Dental Glossary

published December 4th, 2008

What is a bridge?

A bridge is a way of replacing a missing tooth, unlike a denture it cannot be removed for cleaning. It allows us to fill in the space. To use it, however, we must “file” down the teeth on each side to let it hold on to something. The extra tooth connects to both of the filed down teeth. We use a cement to hold it in place and create a good seal. Bridges are more often than not tooth coloured, a “porcelain” is baked onto a precious metal sub structure.

What are models?

A model is made by pouring plaster of Paris into an impression of the patient’s mouth, it helps the dentist decide how to plan the patient’s treatment. They are referred to as “study” models or dental “casts”.

What is Orthodontics

Orthodontics is that aspect of Dentistry involved in monitoring and correcting the position of the teeth and jaws. Treatment will involve fixed or removable braces.

What is a filling?

Fillings are traditionally made out of metal. We call it amalgam, a mixture of silver, copper, mercury and various other metals. We remove the decay from the tooth, then create a way that the tooth can physically hold the filling in place. We then restore it with amalgam, which starts out moldable and becomes very hard in a matter of minutes! Controversy surrounds the use of amalgam since it contains mercury, however, studies that hold scientific repute fail to support the claims that amalgam is harmful.

White fillings, or composites, are used in some cases. They look much better and do not contain any mercury. However, to date they are much less durable, especially on your back (or posterior) teeth and are prone to recurring decay. Technology continues to press forward and they someday may be as strong as amalgams!

What is root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment , or Enodontics, is often a pain-free procedure. We carry out root canal treatment to remove either a diseased or necrotic (dead) pulp out of the tooth’s root, allowing a tooth to be saved which otherwise might have been extracted. The pulp is the conglomeration of nerves and capillaries in the tooth. To do this we must get to the pulp by making a hole in the top of the tooth. This way we can use our instruments to clean out the tooth’s sick inside.

We then fill it with a material called gutta-percha which helps seal off the canal. The tooth can then be restored with a filling or a crown depending on the situation.

What is a partial?

In situations where teeth are missing we can also use a Removable Partial Denture. This appliance is not as involved as a bridge and does not require any drilling. It is usually used when the space without teeth is too large for other treatments. The “partial” as they are called, locks into place sometimes with its metal clasps. It has an acrylic or chrome cobalt backbone.

The teeth are the same kind used in full dentures.

What is a Crown ?

Crown  treatment is a long-term method of replacing missing teeth. A crown is placed over an individual tooth, (somewhat like a thimble over your finger) where there is no longer sufficient tooth structure left to place a filling. The crown can either be tooth coloured or be made of “White” or “yellow” gold.

What is a Full denture?

A full (or complete) denture is where there are no natural teeth left and so the denture has a full set of teeth.

What do Panoramic x-rays look like?

This type of x-ray is also called an OPG OPT or DPT.

The machine spins around your head to get the “big picture.” Dentists use this radiograph (as we call it) for several things. They are excellent for taking teeth out and for preliminary diagnosis of many conditions. We can use them to get a good overview of the amount of bone support your teeth have. We can evaluate the sinuses and screen for a variety of pathological conditions that can occur in both the upper and lower jaws.

Panoramic radiograph of jaws and teeth. Healthy dentition with many filled teeth; three wisdom teeth and one molar tooth in the left lower jaw (d 36) have been extracted. Maxillary sinuses and temporomandibular joints are also visible.

What is a periapical x-ray ?

This type of x-ray is the size of a postage stamp and is used for diagnosing specific conditions on or around a tooth such as cavities or bone loss caused by periodontal disease. With these we can often also see bone loss caused by a sickness within the tooth. Existing dental work can also be evaluated.

What is a gumshield?

Also known as a mouthguard this is a piece of plastic that protects the jaw from external injuries.

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