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Dental Terminology

Some dental terminology to help you be less confused :)

Abscess: infection caused by severe decay, trauma, or gum disease. You may have pain and swelling, requiring root canal treatment or surgical intervention.

Amalgam: Typical silver colored filling made of mix of silver, tin, mercury, and some other trace elements like copper. Advantages- placement easier than other materials, cost. Disadvantages-color, breaks down in mouth releasing mercury and other trace metals. Stains teeth over time.

Tooth Bleaching: Whitening of teeth with a peroxide based material. May take from 1 visit to 2 weeks to complete.

Tooth Whitening: Whitening of teeth with a peroxide based material. May take from 1 visit to 2 weeks to complete.

Bonding: The covering of a tooth surface to correct stained or damaged teeth, by painting a layer of plastic like material on the tooth. Has limitations for use.

Bridge: One or more artificial teeth attached, usually on both sides, by crowns to adjacent teeth. It is used to maintain space and function for missing teeth. May be made of gold or porcelain on gold. Usually called a fixed bridge.

Bruxism: Tooth grinding, often caused by stress. Most often done at night, while sleeping.

Composite: Tooth colored resin filling materials. Main advantages- color, adhesives available to strengthen rather than weaken tooth. Disadvantages- They have shrinkage, stain and wear problems, very technique sensitive.

Composite Inlay: A two visit procedure to repair the decayed area of back (posterior) teeth.

Crown: A crown or a cap is a cover for a decayed or damaged tooth made of porcelain and/or metal.

Dentures: A plastic appliance with plastic or porcelain teeth attached to it. Used to replace all missing teeth in one arch.

Drilling: This is a mechanical drill used to clean away any excess bacterial damage to the tooth and prepare a hole in the tooth to accept a filling.

Extraction: The removal of teeth - may be simple or surgical.

Fistula: A bump or boil on the gum tissue, which is a tract, in which an abscessed tooth can drain. A path by which trapped bacteria can escape from an infected tooth.

Gingivitis: Inflammation of the gum tissue caused by plaque and or tarter build-up. Precursor to periodontitis, if not treated.

Impacted Tooth: Usually associated with a wisdom tooth, it is a tooth that is submerged under the gum tissue. It may be malpositioned, and may never erupt.

Implant: A titanium cage or screw placed in the bone to replace a lost tooth or teeth. A crown, bridge, or bar and denture can be fixed to the implant(s).

Inlay: A gold, porcelain, or composite custom-made filling cemented into the tooth. If it covers the tips of the teeth or otherwise supports the tips it is called an onlay.

Margin: The point at which prepared tooth structure ends and unprepared tooth begins.

Night Guard: A plastic mouthpiece to prevent damage from grinding teeth at night. May be a hard or soft material.

Partial Denture: A removable appliance replacing some missing teeth in one arch.

Periodontitis: Advanced gum disease; inflammation of gum tissue, which causes bone loss resulting in tooth loss if left untreated.

Porcelain Inlays: A two visit procedure where decayed tooth surface is replaced with tooth colored porcelain.

Porcelain Fused to Gold Inlay: A gold inlay covered with porcelain. Stronger than a pure porcelain inlay.

Porcelain Jacket: A crown made entirely of porcelain for maximum aesthetics.

Porcelain Laminate Veneer: A thin porcelain shell bonded to the tooth to correct imperfections in shape, color, size, and position of teeth.

Prophy: Simple cleaning of teeth with rubber wheel and dental toothpaste.

Root Canal Therapy: Cleaning out the inside nerve of the tooth to preserve the tooth. Once the nerve is removed, the root is filled with a root canal filling material.

Root Planing: The removal of hard deposits, with metal scalers, on the root surface and smoothing the root surface to allow for reattachment of the gums to the tooth and ultimately pocket reduction.

Sealant: Plastic coating applied to grooves of teeth to prevent decay. No age limit.

Tooth Colored Fillings: Usually referring to bonded fillings, porcelain inlays, or porcelain fused to gold inlays.

Wisdom Extraction: This refers to the removal of the last set of teeth at the very back of your mouth. The wisdom teeth. Sometimes this can take 5 minutes and sometimes several trips per tooth, dependant upon the structure of the tooth.


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