Dental Terms, Defined

Though we do our best to put you at ease, sometimes dental appointments can be a little bit scary – even for adults. The fear of the unknown, the sounds of dental tools, and those big, scary-sounding words we sometimes use can all make people a little bit tense. But there’s no need to fear complex dental vocabulary. Here are a few scary-sounding words you may have heard around the office that really aren’t that scary after all.

Bruxism: Bruxism means to grind or clench your teeth. Bruxism can often occur without you even realizing you’re doing it, making it harder to stop doing. Dr. Lesko can usually tell if you have bruxism by the condition of your teeth. People with bruxism often have cracked, chipped or worn teeth and may experience frequent jaw soreness due to the pressure of their jaw clenching together.

Occlusions: An occlusion is a word used in many ways, but when it comes to dentistry, an occlusion is simply the part where two teeth – one from the upper jaw, the other from the lower – meet.

Malocclusion: A malocclusion is a dental term that means the incorrect positioning of the upper and lower teeth. Another term for malocclusion is a bad bite.

Caries: Dental caries is another way to say “cavities” or tooth decay. It occurs when acids break down the teeth, causing the tooth to decay away. Caries must be repaired by fillings before they worsen, or they can cost you your entire tooth!

Amalgam: Amalgam is a metal composite used to fill cavities in teeth.

Abscess: A dental abscess is an infection that occurs at the ends of the roots of the tooth. It appears in the form of a pocket that is full of pus. Most likely if you have an abscess, you will need a root canal to repair it.

Calculus: No, it’s not the math you struggled with in high school. Dental calculus is the term we use to describe the hard buildup that occurs on the roots of teeth, dental implants and crowns.

Xerostomia: Believe it or not, this is a very complex-sounding word for the condition dry mouth! Dry mouth can occur for many reasons, including dehydration, sleeping with your mouth open and some medications. Xerostomia is not a condition but a side effect of other conditions. Still, it is dangerous as the lack of saliva can increase the instance of cavities.

Want to learn more about dental terms? Make an appointment with Dr. Lesko today! Call 970-221-5115.

Contact The Fort Collins Dentist Family & Implant Dentistry:


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2001 S Shields St Bldg L
Fort Collins, Colorado