Dental Lingo You Might Want to Know

Have you ever found yourself frustrated by your dentist's use of a term that you're unfamiliar with? The situation can be especially disheartening if your dentist is working on your teeth and you're unable to ask for clarification on the term. By being aware of the definitions behind some of the lesser-known dental terms, you can put yourself in a better position during your next dental visit and become a better informed patient in the process.


If you've ever had a cavity filled, you've probably overheard your dentist speaking to your hygienist and referring to your teeth by number. Confusing, isn't it? Well, dentist have good reason to use a numbering system when referring to specific teeth; not only does numbering help identify teeth more accurately, but it's simply easier and less time consuming for a dentist to refer to a tooth as "32" instead of "the patient's right back molar." 

Depending on the number system your dentist uses, the numbering most likely works like this: numbers start at the upper right molar (1) and move across horizontally to your upper left molar (16). The numbering then continues from the left side of your bottom teeth and over to your right back molar (32).


If you need to be referred to a specialist to have a certain dental procedure done, you'll also want to be familiar with the common terms of specialists. These include:

  • periodontist (one who specializes in gum health)
  • orthodontist (specializes in teeth straightening and jaw health)
  • endodontist (specializes in root canal procedures)
  • pedodontist (works with children and patients with special disabilities)


Finally, there are often terms thrown around by your dentist or hygienist while you're in the chair and unable to ask for clarification. Hearing such terms can be a little unsettling when you don't know what they mean. Here are a few common general terms that you should know the meanings behind:

  • pit—a common, usually harmless defect or indentation in your tooth enamel
  • contouring—a procedure that consists of filing a tooth down to re-shape it
  • impression—a mold taken of a tooth, often used for restorative purposes
  • bonding—adding resin to a tooth, usually to close unwanted gaps or repair chips

Now that you know the meanings behind some of the commonly confused terms at the dentist, you can walk into your next appointment with a greater sense of confidence. For more information or assistance, consult resources like Forest Lawn Dental Centre.