According to the Canadian Dental Association, more than 70% of the world’s population is in need of appropriate and affordable dental care. Oral hygiene can contribute to a variety of complications and issues, and in order to properly address a patient’s needs, aspiring dental assistants need to be aware of the common terms and phrases that are used in their workplace. Read on for an essential guide to dental terminology.
Identifying Parts of the Mouth and Teeth in Dental Assistant Training
One of the first things to learn in dental assistant training is how to tell parts of the mouth and teeth apart. A good place to begin is with the maxilla and the mandible, which are the upper and lower jaws, respectively.
The maxilla and mandible both typically have 16 teeth each, and are protected by the palate, or the roof of the mouth. Our teeth are supported by periodontal tissues and held in place by the root, which is located within the tooth socket.
Inside the tooth itself, there are four major tissues. The enamel is the outermost layer and located near the crown of the tooth. Dentin, which supports the crown, is the substance between the enamel and the root canal which holds the connective tissue and blood vessels inside the tooth. The root itself is covered in cementum, a calcified substance that attaches the tooth to the bone.
Potential Dental Issues to Watch for
Teeth, as with any part of the body, can be subject to decay, disease, or injury. It’s important to learn the proper terms for dental issues during a career training program in order to be able to appropriately address problems that you may see in the dentist’s chair.
One of the most common complications is a cavity. This is when decay forms a large hole inside of the tooth. In order to check for cavities, dentists use an explorer, or tooth counter, which is only meant to touch the surface of the teeth.
Gingivitis will also sound familiar. Its name comes from the gingival portion of the gums, also known as the cervical area, and pertains to a swelling or inflammation caused by gathered plaque or tartar around the teeth, which are reserved buildups of acids and bacteria. These two problems, while unfortunate, are some of the most common complaints that a dental assistant will encounter, and have relatively simple solutions compared to more complex issues.
Terminology Used in Common Dental Procedures
Once the root of the problem has been addressed, there are a variety of reparatory measures which can be undertaken, with treatment generally depending on the severity of the underlying cause.
In cases of a cavity, many can simply be filled to support the tooth’s structure. Similarly, crowns, or artificial covers, can be put in place at the top of a damaged tooth. In the event that a damaged tooth is extracted or removed, spacers are placed to prevent tooth movement and keep the bite even.
An abscess, where bacteria have been allowed to grow and cause inflammation in the root canal, is a common complication of tooth decay. This means that the abscess must be drained of infected pus and material before it can be treated, and restorative dentistry may be necessary to repair the damage.
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