Advanced Technology Dental Care Center of Cupertino
GENERAL AND COSMETIC DENTISTRY
20445 Pacifica Drive, Suite B
Cupertino, CA 95014

(408) 996-8595 PH
(408) 996-3925 FAX
randy@club2000.com



DENTAL TERMINOLOGY


We have included a brief list of dental terms and information that may be of value to you as a patient. For further information, visit our SERVICES page.

  • Abfraction. This is a wearing of the tooth along the gumline caused by repeated clenching and grinding (bruxism), causing the enamel to "pop" off starting at the base of the tooth and it can expose the gumline of the tooth to excessive wear. Once the enamel is gone, then dentin is exposed and the teeth are more susceptible to decay, sensitivity and more wearing down.

  • Abrasion. A wearing down of the tooth structure, commonly caused by using a hard toothbrush and improper brushing technique along the gumline. Could also be from grinding or chewing hard objects or food.

  • Abscess. An infection of either the tooth, gums or bone. Commonly appears either clinically as a "gum boil" on the tissue, or it shows up on the x-ray, most often at the tip of the root or between the roots.

  • Abutement. These are the teeth on either side of a bridge. They support the bridge. A bridge is placed when a tooth is missing.

  • Age to bring in a child. Most children are brought in to see a dentist between age 3 and age 4. Younger than that, and they generally will not be able to sit for the visit. If you can bring the child in with you (if you are a parent) you can let them see you having your teeth cleaned and perhaps the dentist can count their teeth and let them have a pleasant first visit (instead of waiting until they have a toothache).

  • Air abrasion. A relatively new technique to the dental field in which a small high pressure spray of aluminum oxide is used to remove decay or drill out pieces of old fillings and even tooth structure. It cuts down the need for a drill in many cases and often can eliminate the need for anesthetic since there is less trauma to the tooth while it is being used. Advantages include: less vibration, less noise, less heat build-up. It acts like a mini sand blaster and works excellently in preparing teeth for sealants or conservative dental care. Sometimes it is referred to as Micro-Dentistry˘ or "Soft-Prep˘".

  • Amalgams. Silver fillings have been used for dental filling material for about 100 years. They are the metal type of fillings (containing mercury - about 50%, tin, silver and other metals such as tin or zinc mixed together) and generally hold up for years and are an easily placed filling material. Now that newer, more aesthetic and conservative composite (white) fillings are coming out with stronger materials and quartz fillers for better wear, more people are getting those placed instead. Amalgams tend to have a higher rate of causing tooth stresses and fractures. However, since amalgams are the least expensive type of filling, most insurance companies only pay for amalgam fillings. ADA position on Amalgam.

  • Anesthesia. This is the method of "numbing" an area of the mouth, or putting an area "to sleep" or in the case of general anesthesia, putting the patient to sleep, for a brief time while the procedure is being done, to block the transmission of pain through the nerves.

  • Anterior Teeth. These are the front eight teeth on the upper or lower jaw. They include the incisors and the cuspids (canines).

  • Attrition. This is the loss of tooth structure over time, (or the loss of teeth over time.) Generally caused by wear, long term usage, heavy usage of the teeth.

  • Base. This is the material (typically a type of cement) that is placed under a filling, when a filling is getting close to the nerve to act as an insulator and sedative on the pulp of the tooth (where the nerve is.)

  • Bicuspids. These are the teeth just behind the pointed canines. They are the fourth and fifth tooth on either side from the midline. They typically have two cusps. They are used for chewing.

  • Bleaching. Teeth can often be whitened by the several new techniques of "bleaching" available today. The most common methods used are the "in-office" method where a strong bleaching agent is placed over the isolated teeth and a special light is used to assist the bleaching material lighten the teeth. This method is generally more controlled and probably better for people who have tetracycline stains or streaks on their teeth. The "at-home" technique involves making trays which fit into the mouth and these are then filled with bleaching materials. When worn for a few hours a day, noticeable results can be seen generally within a few days to a couple weeks. Results vary from individual to individual and it is probably best to check with your dentist to help decide which method works best for you. Some of the factors involved include the intensity of the stains, whether or not you have fillings or crowns on your front teeth as well as what may have caused the stains.

  • Braces. Braces are put on teeth to help correct rotated teeth, too large of spaces, crowding or misalignment of teeth. Newer techniques today allow for wire frames to be worn that can spread open the arch if it is too small, or pull one side of the jaw to correct for overlap on one side only. In addition, clear brackets and brackets that can be bonded inside the teeth are making braces a good option for many adults today.

  • Bridge. A permanently cemented appliance that replaces missing teeth. The side teeth are called abutements and the missing replacement tooth is called a pontic.

  • Bruxism. This is the grinding and clenching of the teeth. Often associated with flattening of the teeth surfaces.

  • Calculus. When the plaque hardens on your teeth, it gets calcified and is referred to as calculus. At this point, it cannot be removed simply with brushing.

  • Canines - The cuspids, the long pointy teeth that are the third tooth from the midline on each arch. They help tear food and typically have the longest roots of any of the teeth.

  • Caries. This is the dental term for a cavity (decay) on a tooth.

  • Composites. Composite or white plastic fillings, are used when esthetics is a concern. The currently available materials used for composites are showing some very strong wear potential and while they may not be quite as hard as silver fillings on the chewing surfaces, they do excellently in the grooves, and dramatically lower the development of cavities. (Some insurance companies will pay for the less expensive amalgams instead of composite fillings.) They are glass filled resin fillings. The benefit if this type of filling is that it is more conservative and aesthetic than the silver fillings.

  • Crowns. Crowns are placed over a tooth when a large portion of the tooth is lost ot decay or has broken off. Usually when a filling is more than half of the size of the tooth, the tooth is weakened. If the filling would comprise a significant portion of the tooth, often the tooth can fracture under the stresses of chewing and therefore, placing a crown over the tooth protects the chewing surface and prevents that from happening. Crowns that are white are made of porcelain and are usually placed in areas of esthetic concern. Gold crowns might be placed in the molar region or when there is heavy grinding that might damage the opposing teeth.

  • Curettage. This is the scraping of the soft tissue areas to remove the bacteria deep under the gums.

  • Cuspids. These are the canines, or fangs. They are the third tooth from the midline.

  • Deciduous Teeth. These are the children's first set of teeth. Also called the primary teeth. They are replaced later in life with permanent teeth. See also teeth numbering.

  • Dentures. Dentures are false teeth. They are typically made from impressions (molds) that are taken of the inside of the mouth and they are made of a type of plastic or porcelain that duplicates the shape, size and function of the teeth. They are a removable appliance to replace your teeth.

  • Emergencies. How do you decide if something is a true dental emergency? Generally, if you have swelling, an exposed tooth, bleeding, or sharp throbbing pain, that is a dental emergency. If you knock a tooth loose or out, attempt to gently rinse it off lightly with water and reposition it as soon as possible. A tooth that is knocked out and let dry in the air for over an hour has a poor prognosis, whereas a tooth that is reimplanted within twenty minutes, has a good prognosis. If you have spontaneous ongoing pain or swelling or have experienced trauma, you should make arrangements to see your dentist as soon as possible. CDA

  • Edentulous. Missing the teeth in either arch.

  • EMPRESS crowns and veneers. This is a type of veneer or laminate or crown that uses a technique in which a strong porcelain material is bonded to the tooth, rather than cemented, and it picks up a more natural color of the underlying tooth. These are becoming the standard of high esthetics for cosmetic dentistry. the material is similar to natural tooth structure in terms of brilliance and light reflection and it is similar to leucite in terms of strength, thereby giving a durable surface that looks very natural.

  • Endodontics. The specialty of dentistry that involves removing the disease in and around the root or nerve of a tooth. Generally referred to as a "root canal".

  • Gingiva. The dental term for the gums, or supporting soft tissue around the teeth.

  • Gingivitis. The early stage of gum irritation - the first step towards periodontal disease. It is reversible with proper claening and adequate home care. Typically characterized by bleeding gums and red puffy tissue.

  • Halitosis. This is the term for "bad breath". There are several causes of halitosis, including the foods that we eat, smoking, coffee, or it could be due to periodontal disease, infection or "ketosis" which is a nutritional imbalance. Brushing the tongue, swishing with rinses after eating, flossing, and brushing after meals, avoiding coffee, smoking and garlic are some of the best ways to prevent this.

  • Implants. Dental implants, simply put, are replacements for missing roots. Most implants are typically titanium posts that are imbedded into the jawbone and then plastic or porcelain teeth are placed over the portion of the implant that sticks out of the gums. They usually take several months to complete since the bone must fuse to the posts before any kind of pressure can be put on the implant itself. For info: DENTAL IMPLANTS

  • Impaction. This typically refers to the wisdom teeth. When a tooth is impacted, it can either be partially impacted, soft tissue impacted or full bony impacted, depending upon how far into the tissue the tooth is.

  • Incisors. These are the front two teeth on either side of the midline. They are sharp teeth used primarily for biting, cutting and help push the food into the mouth.

  • Inlay. When a filling is large enough that a little more chewing support may be needed, an inlay may be used. These are typically lab-processed cases and are either porcelain or gold.

  • Insurance. Dental insurance is designed to be a benefit that typically an employer can offer to their employees to assist them with their health care costs. Unfortunately, often more than 35% of the fees go towards administering the plan, then most plans have limitations, deductibles, waivers, fee schedules, pre-authorizations, waiting periods, and maximums. In addition, it often adds unnecessary expenses to the dental office for preparing forms, submitting for pre-estimates, waiting for approvals and processing claims. This does not allow for the dental care to be done with the least amount of cost to the patient and the maximum benefit applied to the provider's fees, rather than to administrative paperwork. The American Dental Association has assisted in establishing a program that allows a patient to select their own dentist, have 95% of the fees be applied towards the dental work (as opposed to 30-45% being wasted on unnecessary insurance administrative costs) and is very cost effective for employers. It is referred to as Direct Reimbursement. This program is a cost-saving alternative that is quickly becoming the standard of care. If your employer is not using this, you should contact the ADA and encourage your employer to compare what you currently have to the Direct Reimbursement alternative. For info: ADA .

  • INVISALIGN. A relatively new process of straightening teeth using a series of thin hard plastic "aligners" in a series, to corrrect rotations, crowding or space problems. To date, ALIGN TECHNOLOGIES, located in Santa Clara County has created over one million of these invisible aligners.

  • Lasers. There are several different types of lasers currently in use for dentistry. Among these include lasers that can be used to assist with bleaching, gum therapy, decay removal, root canal therapy, desensitizing a tooth, and helping heal an ulcer. In addition, the latest laser in our arsenal is one that can be used to determine if a stained pit has decay or not. It is 98% effective in it's diagnosis (more accurate than an x-ray for smaller cases, and with much less radiation.)

  • Local Anesthetic - This is the most common form of anesthetic given for most dental procedures. The anesthetic is localized in one area and generally will last anywhere from 2-4 hours duration, although there may be lingering sensation for several hours longer. Either we give an infiltration or a block, depending upon the area we need to numb up.

  • Mandible. The lower arch (lower jaw).

  • Maxilla. The upper arch (upper jaw).

  • Molars. The larger back teeth, which are the 6th, 7th, and 8th tooth in the mouth from the front. They are used for most of the chewing.

  • Nightguard. This is a removable appliance that is fabricated to assist with grinding, bruxism, clenching and TMJ symptoms. It is often worn at night to prevent wearing down the teeth surfaces.

  • Nutrition and Dentistry. The more we learn about nutrition, the more that we believe that a good diet will promote a healthier lifestyle and healthier teeth. Especially if you are anticipating dental work, you might wish to increase your Vitamin C, since it aids with healing. During pregnancy, women should take extra care to eat right and brush regularly since the hormone changes can affect the susceptibility of the tissues to infection.

  • Occlusal - the top of the teeth on the back teeth (the chewing surface.)

  • Occlusal Guards - Bite splints or niteguards. If you have TMJ, it's worth worth looking into getting an occlusal guard. These can be used to help relief pressure, tension and anxiety.

  • Onlay - When a tooth has a large filling that doesn't quite need a crown for side wall support, but a filling might not be strong enough by itself or be aesthetically compromised, then an onlay is placed. Generally, these are either cast from gold, a strong pressed ceramic type material or made from porcelain and are quite strong. They are more esthetic and more durable than fillings. They are more conservative than crowns and leave as much possible tooth strructure as possible, while at the same time protecting the teeth.

  • Oral Surgery. One of the specialties of dentistry. It includes the removal of teeth, placing implants, and jaw surgery.

  • Orthodontics. One of the specialties of dentistry. It involves braces, for the straightening of teeth. Newer technologies may use pre-bent wires or mouth guards to assist in straightening teeth rather than applying braces to the teeth. Generally the procedures are done to straighten the alignment of the teeth for better form, esthetics, function and speech.

  • Panoramic x-ray. These are taken using a special machine that takes the x-ray of the jaws with the film outside of the mouth and it shows a larger area at a time- all the teeth on one film. It is generally good for looking for teeth, and for identifying cycts, infections, impacted teeth, or fractures. The resolution is generally not as good as the individual films to show cavities. To see a sample of several panoramic x-rays.

  • Pedodontics. A specialty of dentistry. Pediatric Dentistry - the treatment of children's teeth. More about this in our Pediatric Department.

  • Periodontal Disease. The irritation and swelling (inflammation) and bone loss that can occur if disease is let go around the supporting tissues of the teeth. This is one of the more common and also preventable diseases of mankind.Periodontitis is the step that follows, or is more advanced, than gingivigits. As it advances, the teeth can get loose and the tissue that surronds the teeth gets destroyed. See the Hygiene Department for more info on this.

  • Periodontal Pocket. The area of the gum tissue that attaches to the tooth at the top of the gums. Generally speaking, we have healthier gums when the pockets are 2-3 mm deep, because it is easier to clean with a brush. Pockets that are 4-6 mm or deeper, tend to trap food and bacteria easier and can lead to gum disease.

  • Permanent Teeth. The adult teeth, the second set of teeth that we get, starting around age six and ending when we get our third molars (wisdom teeth) around age 17-22. See also teeth numbering.

  • Plaque. Generally this is the film that develops on teeth which is sticky and can develop into a calcified mass called calculus if not removed. It is food that is broken down and bacteria that combine to produce it.

  • Porcelain Veneers. The thin pieces of porcelain that are used to change the shape, size or color or position of teeth, primarily used in the front teeth. See the Aesthetics Department for more info.

  • Posterior Teeth. The back teeth in the mouth beyond the canines.

  • Primary Teeth. This is the dental term for the first set of teeth. Also called baby teeth. See also teeth numbering.

  • Prophylaxis. Also called a prophy. This is the basic cleaning of the teeth and gums done by the hygienist usually. It is to help protect the patient from prgressing into periodontal disease and getting cavities.

  • Root Canals. A root canal is typically done whenever the decay or injury to the tooth invades the inner part of the tooth where the pulp is. This is where the nerve and the blood supply are located. When a root canal is done, the inner portion of the pulp is removed, along with any infection that may have invaded the inside walls of the tooth. Then a sealer material is placed with a rubbery plastic to fill the hole so that new infection can't get into the tooth. Generally, by removing the root, it can potentially weaken a tooth and therefore, it is common to protect the integrity of the tooth by placing a crown over the tooth.

  • Sealants. Sealants used to be considered for children's teeth only. Now we are finding that adults too, can benefit from sealants. Sealants are plastic coatings that are placed on the etched surface in the grooves of teeth-typically on the back molars and sometimes on pre-molars. It helps prevent sugars and bacteria from getting into those deep fissures and cause decay. CDA.

  • Specialties of Dentistry. There are several recognized specialties of dentistry. Simply stated, these are the more common specialties: Endodontics is the treatment of root canals. Pedodontics is the treatment of children. Periodontics is the treatment of the gums. Orthodontics is the straightening of teeth. Oral Surgery is extracting teeth and jaw surgery.

  • Sjorgren's Syndrome. A condition resulting in dry mouth and dry eyes caused by an immune system malfunction. It affects 2-4 million people and 90% are women. For more details from a web site specifically designed for this topic, click here.

  • TMJ. The temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) is a very unique and fragile joint. Because of the numbers of tendons, ligaments and muscles that are used to hold it in position, it is subject to trauma and stress. As a result, headaches, jaw soreness and and neckaches can all be related to problems related to the TMJ. Sometimes the small disc that separates the lower jawbone from the socket where it rests gets displaced and a bite splint may be used among other therapies to "reposition" the jaw into the proper alignment. More on the TMJ.

  • Toothbrushes. Brushing after each meal or snack is a great way to prevent cavities. If your toothbrush is frayed at the ends, you should consider replacing it. Let your toothbrush air-dry in between uses so you don't get bacteria growing in it. Keep it in the light, so the dark creepy bacteria can't do well. Bacteria like a dark wet environment to thrive in. Tap the water off and make sure you don't leave food or toothpaste on the brush. Never share a toothbrush with someone else and change it even more frequently if you have been sick. More on this in our Preventive Dentistry Section.

  • Veneers. Thin coverings on the teeth, typically made of porcelain, but can also apply to composite materials. Veneers generally refer to the conservative version of a crown. The procedure is similar and the technique is more critical, because we are working with thin layers of porcelain and we also have to concern ourselves with the underlying color of the teeth, since the veneers are basically translucent and pick up the core shade of the teeth. Visit our Aesthetic Department for more info.

  • Wisdom Teeth. These are the last teeth to come into your mouth. They are the 3rd molars and generally do not come out until around age 17-25 years of age. Most people either don't have room in their mouth for them, or they come in crooked, or are impacted and never fully erupt. They get decayed easily and therefore are most commonly removed on most patients.





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