Taking The Dental Terms Down A Notch

The other day, I used the term “restoration” to a patient. When she asked me to explain what I meant, I was slightly caught off guard. This is a long-time, college educated patient, and she likes to feel fully informed at all levels of her care, and rightly so.

It occurred to me that this term has become so common to me that I assume it is a familiar one to my patients. However, that is an unfair assumption. Many terms I use on a regular basis are those I learned in college or dental school and anything but commonplace, as they are now.

Below are some terms you may hear us use, along with brief explanations of what they mean. And if you ever hear any term used by my staff or me that you aren’t sure what it is, feel free to ask. We want you to be involved in your oral health in an informed way!

Abrasion – Loss of tooth structure caused by a hard toothbrush, poor brushing teeth technique or bruxism (grinding or clenching the teeth).

Abscess – An infection of a tooth, soft tissue or bone.

Abutment – Tooth or teeth that support a fixed or removable tooth bridge.

Alveolar Bone – The jaw bone that anchors the roots of teeth.

Amalgam – A most common filling material, also known as silver fillings, containing mercury (approximately 50%), silver, tin, copper and zinc.


Anterior Teeth – The six upper or six lower front teeth.

Arch – Describes the alignment of the upper or lower teeth.

Bite – Relationship of the upper and lower teeth on closure (occlusion).

Bone Resorption – Decrease in bone supporting the roots of teeth, which is a common result of periodontal gum disease.

Bruxism – Grinding or gnashing of the teeth, most commonly while the patient is asleep.

Calculus – Hard residue, commonly known as tarter that forms on teeth due to inadequate plaque control.

Caries – Tooth decay or “cavities.”


Crossbite – Reverse biting relationship of upper and lower teeth also known as underbite, as in Class III malocclusion (prognathic jaw).

Curettage – Removal of diseased tissue from a periodontal pocket.

Cuspid or Canine – The four “eye teeth”.

Diastema – A space between teeth.

Fistula – The channel that emanates pus from an infection site, which is a gum boil.

Flap surgery – The lifting of gum tissue to expose and clean underlying tooth and bone structures.

Full Mouth Reconstruction – Extensive restorations of natural teeth with crowns and or fixed bridges to manage bite problems.

Frenectomy – The removal or reshaping of thin muscle tissue that attaches the upper or lower lips to the gum, or the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

Gingiva – Gum tissue.

Gingivectomy – The surgical removal of gum tissue.

Gingivitis – The inflammation of gum tissue.

Gum Recession – The exposure of dental roots due to shrinkage of the gums as a result of abrasion, periodontal disease or surgery.

Halitosis – Bad breath of oral or gastrointestinal origin.

Hyperemia – Increased blood flow that may cause sensitivity to temperature and sweets.


Incisors – The four upper and lower front teeth, excluding the cuspids (canine teeth).


Inlay – An indirect filling cemented or bonded into place; or a direct placement of dental composite resin restoration at chairside.

Laminate – A thin plastic or porcelain veneer produced in a dental laboratory and then bonded to a tooth.

Malocclusion – A “bad bite” or misalignment of the upper and lower teeth.

Mandible – The lower jaw.

Margin – The interface between a restoration and tooth structure.

Maxilla – The upper jaw.

Occlusion – The relationship of the upper and lower teeth upon closure.

Onlay – A laboratory produced restoration covering one or more cusps of a tooth.

Overbite – A vertical overlap of the front teeth.

Overdenture – A denture that fits over residual roots or dental implants.

Overjet – A horizontal overlap of the front teeth.

Palate – Hard and soft tissue forming the roof of the mouth.

Partial Denture – A removable dental prosthesis (appliance) that replaces one or more natural teeth.

Pit – A small defect in the tooth enamel, or the junction of four formative lobes of a developing tooth.

Plaque – A soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth and is composed of bacteria and food debris due to inadequate dental hygiene.

Pontic – A replacement tooth mounted on a fixed or removal appliance.

Porcelain Veneers – A thin layer of porcelain bonded to a natural tooth to replace lost tooth structure, close spaces, straighten teeth or change shade or shape.

Prophylaxis – Cleaning of the teeth for the prevention of periodontal disease and tooth decay.

Pulp Chamber – The center or innermost portion of the tooth containing the pulp.

Reline – The acrylic restoration of a denture base to compensate for bone loss either done at chairside or in conjunction with a dental laboratory.

Restoration – The replacement of a portion of a damaged tooth.

Rubber Dam – A soft latex sheet used to isolate one or more teeth from contamination by oral fluids and to keep materials from falling to the back of the throat.

Scaling & Root Planning – The meticulous removal of plaque and calculus from tooth surfaces.

Splint – The connection of two or more teeth so that they function as a stronger single structure.

Tartar – A common term for dental calculus, a hard deposit that adheres to teeth and produces a rough surface that attracts plaque.

TMD (or TMJ Disorder) – Temperomandibular disorder is the term given to the condition characterized by facial pain and restricted ability to open or move the jaw.

Think Young Again When It Comes To Your Smile!

With the start of the school year just around the corner, I’m reminded of how often an older patient with a mouthful of dental problems shares the same words of regrets. When I give them the diagnosis of how many teeth need crowns, replacement or realigment to prevent headaches or further wearing, the majority all say something like, “If I had to do it all over again, I would have taken much better care of my teeth all along.”

It’s like telling our teenage daughters to use sunscreen and to avoid tanning beds. Or, for those of us with relatives who smoke, we know how difficult it is to try to convince them to quit because of the health risks. Yet, until they are looking at the Doctor facing treatment decisions because of their choices, we know people (including ourselves!) can easily assume, “It won’t happen to me.”

With the new school year upon us, challenge yourself to think youthfully and do what needs to be done NOW so you can avoid dental problems that are costly and time consuming. To be fully proactive with your dental health, call to arrange a comprehensive exam and treatment plan so you’ll have a thorough understanding of what will provide an optimal smile! Call toll free 1-866-9-Smiles.

Extra Steps For Fearful Patients’ First Visits

At our dental office, we feel all of our patients are special. However, we understand that some have special needs, such as those who have dental fears or severe dental phobias. As a dental practice who has experience helping people overcome these problems, we offer a number of comfort options to help them relax, such as oral and I.V. sedation. Additionally, we adhere to extra steps on their behalf to make their first visit especially comfortable and less intimidating.

One measure we take is to ensure your waiting time is kept to a minimum. Although we occasionally have unexpected delays due to patient’s need while they are in the treatment chair, those in our waiting area are certainly important to us. We have an excellent reputation for running on schedule and keep a close eye on this, in particular, when a fearful patient arrives.

We begin with a comfortable conversation in our Consultation Room. This is away from the clinical side of the practice so there are no noises or smells that will add to a newcomer’s anxiety. There are no treatment chairs or instruments in this room, just comfy arm chairs. We’ll begin with a friendly conversation so we can discuss your concerns and what you’d like to accomplish with your smile and oral health. I’ll explain the comfort options we have and answer your questions thoroughly. What I find is that people relax when they realize they are in charge of what is done and how often they are seen.

When patients are seen, we can provide relaxation medication so, by the time they arrive, they are in a very relaxed state. As much as is practical, we keep tools and equipment either covered or removed until you are comfortable and in a totally relaxed state. We apply numbing medications to the areas being treated after you are in this tranquil state and you are monitored by a trained staff member throughout your treatment to ensure your safety and comfort. Afterwards, you will likely have little or no memory of your treatment. Recovery is quick for most, although you may want to take a short nap once you are home.

In many cases, patients return to us feeling they need no additional medications for treatment other than standard numbing. They realize we will not hurt them and their comfort is always a priority to us, every time they visit. Our goal is to have you smiling from the time you walk in our door through the time you leave!

For more about comfort options, call 1-866-9-Smiles and speak with a friendly staff member! She can also arrange a free consultation so you can meet personally with Dr. Barbat.

Research Connects Gum Disease Bacteria To Alzheimer’s

If you don’t have a family member who has Alzheimer’s Disease, chances are, you know someone who does. This dreaded disease robs its victims of precious memories and loving relationships in their twilight years. Eventually, even routine functions such as dressing and feeding themselves become foreign. Could there be a worse fate for those we love? For ourselves?

British researchers now suggest that the same bacteria of gum disease is linked to the brains of people with Alzheimer’s Disease. The particular type of bacteria was found in 4 out of 10 brain tissue samples from Alzheimer’s patients, with no signs of the type found in 10 brains of similar age adults without dementia.

It has long been known, through prior research, that oral bacteria can become bloodborne in the body via tears in diseased gum tissue. This particular gum disease bacteria apparently enters the bloodstream and settles in at other parts of the body, including the brain, according to the study’s results (published recently in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease).

Eventually, the bacteria produce chemicals, which build up and contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. While the progress of this research is exciting in showing an association of oral bacteria and Alzheimer’s Disease, there is still much work to do. This study does not show how these these bacteria get to the brain, so it’s back to the drawing board for the brilliant research minds!

Remember – your oral hygiene at home is only part of the process necessary to keep a healthy mouth. Your six-month cleanings and exams enable us to remove plaque build-up, which is essentially hardened bacteria. If not removed, this will develop into gum disease. If you’re past-due for your cleaning, we don’t lecture our patients! We welcome them with open arms, ALWAYS! Call 1-866-9-Smiles to schedule! You may be saving more than your smile!