Before we begin, we need to clarify some important terms that will appear frequently in the Learning Center. I love to teach dentistry, and I love when my patients are able to speak the same language as their dentist. With that goal in mind, many of the old "common" terms need to be retired and replaced with the actual dental terms that your dentist uses.

For example, did you know that many people refer to dentures as "plates?" Or that dental disease is still referred to as "cavities?" And when that disease gets treated you get "a filling?"

Well we need to remember that we eat on plates, but we eat with dentures. That a cavity is a hole in the tooth, but by the time that hole appears, the disease that made it is way beyond the stage of early treatment. That saying you "have TMJ" is really saying that you have a particular joint which everyone also has, but when you have pain in that joint it is actually a "TMJ dysfunction." And that your dentist is not merely plugging a hole with a filling, but recreating your healthy tooth structure with a "restoration."

All of this will become very clear as you read further. But before we start, here are a few important examples of terms you need to know:

Dental:  this term refers to anything involving the tooth itself

Periodontal:  literally means "around the tooth."

Endodontic: refers to anything "inside the tooth."

Gingiva:  The name of the soft tissue around the tooth, commonly known as "gums"

Pulp: the endodontic tissue within the center of every tooth containing many cells, not just "the nerve."

Crown: the part of the tooth that you can see in the mouth, technically everything from the bone outward

Root: the part of the tooth buried within the bone that you can't see

Dental Caries: the disease that dissolves the minerals from the tooth, commonly known as tooth decay, or "cavities."

Occlusion: the way in which the teeth close together

TMJ:  the name of the joint between the skull and the lower jaw, not a condition or disease of that joint

There will be plenty  more, but this gets some of the most commonly misunderstood terms out of the way. So without any further delay, enjoy your dental  learning experience.Just let your mouse hover over the "Learning Center" tab and click on whatever topic you wish to read about.


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