Dental Terminology: Talk Like a Dental Assistant

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Daymar College

Ready to become a dental assistant and want to learn the basic terminology? There are many terms used daily by dentists and dental assistants in the course of delivering care to patients, maintaining patient records and preparing claims. Ever wonder how many teeth are in the adult mouth? What about the different tissues in the tooth? The following answers these questions and helps define the dental terminology a dental assistant will encounter along the way.

How Many Teeth in the Adult Mouth?

A Dental Assistant will need to know that the adult has 32 teeth in their mouth, 16 in the maxilla and 16 in the mandible. Here are what the teeth in your mouth are called:

Bicuspid: A premolar tooth; a tooth with two cusps.

Canine: any of the four teeth, one on each side of the upper and lower jaws, situated between the lateral incisor and the first premolar.

Cusped: Single cusped tooth located between the incisors and bicuspids

Distal: Surface or position of a tooth most distant from the median line of the arch.

Incisor: A tooth for cutting or gnawing; located in the front of the mouth in both jaws.

Molar: Teeth posterior to the premolars (bicuspids) on either side of the jaw; grinding teeth, having large crowns and broad chewing surfaces.

What are the Four Major Tissues that Make up the Tooth?

Enamel: The outer most layer of tissue in the crown area of the tooth.

Dentin: The substance between enamel and the pulp chamber. The dentin acts as a protective layer and supports the crown of the tooth.

Cementum: A specialized bone like substance covering the root of a tooth.

Dental Pulp: Connective tissue that contains blood vessels and nerve tissue which occupies the pulp cavity of a tooth.

Parts of the Mouth

Here are some of the other parts of the mouth that a dental assistant should learn about:

Mandible: The lower jaw.

Maxilla: The upper jaw.

Palate: The hard and soft tissues forming the roof of the mouth that separates the oral and nasal cavities.

Periodontal: Pertaining to the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth.

Root: The anatomic portion of the tooth that is covered by cementum and is located in the alveolus (socket) where it is attached by the periodontal apparatus; radicular portion of tooth.

Root canal: The portion of the pulp cavity inside the root of a tooth; the chamber within the root of the tooth that contains the pulp.

Dental Procedures and Mouth Issues

Many dental procedures and mouth issues are commonly discussed in the dentist office by dental assistants. Here are a few of those dental terms:

Abscess: Acute or chronic localized inflammation, probably with a collection of pus, associated with tissue destruction and, frequently, swelling; usually secondary to infection.

Biopsy: Process of removing tissue for histologic evaluation.

Cavity: Missing tooth structure. A cavity may be due to decay, erosion or abrasion

Crown: An artificial replacement that restores missing tooth structure by surrounding the remaining coronal tooth structure, or is placed on a dental implant.

Dental Implant A device specially designed to be placed surgically within or on the mandibular or maxillary bone as a means of providing for dental replacement.

Exostosis: Overgrowth of bone.

Extraction: removing a tooth (whole or in parts)

Fracture: The breaking of a part, especially of a bony structure; breaking of a tooth.

Gingivitis: Inflammation of gingival tissue without loss of connective tissue.

Impacted tooth: An unerupted or partially erupted tooth that is positioned against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue so that complete eruption is unlikely.

Stomatitis: Inflammation of the membranes of the mouth.

Dentist Office Terminology

Much of what a dental assistant does is insurance claims and maintenance of patient records. Here are a few insurance terms a dental assistant should know to work in the dentist office:

Balance Billing: Billing a patient for the difference between the dentist's actual charge and the amount reimbursed under the patient's dental benefit plan.

Co-Payment: Beneficiary's share of the dentist's fee after the benefit plan has paid.

Coverage: Benefits available to an individual covered under a dental benefit plan.

Maximum Plan Benefit – The reimbursement level determined by the administrator of a dental benefit plan for a specific dental procedure. This may vary widely by geographic region or by benefit plans within a region.

Flexible Spending Account: Employee reimbursement account primarily funded with employee designated salary reductions.

HIPPA - Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996; A federal law that includes Administrative Simplification Provisions that require all health plans, including ERISA, as well as health care clearinghouses and any dentist who transmits health information in an electronic transaction, to use a standard format.

Want to learn more about the Dental Assisting Program at Daymar College? The Dental Assisting Associate of Applied Science Degree Program is designed to give the successful student the knowledge and skills for entrance into the dental assisting and business world. Contact us now and find out how to advance your career as a dental assistant.

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