Dental Terms Explained

At Natomas Crossing Dental Care, patient education is a core part of our practice’s mission. When our patients have a good grasp on dental care, they are equipped to make confident and educated decisions about their oral health. That’s why our team spends ample time with every patient discussing their treatments and providing information about how to improve their teeth and gums at home.

While we do our best to carefully explain procedures and communicate in easy-to-understand language, there may be times patients overhear technical dental jargon in the office that sounds confusing or even scary. To help enhance your dental knowledge, we are here to decode some of the most commonly used dental terms!

Common Dental Terms You Need to Know

  • Periodontitis. This is the most severe stage of periodontal (gum) disease. It destroys tissue and bone, and it could eventually lead to tooth loss.
  • Endodontist. An endodontist is a specialist who treats problems affecting the interior of the tooth (the pulp) with procedures such as a root canal.
  • Gingivitis. This is the earliest form of gum disease where the gums are inflamed and become red, tender and bleed easily. It is typically the result of plaque buildup and is the only stage of gum disease that can be reversed.
  • Tartar: Tartar is plaque that has hardened on the teeth. It is a hard, yellow substance that can be removed only by a dental professional. Tartar attracts plaque and contributes to stains, decay and serious forms of gum disease.
  • Plaque: Plaque is the clear, sticky film of bacteria that accumulate on the teeth throughout the day. If it is not removed through regular brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar, causing cavities and gum disease.
  • Composite: Composite resin is a tooth-colored, restorative material commonly used for dental fillings.
  • Malocclusion: This term is used to describe misalignment of the upper and lower teeth. This can include overbites, underbites or crossbites. Braces and other orthodontic treatment can help align the teeth and jaw to improve a person’s smile and oral health.
  • Xerostomia: This is the medical term for dry mouth. It is a condition that results from a reduced or inadequate flow of saliva. Saliva plays a big role in digesting food, neutralizing acidity in the mouth to prevent decay and cleansing the mouth of food debris and bacteria. Poor saliva flow can be harmful to the teeth and gums over time.
  • Bruxism. This is the habit of grinding or clenching the teeth, which can occur during the day or when a person is sleeping. Ongoing or severe bruxism can damage teeth, wear down enamel and cause head, jaw or facial pain.
  • Caries: Dental caries, more commonly known as cavities, are holes that form in the teeth left by decay.

At Natomas Crossing Dental Care, we’re committed to straightforward communication with our patients. Dental lingo can be confusing or stressful, so always ask for clarification if you don’t understand something. We’re here to help you understand your conditions, treatments and options fully so that you can achieve a lifetime of optimal oral health.