Terms You’ll Hear at the Dentist’s Office

Dentists have terminology that can sound like another language to the person sitting in the dental chair. If you’re confused by some of the terms you’ve heard, here is our first in a series of Terms You’ll Hear at your Dentist’s Office.


Many people require crowns to bring beauty back to their smile. Crowns are suggested for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with broken teeth or tooth decay. Crowns can be made of porcelain, precious metal or composite.

Some reasons Dr. Frahm may suggest a crown:

  • Your tooth has been broken or damaged
  • Your tooth has been weakened by a very large filling
  • An existing filling is discolored and needs to be replaced
  • Your root filling requires protection

Read more from the Mayo Clinic.

With new CEREC technology, Dr. Frahm can build a crown and restore oral function and smile appearance in one visit

Diode Laser

A revolution in dentistry is the diode laser. Dentists use lasers to cut into the mouth’s soft tissue. It’s more comfortable than traditional treatment options and is especially beneficial for patients with hypersensitivity. Lasers also reduce the need for anesthesia and can speed healing time.

For cosmetic dentistry procedures such as veneers and implants, the use of lasers on gums are key to creating a symmetrical and beautiful smile. Lasers are also used to treat tooth decay, gum disease and beautifully whiten teeth.


Few of us get through life without having at least one cavity. Cavities and tooth decay sacrifice the integrity of your teeth and must be removed. For small amounts of decay, cavities are repaired with a metal, alloy, plastic or porcelain filling.

As a holistic dentist, Dr. Frahm only uses non-toxic and biocompatible materials in her practice. In lieu of metals and resins for fillings, she uses porcelain which is both durable and non-toxic. It naturally adheres to your DNA and forms an actual bond with your body that is five times stronger than your natural teeth. Talk to Dr. Frahm about your options.


For small cavities in the center of your tooth where the grooves are, Dr. Frahm may recommend a dental inlay instead of a filling. Inlays are pre-molded fillings made of porcelain or composite materials are more durable an aesthetically pleasing. In fact, inlays can increase tooth strength by 75% and last between ten and thirty years.


For teeth with more extensive decay and damage that extends to the higher “biting” points around the edge of your tooth, Dr. Frahm will recommend a porcelain dental onlay. Onlays, like inlays, are stronger than fillings and last up to thirty years. And with CEREC technology, you will be in and out of the office with a new onlay within one visit.

Periodontal Disease

A term no one want to hear on a dental visit is periodontal disease. Also known as gum disease or periodontitis, this is a serious gum infection that damages the mouth’s soft tissue. If left untreated, it can cause teeth to loosen or even fall out. Periodontal disease is usually due to poor oral hygiene and can be prevented by brushing, flossing and regular check-ups.

Pocket Depth

As a part of each dental exam with Dr. Frahm, she will check on the health of your gums. This is done by using a probe to see if there are any openings or dental pockets between your gums and teeth. Healthy gums are close and tight against the tooth and have a reading of one to three millimeters of pocket depth. A pocket of more than three millimeters requires a deep cleaning and more extensive care. But, the good news is periodontal pockets can be reversed with good oral hygiene and dental treatment.

Teeth Numbering System

You may have noticed when Dr. Frahm is checking your teeth at one of your biannual appointments, that she calls out numbers to the hygienist who takes note. This Teeth Numbering System or Universal Numbering System is a tooth notation system primarily used in the United States. It’s an easy way for your dentist to identify teeth quickly without using descriptive terms like “lateral incisor” or “first bicuspid.”

Teeth are numbered clockwise in the Universal Numbering System, so tooth number 1 is the rear upper tooth on the right side of your mouth. The top teeth are numbered 1-16, while the bottom teeth are numbers 17-32.

View Teeth Numbering System Chart.

About Dr. Frahm

Dr. Frahm received her Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Iowa College of Dentistry in 2003. She completes more than 100 hours of postdoctoral training each year; earning recognition from dental experts around the country for her knowledge in the areas of cosmetic, general and restorative dentistry. Dr. Frahm is committed to providing you with excellent, comprehensive dental care. Dr. Frahm uses advanced dental techniques and technology to ensure your comfort and lasting results.

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