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Dental Vocabulary

Posted in Dental Care, General Dentistry, and Tooth Extraction

Understanding Dental Vocabulary

Your dentist may not fully understand what you’re trying to say with your mouth wide open and partially obstructed, although some get pretty good at translating grunts, moans, and mumbles. Despite the challenge, many try to carry on conversations during dental procedures. We’re not discouraging that, and further, we understand that because of “dentist lingo”, it can be just as hard for the patient to understand what we are talking about.

Dental terminology is almost its own language, there are many unique terms and numbers used by the professionals. Naturally, most people would like to understand what they’re saying about your teeth. To help with this, here’s a map to understanding dental vocabulary, including what the numbers mentioned are about.

What Are Quadrants?

The word “quadrant” is used by search and rescue and in navigation, but what are dental quadrants? From the dental staff’s point of view a quadrant is a specific part of the mouth. The top of the mouth house the first 2 quadrants and 3 and 4 quadrants are both bottom sections.

Starting on your top right (clockwise) is quadrant 1, top left is 2, then the bottom switches where your bottom left is quadrant 3, and bottom right is the forth.

Gum Numbering

Where the overall health of your mouth can quickly be determined by the health of your gums and with the common issue of gum disease, the space between your gums and each tooth becomes an important measurement. Enter “gum numbering”, each of your teeth receives a number for its gum gap. Millimeters are the standard system for this measurement and the smaller the number, the better the grade (1-3mm is good). A large number like 4 usually indicates gum issues like tarter or plaque buildup and a gum number of 5 or more indicates a significant issue.

Teeth Numbering

In an effort to clearly communicate about specific areas of concern and positive notes, each of your teeth are numbered. The World health Organization (WHO) developed the ISO/FDI numbering system that is used as a standard across Canada. Listening while your dentist talks about your tooth numbers can help you learn a lot about your dental health very specifically. The US uses a different system called “the Universal System” and the UK uses “the Palmer Notation Method”.

So, what does the ISO/FDI system look like? The Image right/below shows all 3 systems but focus on the red numbers.

This numbering system uses two digits where the fist number is the quadrant and the second a tooth number beginning at the front of the mouth and working back 1 to 8. To illustrate your bottom right wisdom tooth would be 48 or 4th quadrant 8th tooth from bottom front (41).

18, 28, 38, and 48 all wisdom teeth, ones that will likely be removed to improve the overall health of your mouth. See Wisdom Tooth Removal.

Using this information, dentists quickly and accurately notate which teeth have issues and need correction.

ISO/FDI Numbering System Used in Canada - Dental Vocabulary
ISO/FDI Numbering System a Canadian Standard

We hope these few tips might improve your dental vocabulary and we encourage conversation related to your health or anything else you might want to discuss when you’re in the chair. At Erbsville Dental we’re Caring, Friendly, Experienced!

If there is anything you have questions about, please ask your dentist, Dr. Stephen Mathews or Dr. John McIntosh