A Guide to Understanding Dental Lingo

Have you ever had a dentist look at your teeth and say words that seem to almost be in another language? You’re not alone. Any Georgetown dentist wants you to feel comfortable at their practice. And knowing the terminology can help with this.

Whether you’re at the dentist for a dental emergency, or a professional dental cleaning, you should be able to understand what they are saying about your teeth.

The list below highlights some common dentist terms. Keep reading to find out how knowing these key words can be important for improving your dental health.

Using Quadrants For Professional Dental Cleaning

Your dentist has a label for each specific section in your mouth. These are known as quadrants. You’ll hear them during a professional cleaning, and with all other dental services.

Your mouth consists of four quadrants. The top of the mouth contains Quadrant one and two. One is on the right side of the patient’s mouth while two is on the left.

The lower half of the mouth contains Quadrants three and four. Again, three will be on the right, and four on the left.

Quadrants are assessed by your dentist in a clockwise motion. This allows them to have an organized system to check each area of your mouth.

Quadrants are used in all dental treatment options, so understanding what they mean can help you be less nervous for an appointment.

Teeth Numbering

You’ll have heard your dentist seemingly counting your teeth before and noting them to the dental nurse. But what do these numbers mean and why are they labeled like this?

The most common system for numbering teeth is called the ISO notation system. Your first incisor in the middle is tooth one. From there, your dentist will work back to the molars in your mouth, which will be tooth eight.

However, with this system, it’s easy to get confused. You might hear your dentist refer to one of your teeth as number 11. This simply means it is the first tooth in the first quadrant. So, if you hear number 23, this will be your third tooth in your second quadrant.

The system used in America can be different. It’s known as the Universal System. Your dentist will begin at your first quadrant. They will begin at the back of your mouth and work around, numbering each tooth from one to sixteen. They will perform the same analysis on the lower half of your mouth.

Both these systems of tooth numbering work to make sure your dentist doesn’t miss out checking any of your teeth.

Gum Numbers for a Dental Emergency

Gum numbers are important for all areas of dentistry, including dental emergencies. Your dentist needs to know the amount of space between your teeth and your gums. This tells them how healthy your gums are.

This space is generally measured in millimeters. 1-3 mm means your gums are in good, healthy shape. With no bleeding, 3-5 mm suggests you could have gum disease. However, if you have a space of 3-5mm and do experience bleeding gums, there’s a high chance you have gum disease.

After this, things get a little more serious. 5-7 mm means you not only likely have gum disease, but also bone loss and possibly tissue problems. At this stage, bleeding is likely to occur.

The final stage of gum numbers is 7mm or higher. If your teeth get this notation, you likely have an advanced level of gum disease. This could require surgery to resolve.

Numbering for gums is a great way your dentist can assess your gum health. Gums are often overlooked in terms of dental care, so it’s good to know how your dentist checks them out.


When you hear your dentist use this word, they are simply referring to a type of filling called amalgam fillings.

These kinds of fillings are made of a unique combination of metals. They generally are made up of a kind of powdered alloy consisting of tin, copper, and silver. They will also contain elemental liquid mercury.

You might hear these kinds of fillings referred to as “silver fillings.” This is because of the silver color they have. However, most dentists don’t like this term. It isn’t a good way to define the materials that make up amalgam fillings, so most tend to stick to the accurate term.

This can all sound very complex and daunting. After all, no one wants to think that these metals are sitting in their mouths for the rest of their lives! But your dentist wouldn’t do anything that would jeopardize your health.

Amalgam fillings are perfectly safe. They’re also a brilliant way to stop tooth decay at its source, leaving you with a mouth full of healthy pearly whites.


You probably already know what this term is, you just haven’t heard it used! Composites are used by dentists to fill in gaps, cracks, and chips between or on teeth.

Composites are most commonly used during cosmetic procedures. However, they will be made note of on your dental chart. So if you’ve had this type of bonding done, you’ll likely hear your dentist refer to it during an examination.

Composites are also great for those who have difficulty biting due to a gap or break in a tooth. They fill the space so that you have better control over your teeth.

Hardened by UV light, composites can often be fully completed in just one dental sitting.

Get The Lingo Down With Your Local Georgetown Dentist!

Seeing a dentist can be daunting, for adults and children alike! Knowing the most common dentist terms can lessen this fear and make you more prepared for appointments.

If you do have questions about dental terminology during your check-up, your Georgetown dentist will be happy to answer them. These terms will be used in every kind of appointment, from a dental emergency to professional dental cleaning, so it’s useful to have a good grasp of them.

If you are in need of a trustworthy dentist who will put your mind (and your teeth) at ease, check out the website here. You’ll be treated with a professional, caring service and leave with your brightest smile yet.