The Surfaces of the Teeth

There may be two sides to every story, but your teeth? Way more sides! And all those sides on our teeth mean there are many surfaces that need care. Have you ever heard your dental team calling out strange-sounding medical terms as they check your teeth? Chances are they are calling out the surfaces of the teeth to identify the location of fillings, decay, chips and more. If you’ve ever wondered what exactly they were talking about, here’s a guide to the surfaces of your teeth.

Buccal: The word buccal literally means “cheek,” so the buccal surface of your teeth is the surface that touches the cheek, or the surface on the cheek side of your jaw. The buccal sides of the teeth are smooth with the exception of what is known as buccal pitting.

Occlusal: The occlusal surfaces are the biting surfaces of the back teeth. Misaligned occlusal surfaces give you what is known as a bad bite or, in technical terms, occlusions or malocclusions. Bad bites can cause difficulty chewing, jaw pain and uneven tooth wear. Occlusal surfaces are not smooth and have pitting and grooves along them.

Lingual: The lingual sides of your teeth are the sides that touch your tongue. Your tongue is responsible for speaking and language, hence the term “lingual.” Lingual surfaces are also smooth like their opposites, the buccal sides.

Incisal: The incisal surfaces are the biting surfaces on the front teeth. Incisors are smooth teeth. We have a total of eight incisors, including our “two front teeth.”

Mesial: Mesial surfaces are the surfaces closest to the midline of the face.

Distal: On the opposite side of the mesial surface lies the distal surface. The distal surface is the surface farthest from the face’s midline.

Proximal: The proximal surfaces are tooth surfaces that are next to each other.

Now that you have a better understanding of the names and locations of each tooth surface, you can better understand some of the dental lingo you might hear at Dr. Lesko’s office during your exam. This can help you understand not just what Dr. Lesko and her team are talking about, but it can also help you describe and locate any trouble areas on your tooth to share with the team during your exam.

Ready to make an appointment and get all those sides cleaned? Give us a call at 970-221-5115.

Contact The Fort Collins Dentist Family & Implant Dentistry:


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2001 S Shields St Bldg L
Fort Collins, Colorado