Dental Dictionary

(We’ve got a separate page on tooth numbering systems and gum charting)

Maxilla = upper jaw
Mandible = lower jaw

maxillary = relating to the upper jaw
mandibular = relating to the lower jaw

buccal (B) = the side of a tooth facing the cheek
lingual (L) = the side of a tooth facing the tongue
mesial (M) = the side of a tooth facing towards the midline of the mouth
distal (D) = the side of a tooth facing away from the midline of the mouth
occlusal (O) = the chewing surface of back teeth
incisal (I) = the biting edge of the front and canine (fang) teeth

>> For example, an MOD composite means a tooth-coloured filling that covers the mesial, occlusal and distal tooth surface.

For tooth numbering systems, click here.

Names of teeth

Other useful words

Gingival = Gums
Plaque = a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth and along the gumline
Calculus = if plaque is not removed, it can harden over a few days and turn into calculus (tartar is another word for calculus). Calculus is a bit like scale in a kettle and over time can cause gum disease.

Bite wings = small x-rays that allow to look at the surfaces where the teeth meet each other (used to look for checking for cavities)
OPG = Large full head x-ray that shows your bone levels and the pathology of your mouth (not very useful for checking for cavities, but good for seeing if gum disease has affected bone levels)
PA = small x-rays that focus on one or two teeth in particular

Composite = Tooth-coloured filling material
Amalgam = Silver filling material