Post Date:
December 21, 2020
Decoding Dentist Language

Every profession seems to have their own set of vernacular-- something that the people in business get-- but not necessarily anyone else. Dentistry is no exception-- and like other medical fields-- tend to use their lingo more often than not. Sometimes this can lead to confusion among patients-- and they might have some difficulty understanding what their dentist is trying to tell them. Sometimes people feel silly for not knowing what the dentist is referring to either-- and will not stop and ask a question about a word they may find confusing.

We’ve put together this article to explain some of the more common words and phrases that dentists tend to use while you’re in for an office visit. If your dentist uses a word that you just don’t understand-- never hesitate to ask! You should always have a full understanding of what your dentist is talking about-- so that you can move forward on the same page together.

One thing that is easy to understand is convenience-- especially when it comes to caring for your teeth and gums. Brushees are an incredibly easy way to keep your teeth looking and feeling their best. There’s no way you can confuse how wonderful it is to have a toothbrush, toothpaste, pick, and floss available whenever you need it. Keep them in your purse, bag, or car and be a just a few minutes away from fresh breath and a great smile!

Don’t get caught up in dentist lingo! There’s always another way to explain what they mean in plain language.

Just Jargon

It goes without saying that your dentist surely doesn’t want to confuse you in any way-- it’s that when you’ve been working among dental professionals, it’s easy to slip into using the textbook terms for common procedures and elements. The problem with jargon-- of which dentist lingo is a part of-- is that outside the group that uses it regularly-- it can be useless. We sometimes see this in other medical fields-- where older Latin versions of diagnoses, diseases, and instruments are often used instead of their plain name.

If your dentist starts to speak to you and accidentally slips into dental lingo, make sure you stop them and ask them to explain in plain words. Chances are they don’t even know they’re speaking in that manner and will quickly be able to change back to plainspeak. It’s always important for you to understand any dental treatment or procedure-- so make sure to speak up the next time you hear your dentist using their lingo.

Dental Lingo

There are some common words and phrases that you might hear your dentist say at your next check up. If you don’t understand any of them, be sure to ask.


You would most likely hear this term if you were going to have some bridge work done on your teeth. This refers to the teeth that are on either side of a missing tooth which will act as the support for a prosthesis. It will serve as the anchor to hold down the denture replacement or crown.

It can also refer to the metal or porcelain that is put into an implant and attached to a crown. Crowns are then placed over a dead or decaying tooth to stave off further problems or infections.


This is a common filling that is used in cavity repair. Amalgam is also referred to as the “silver color” filling because it can be comprised of  mercury, tin, silver, and copper. It is an extremely durable cavity filling and is much less expensive than the tooth colored or gold fillings. If you need a larger cavity filled and it is in the back of your mouth-- your dentist will most likely recommend this type of filling.

dental tools
There are many dental terms you might not be aware of. This list is just a sample of some of the most common ones.


When you go to the dentist for your visit, chances are they’ll need to take a bitewing x-ray. This shows both your upper and lower teeth-- and can be used to check for decay between the teeth as well. This is extremely helpful for your dentist to track not only the health of your teeth over time-- but to easily see if there are any problems developing so they can be addressed.


Unfortunately this is something that a lot of people have to deal with-- and it refers to the grinding of your teeth or the clenching of the jaw. This is usually done during the night while you’re asleep-- and you might not even be aware you’re doing it. If not resolved bruxism can result in weakened teeth, receding gums, jaw pain, and headaches. It is a problem that affects over 25 million Americans, and if your dentist suspects this might be happening to you, they can fit you with a mouth guard that should lessen the erosion of enamel and relieve your jaw of some pain.


This is a hard, mineralized deposit of tartar that forms on or between the teeth. It is caused by the mixing of saliva and plaque that was not effectively cleared away by brushing or flossing. This type of build up needs to be removed with specialized dental tools, and cannot be successfully eradicated through brushing alone.

Dry Socket

After a tooth has been extracted, it leaves a socket. This type of socket happens when there is an exposed bone or nerve due to a dislodged blood clot. This can be particularly painful, and no one would ever want to go through this. If it does happen, your dentist will have to re-clean the area and bandage it appropriately with a specific dressing.

To avoid a painful procedure like this, make sure you take care of your teeth and gums properly!


This word just means an inflammation or swelling of the gums-- and is the result of an accumulation of plaque and bacteria on the teeth. This should be a warning sign that your oral hygiene might be lacking-- and it’s time to step up your game and take care of your teeth. While gingivitis alone does not cause the destruction of your teeth-- it can very easily advance into the kind that will-- which is periodontitis.

Sometimes dentist may use words you just don’t understand-- just ask them to explain!


When you’re visiting your dentist office, they may refer to one tooth or multiple teeth as on the lingual side. All this means is that it is the side of the tooth that faces the tongue-- as opposed to the facial side of the teeth, which face the lips.

Panoramic X-ray

This form of x-ray is used in dental offices to show the teeth in the mouth in relation to the jaws and head. It’s a useful way to see if there are any misaligned teeth that are affecting the movement of your jaw-- and could possibly be the cause of any bruxism. This type of x-ray is not taken at each visit, and might only be done to diagnose a problem.

Partial prosthesis

These are dental replacements for one or many teeth that can be removed. Commonly, these are also referred to as dentures. This is a good option if you have had some teeth removed due to disease or trauma-- and they even look extremely real. Many people choose to wear them because they improve the appearance of their smile and can look much more uniform as opposed to real teeth.


This is what happens when gingivitis is is left untreated-- the inflammation moves to the soft tissues that surround your teeth as well as the bone structure. This is an extremely serious disease and can result in painful tooth decay and loss. It is imperative that people with gingivitis treat their inflammation and learn the proper means of caring for their teeth and gums. No one wants to lose their teeth to a preventable disease!


This term refers to the cleaning and polishing done to your teeth at your dental appointment, and is usually administered by a dental hygienist. Here they use ultrasonic tools to remove plaque and stains from your teeth that may have accumulated over the course of six months. It is imperative to keep to a good schedule and have your teeth cleaned in this manner twice a year. It is the only way to effectively remove hardened calculus and keep your teeth nice and clean.


If your dentist is talking about crowns, bridges, dentures, or fillings-- then they are talking about restorations. These implants allow people who have experienced some tooth decay or loss to still have a nice smile and a healthy mouth. By localizing the unhealthy tooth, your dentist can cap it, build a bridge from a healthy tooth, or customize removable dentures. Depending on your situation, all of these are good options for stopping further infection or damage in your teeth.


Similar to calculus mentioned above, tartar is the hardened deposit of plaque that starts to accumulate on teeth. If plaque isn’t removed in a timely and effective manner, you can end up with tartar deposits rather quickly. If you aren’t seeing your dentist for regular cleanings, this can develop into a large, unwanted problem.


These are dental implants that are made to look like your real teeth-- and are either made from porcelain or plastic. They are used correct more aesthetic problems, including cracks, crooked teeth, as well as gaps between teeth. They can accomplish the same job as crowns, however, since they are colored to look just like your teeth-- can prove quite expensive.

Dentistry-- like other professions-- has its own language. Sometimes it’s difficult for outsiders to glean what it is they’re saying exactly-- which can only lead to confusion. Don’t worry about not knowing the industry lingo, and make sure to clarify any statements with your dentist!

Shop Brushee

Join The Conversation & Get a Free Brushee

We'll be choosing blog commenters daily to receive a free Brushee so please leave an insightful comment on this blog post and email with your address.

Widget is loading comments...