You know the importance of great oral health. We’ve all seen the commercials warning against plaque build-up and gingivitis. We’ve known friends who missed a half-day of work to have a tooth crowned. Or maybe you’ve been struggling with dry mouth and you’re not sure if it is something you should see a dentist about.

The fact is, dental terminology and knowing how it applies to you can be very confusing. You may feel awkward asking a dentist to explain a problem to you, or may need time researching what’s exactly going on in your own mouth. At University General Dentists, we believe informed patients are healthier patients. We want our patients to be empowered to take on their own day-to-day oral health needs and better understand lifestyle changes they can make to improve the health of their teeth, gums, and smile.

That’s why we’re providing a quick reference guide with some common dental terms so you can better understand your oral health and the guidance your dentist will provide you.

– Oral Hygiene Cleaning

This is likely the procedure you are most familiar with. Every six months, a dental hygienist will clean the plaque build-up around your teeth, especially around the gum line. This is a preventative measure so plaque buildup doesn’t progress into a more serious issue.

– Plaque

This is where many oral health issues begin. Plaque is a soft, sticky substance that accumulates on teeth and is composed largely of bacteria. When saliva, food, and fluids combine, plaque forms on your teeth and along the gum line. Plaque build up can be made worse by a diet high in sugar. Plaque begins forming 4-12 hours after brushing and flossing your teeth, which is why it’s imperative to brush your teeth at least twice a day for 2 minutes. and floss or clean between teeth at least once a day.

– Tartar

Tartar is a hard,yellow, or brown deposit that tightly adheres to the teeth. This forms when plaque is not regularly removed from your teeth and it mineralizes into tartar. This substance can only be removed by a dental professional. If not removed, tartar can lead to more serious gum disease.

– Decay

Permanently damaged areas in your teeth that develop into tiny holes. These damaged areas are also called lesions or cavities.

– Cavity

Cavities are holes in your teeth created by decay on the tooth’s enamel. While there are many ways to prevent tooth decay, already formed cavities must be addressed by a professional in order to clean out bacterial buildup and prevent infection.

– Gingivitis

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums caused by a build-up of plaque that has accumulated around your teeth. A common sign of gingivitis is red and puffy gums that are sensitive and bleed easily when a person brushes their teeth.

– Periodontitis

If left untreated, gingivitis can progress into periodontitis, which is an infection that damages the soft tissue and bone supporting the tooth. Without treatment, periodontitis will eventually result in tooth loss and may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other health problems.

– Abrasion

This is wear and tear on your teeth that isn’t caused by chewing. Using your teeth to open a bag, for example, can cause damage. Brushing too hard is a common cause of abrasion.

– Crown

There are different types of crowns, but the basic crown procedure is a complete covering that goes over a damaged tooth. Crowns, also referred to as a cap, can restore a damaged tooth to its normal shape, size, color, and function, and can make the tooth stronger or improve the way it looks.

– Dry Mouth

Saliva plays a major role in the overall health of your mouth. Dry mouth is the condition of not having enough saliva to keep the mouth wet. If this condition goes untreated, severe dry mouth can lead to increased infections and tooth decay. Certain medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect, and can also be indicative of a more serious health issue.

– Enamel

When you think of teeth, you think of enamel. Tooth enamel is the visible, outermost covering of your teeth. It serves as the protective covering of your teeth and is what dental hygiene practices are intended to protect. The color of healthy tooth enamel can vary depending on what you are eating and drinking regularly, (coffee, for example, can stain tooth enamel) and can vary from light yellow to a gray or blue-like white. It contains a high percentage of minerals and is the hardest substance in the human body.

– Dental Pulp

Like the pulp with a piece of fruit, the pulp of a tooth is the soft area inside the center of the tooth. The pulp contains the nerve, blood vessels, and connective tissue. The tooth’s nerve is in the “root” inside of the tooth.

– Root Canal

When the pulp inside a tooth becomes infected, a root canal or extraction is necessary to prevent the infection from continuing to spread. This procedure includes removing the infected pulp and nerve in the root of the tooth. The root canal of the tooth is then cleaned and shaped, then filled, which seals off this space. Afterward, a crown is placed on the tooth to protect and restore it to its original function.

A Dental Office Ready for All Your Questions

Whether your teeth are in peak health or you’re in need of a professional procedure, we’re ready to provide answers so you can be empowered to address the day-to-day needs or your oral health. If you are searching for a Knoxville dentist who’s ready to provide all the information you need, look to University General Dentists. Along with our highly trained and experienced staff, we offer a full range of services and treatments to keep your smile healthy and strong. Whether you need a significant treatment plan or it’s simply time for a checkup and routine cleaning, we are here to help. For your convenience, we have two Knoxville dentist locations, at the University of Tennessee Medical Center and on Kingston Pike in West Knoxville. Schedule an appointment at our UT office at 865-305-9440 or at our West Knoxville office at 865-500-5700, or contact us online.