Glossary of terms

What is the doctor referring to when he says...

Decay: Destruction of the tooth structure brought about by acids released by plaque bacteria on the tooth surface. If left untreated, it will gradually destroy the tooth until it finally affects the pulp, causing great pain.

Plaque Bacteria: Sticky, colourless film composed of bacteria that is progressively deposited on the teeth, being the main cause of plaque and tooth decay.

Tartar: Appears when the plaque bacteria hardens on the enamel, due to deposition of minerals. It can affect the gums and spread to the periodontal tissues, causing gingivitis and pyorrhoea. Removal is advised by the dentist once a year.

Gingivitis: Inflammation of the gums caused by plaque bacteria deposits. Clinically, it is manifested by spontaneous bleeding of the gums.

Periodontitis (pyorrhea): Advanced stage of gum disease where the bone and fibres which hold the tooth in place suffer irreversible damage. Initially it causes the tooth to loosen. As time passes it can lead to the loss of the tooth altogether.

Pulpitis: Painful inflammation of the dental pulp, usually caused by decay or dental trauma.

Aphta: A small ulcer on the mucous membrane. The cause is unknown but usually occurs during states of high stress that coincide with a drop in the body’s natural defences.

Oral Herpes: An infection caused by the common Herpes virus, that usually presents with painful sores on the gums and other parts of the mouth. Reoccurrence of the virus is usually recognised by a cold, fever, or anxiety, and normally causes blisters on the lips.

Candidiasis: Infection caused by the fungus Candida Albicans. It is recognised as it forms a whitish plaque on the surface of the tongue. It occurs most often in newborns, immunocompromised individuals, and in patients with dentures in poor condition.

Leukoplakia: Whitish lesions with an unknown cause, which are normally found in the cheek or gums. When associated with smoking and alcohol, in 5% of cases, it can transform into cancer.

Tooth Sensitivity: Unpleasant sensation or pain that occurs when drinking or eating hot or cold foods. It is a result of wearing on the tooth surface or receding gum tissue in the neck of the tooth.

Halitosis: Presence of bad breath, caused by poor oral hygiene. In 90% of the cases, though it is important to rule out other possible causes such as respiratory or gastrointestinal disorders.

Temporomandibular disorder or Craniomandibular dysfunction: Alteration of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and / or of the masticatory muscles that results in preauricular pain, clicking joints, and masticatory function limitation.

Bruxism: Habitual, involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth. It can cause temporomandibular disorders, headaches, sensitivity, and tooth wear.

Dry Mouth: Deficiency consisting of a decreased volume of saliva necessary to keep the mouth moist. In addition to causing numerous inconveniencies, such as sores, bad breath, burning tongue, and difficulty swallowing, it also promotes tooth decay and oral infections.

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