Learn the Meanings of Common Dental Terminology

Archive for Dental News

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Also known as TMJD, TMD or TMJ Syndrome is a condition on which a person may experience pain in the jaw joint. This joint connects the temporal bone of the skull located on the sides of your head to the mandible or jaw bone. It is a complex joint which allows rotation and translation from side to side the position of the jaw bone. Some people can exhibit a clicking or popping sound with their jaw. This usually means that they have worn down the cartilage. When there is inflammation in this joint it can put pressure on the jaw bone’s trigeminal nerve.

Because the cartilage doesn’t have nerve endings, the pain is not experienced directly at the mandibular joint, however, pain can be felt in surrounding areas associated with the mandibular joint like the ear. TMJ is often associated with ear pain. If there is pressure on the trigeminal nerve the pain can be constant whether you are moving the jaw bone or not.

People who grind there teeth can be more susceptible to developing TMJ as it can cause an abnormal alignment of the jaw bone which can stress areas of the mandibular joint. Also, trauma to the jaw bone or over-opening can lead to TMJ.

Common treatment for TMJ include dental restoration to improve how the teeth come together. Nighttime mouth guards to help eliminate grinding. Nighttime EMG biofeedback. For extreme cases, reconstructive surgery may be an option.

Bisphenol A (BPA) Amalgam Fillings

Many dentists have used a tooth-colored amalgam filling that contains bispenol A (BPA) as opposed to using a metal amalgam for filling cavities.

Author Nancy N Maserejian, of the New England Research Institute, points to study from the New England Children’s Amalgam Trial where they can review data comparing  children with metal fillings compared to children with composite or tooth-colored fillings. The study was conducted to determine if there were any behavioral effects from the use of these materials.

It was found that there were higher rates of depression and stress with children who had fillings with BPA than with metal fillings.

The concern for BPA came up in a report by a National Toxicology report in 2008 over possible effects on the brain and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children exposed to BPA a chemical used to line aluminum cans since 1960. In 2010 the FDA reported the same concerns.

According to Dr. Joel Berg, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, these findings are part of much larger examination of BPA in materials of which dental amalgam represents a very small portion. Also, the chemicals used today are much safer than the ones used during when the report was done.

It is still important to treat tooth decay especially with children. Todays amalgams are very durable and effective.

Leslie Wade – CNN Medical Producer

Tattoos on Teeth

While some tattooed teeth are just decals for fun at parties, others are permanent and can be any form of dental decoration. Some say this is the hot trend in Japan, but is goes further back than that. The ancient Mayans practiced teeth filing and encrustation many thousands of years ago. Ancient asian and african cultures also decorated teeth.

Watch this YouTube video to see how far this technique has come.

Popular amounts wrappers is encrusting teeth with gold or diamonds. Now that’s putting your money where your mouth is. However, most dental tattoos are designed on a metal ceramic cap or crown and not actually on the tooth itself.
The dentist himself, in most cases, will not be the artist so the actual artwork may be subcontracted out.

Wisdom Teeth

Most people get a 3rd and final set of molars called Wisdom Teeth in their later teens to early twenties. If you are lucky your wisdom teeth will come in and give your mouth a full set of teeth, but for most, wisdom teeth come through misaligned and need to be taken out. Some people are really lucky and don’t have wisdom teeth at all.

Impacted wisdom teeth are teeth that are trapped in-between the soft tissue and the jaw bone. If the tooth only breaks through the gum partially it exposes the gum to bacteria and infection.

Your dentist can show you if you have wisdom teeth and where they are located with an x-ray image. A dentist may also recommend to have the wisdom teeth removed before they become a problem. Oral surgery is required to remove wisdom teeth. Recovery time varies depending on the position of the teeth to be extracted and the age of the patient.

A local anesthetic is used, but you may want to request a strong sedative if you have anxiety about the procedure.

The patient will most like experience facial swelling around where the teeth were pulled. Pain medication may be taken like Tylenol, but stronger pain relievers may be prescribed by your dentist or surgeon. Recovery may take a few days.


Sometimes confused with Gingivitis, however, gingivitis happens before periodontitis. Periodontitis is severe and is a result of untreated gingivitis. Gums become inflamed and or infected which will deteriorate the support for the teeth.

Plaque and tartar buildup and contain bacteria that can be trapped in pockets of swelling tissue. This will eventually cause the destruction of gum, bone and ligament tissue. A tooth abscess may also develop.

Gums will appear red-purple and swollen. Often a bad breath odor accompanies peritontitis. Gums may be tender but not necessarily painful. Blood on toothbrush is often a sign that some stage of periodontitis is occurring.

Left untreated will cause tooth loss and possible infection to the jaw bone.

Depending on the severity, surgery may be necessary to repair gums and loose teeth.  After correcting gum and tooth structure a long with the removal of plaque and calculus deposits a meticulous oral hygiene regimen is needed to prevent further deterioration.

Are Dental X-Rays Harmful?

According to the ShareCare website, dental x-ray examinations only expose you to very small amounts of radiation. The average dose of radiation is about .005 millisieverts. By comparison that is the typical amount of radiation exposure that you receive from the sun every day. Dr De Vizio DMD of Colgate says “there are no significant risks…” however, he goes on to say that “…pregnant women should be sure to tell their dentist that they are pregnant and avoid taking any dental x-rays…” Well, if there is a risk to pregnant women shouldn’t we all be concerned? Radiation is radiation right? Shouldn’t we try to avoid as much radiation as possible.

It is important for your dentist to be able to use x-ray exams in order to see issues with bone and tissues that he can not see with the naked eye. The radiation exposure is very low according to the ADA and you can use a thyroid collar for extra protection. If you see your dentist on a regular basis you probably do not need x-rays but once a year.