10 Dental Terms You Should Know (If You Love Your Teeth)

Many of our patients do an exceptional job with taking care of one of their most value assets: their smile. We are proud of our patients’ oral hygiene, but of course, there’s always room for improvement!

The fact is, the majority of people don’t seem to give much thought to their dental health, unless there’s a cosmetic concern or they’re in pain.

But here at Smiles Dental, our ambition is to help our patients protect their smiles by maintaining exceptional oral health. Sometimes practicing good oral hygiene is merely a matter of having a better understanding of it.

To this end, below we’ve included 10 important terms below that you should know (if you love your teeth).

1. Abscess — A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that is the result of a bacterial infection. This condition requires antibiotics, because it will continue to damage the tooth as long as it’s not being treated. If this infection gets into your bloodstream, then you’ll have additional health concerns beyond your oral health.

2. Bleaching — Bleaching is a process of lightening the color of the teeth in an attempt to make them appear whiter. Bleaching is often achieved with a chemical oxidizing agent and sometimes with heat. It has also been done with short- and long-term applications of pastes or solutions that contain various concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. A bright smile is often perceived to be a healthy smile. Many patients seek to achieve this brighter appearance through bleaching.

3. Cavity — A permanently damaged area on the tooth that is decayed. And because an untreated cavity can continue to develop, it can altogether destroy the tooth. Cavities occur more often in the molars (back teeth), because bacteria easily collect in their ridges.

4. Enamel — The hard, calcified tissue that covers the dentin of the crown of the tooth and protects it from tooth decay.

5. Fluoride — A mineral that’s often referred to as “Nature’s cavity-fighter,” because it strengthens enamel by making teeth more resistant to the acid attacks that cause cavities.

6. Gingivitis — An inflammation of gum tissue that makes it red, swollen and likely to bleed. On the gum disease spectrum, gingivitis is relatively mild and can be treated with daily brushing and flossing, as well as a regular cleaning at our office.

7. Periodontal Disease — An infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. If your gums bleed easily or they are red, swollen, or tender, then you may have periodontal disease (also known as gum disease).

8. Plaque — A very sticky film of bacteria that is always developing on your teeth. When you eat sugary food or drinks, there are bacteria in plaque that produce acids which attack and destroy your tooth enamel.

9. Sealant — A thin, plastic material that is painted onto the chewing surfaces of the molars (back teeth). Sealants provide a protective coating that helps to preserve tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay.

10. Tartar (or Calculus) — The mouth is filled with bacteria that form plaque on your teeth. The purpose of brushing and flossing is to get rid of this plaque, but if it isn’t removed, the plaque soon hardens and forms tartar (also known as calculus), which cannot be removed by brushing. At that point, only your dental office can safely and effectively remove tartar through professional cleaning.