling. It is not always easy to see caries, especially in the teeth that are further back in the mouth. It is important that tooth decay is caught early, to minimise the damage to the tooth and its surrounding structures. The earlier a cavity is caught, the smaller the filling will need to be.
Amalgam is a material that is often used in dental fillings. It is a metal alloy which can be used to fill a tooth. It is silver in colour. Amalgam fillings are strong and stable, extremely resistant to corrosion. They are usually less expensive than composite fillings. Visit our page to find out more about teeth filling in Ruislip.
Composite is another type of filling material. Unlike amalgam, it is white or tooth coloured. It is made using a synthetic resin and can be coloured to match your tooth’s original shade. We only use the highest quality composite material for our composite fillings, here at Victoria Road. You can also replace existing amalgam fillings with more attractive looking composite fillings. You can find out more about composite fillings in our dental practice or online.
Aligners, also known as clear or ‘invisible’ braces, are used in teeth straightening, to help gently move teeth into the correct position, allowing for improved oral health and function, as well as a straighter smile. Using a set of custom made plastic aligners that fit comfortably over the teeth, teeth can be gradually adjusted over the course of the straightening treatment. Invisalign is the leading provider of clear aligners. At Victoria Road, we are approved Invisalign invisible braces practitioners. To find out more about Invisalign in Ruislip, book a consultation with us today.
Excessive teeth grinding and clenching is known as bruxism. Bruxism is very common, affecting over 10 million adults in the UK. It can be as a result of an existing medical condition (secondary bruxism), such as sleep apnoea, or exist independently (primary bruxism). It is involuntary and often occurs at night. Bruxism can cause damage to teeth, headaches, muscle pain and jaw pain among other things. To find out more, read our article on bruxism.
Occlusal splints are plastic devices, like mouth guards, that are placed in the mouth before sleep to protect teeth from excessive grinding and clenching (bruxism). They also can reduce jaw muscle movement, helping to prevent pain. They work by covering the teeth and keeping the upper and lower sets apart, thus stopping them from grinding together.
A dental filling involves the dentist removing decayed parts of the tooth, before cleaning the affected area. Following this they then begin filling in the gap to restore the health of the tooth, using a material such as an amalgam or composite.
A dental crown is a cap, shaped like a tooth, that covers the visible portion of the existing tooth. A crown is a restorative treatment, useful for teeth that have broken or are weakened as a result of decay. Crowns help protect and restore teeth, as well as helping the tooth to retain its natural appearance. Learn more about dental crowns in Ruislip by visiting our page.
Dental bridges are fixed structures that can be used to replace missing teeth. They are made up of two crowns on the teeth either side of where the gap is and a false tooth in the middle to replace the missing one. Bridges are made up of different materials, including gold, alloys and porcelain. They can help restore full function to the mouth and the look of the teeth. They are fixed in place, so cannot be removed (except by a dentist).
Veneers can be used to improve the appearance and strength of a tooth. It involves a thin piece of material, usually porcelain, placed over the front of the tooth. Veneers are often used where the tooth’s natural enamel has become discoloured, worn or chipped. They are a popular cosmetic treatment for revitalising a person’s smile and enhancing the strength of their teeth. To find out more about veneers treatment in Ruislip, book a consultation today.
Cosmetic bonding, also known as composite bonding is another popular cosmetic dental treatment. It involves using white or natural tooth coloured composite material to repair cracks or minor imperfections in teeth as well as filling gaps. It can help teeth last longer and look better. To learn more about cosmetic bonding, visit our page.
Dentures are another way to replace lost teeth. They are removable false teeth which fit over the gums and help restore the ability to eat and talk properly. Dentures can be made of either plastic (acrylic) or metal. They can also help prevent muscles around the mouth from sagging, by supporting the teeth and jaw structure. Dentures are designed to fit exactly to a patient’s mouth. At Victoria Road we can fit quality, dependable dentures and carry out denture repairs.
Dental implants act as full, permanent replacements for missing teeth. Unlike dental bridges or dentures, they are anchored to a patient’s jaw bone, using a titanium screw, ensuring it will not move or fall out and will look, feel and act just like natural teeth. Find out about dental implants in Ruislip on our page, or by booking a consultation.
Root canal treatment is also known as endodontics. It is used to treat infected tooth pulp. During root canal treatment, the dentist will remove the top part of the affected tooth and clean out the infected pulp. They may then temporarily fill the tooth, adding medication to clear out any remaining infection. At the patient’s second visit, the dentist will permanently fill the tooth and seal it. Your dentist will inform you if you may need a root canal. Find out more about root canal therapy by visiting our page.
Remember, if you aren’t sure what your dentist is talking about next time you visit, don’t be afraid to ask. No question is stupid. And when it comes to helping you to better understand and manage your oral health, your dentist should be more than happy to explain.
Victoria Road Dental Clinic is a locally renowned family and cosmetic dentist. We offer a wide range of dental and facial aesthetics services to patients across Ruislip, Harrow, Ickenham, Pinner and the surrounding areas. To book an appointment or consultation about your dental wellbeing, contact us on 01895 636 121 or complete our online booking form, available at the top of the page.
Katy Carter is the content writer for Victoria Road Dental Clinic and updates our blog regularly with helpful advice and new information.