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In the world of pediatric dentistry, there are a lot of terms used that may be confusing if you’re unfamiliar. To help parents who are bringing their children to their local pediatric dentist in Charlotte, we’re listing important dental terms and their definitions! Bookmark this page so you can easily refer back to these terms when needed.

The ABC’s of Pediatric Dentistry

Abscess: Infection in the tooth most commonly caused by severe tooth decay or trauma.

Calculus: Hardened plaque that can form on neglected or prone teeth, commonly known as tartar.

Cavities (Caries): A hole in the tooth caused by decay.

Cephalometric X-ray: An X-ray of your head that shows the relative positions and growth of the face, jaws, and teeth.

Coil Spring: A spring that fits between your brackets and over your archwire to open space between teeth.

Consultation: A meeting with your pediatric dentist to discuss a treatment plan.

Digital radiograph (X-ray): An image produced by projecting radiation, as x-rays, on computers.

  • Bitewing radiograph: shows the crowns of the upper and lower teeth in one picture
  • Periapical (PA) radiograph: shows the crown and root structures of teeth in an area
  • Panoramic radiograph: shows entire upper and lower jaws, including teeth, bone and TMJ

Enamel: The hard outer surface of the tooth.

Explorer: A tool used to check teeth for cavities.

Extraction: Removal of a tooth.

Filling: Material similar to tooth structure (like composite resin) used to fill a tooth after cavity is removed.

Fluoride: A chemical solution used to harden teeth and prevent decay.

Gingiva: Gum tissue

Gingivitis: Swollen or inflamed gums caused by plaque around the teeth.

Impressions: A model of your mouth made by biting into a soft material that hardens into a mold of your teeth. Your pediatric dentist may  use these impressions to prepare a treatment plan.

Invisalign ®: An alternative to traditional braces, Invisalign straightens your teeth with a series of clear custom-molded aligners. Invisalign can correct some, but not all, orthodontic problems.

Local Anesthetic: Elimination of sensation in one part of the body by applying a drug.

Mouthguard: A device that protects your mouth from injury when you participate in sports or rigorous activities.

Mouth Prop: Dental instrument used to keep mouths open and steady during dental procedures.

Nitrous Oxide: Sedative agent that is mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a small mask that fits over the nose to produce calming effect.

Occlusion: The way in which the teeth come together when the mouth closes.

Palatal Expander: A device that makes your upper jaw wider.

Panoramic X-Ray: An X-ray that rotates around your head to take pictures of your teeth, jaw, and other facial areas.

Plaque: A sticky buildup of acids and bacteria that causes tooth decay.

Primary Teeth: Baby teeth; also called deciduous teeth.

Pulp: The nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue inside a tooth.

Pulp Cap: A medicated covering over a small area of exposed pulp tissue.

Pulpectomy: Complete removal of the pulp (commonly done in children’s teeth).

Pulpitis: Inflammation of the pulp, which is common cause of toothache.

Pulpotomy: Partial removal of the pulp tissue.

Radiographs: An imaging technique using X-rays to see how teeth and the jawbone are developing.

Rubber Dam: A square piece of vinyl or rubber used to isolate the teeth during a filling or other treatment.

Rubber Dam Clamp: A ring or button that hugs the back-most tooth in an area isolated with a rubber dam.

Scaling: Removal of plaque, calculus, and stain from teeth.

Sealants: Clear or white layer of material that can be applied to the grooves or pits of molars that can prevent cavities by keeping out food and bacteria.

Stainless Steel Crowns: An artificial tooth cover made of stainless steel.


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