Dental Glossary

Exton Pediatric & Adolescent Dentistry is proud to serve children and adolescents with quality dental health services. Our dental health team is dedicated to providing patients and families with the resources they need to understand and take charge of their dental health.

Please view the glossary terms below for more information on common dental terms and issues. We hope you find this information helpful. For additional questions or concerns regarding your child’s oral health, please contact us today.

An abscess is an infection of the face, mouth, jaw, or throat that begins as a tooth infection. It may occur due to trauma to a tooth or a complication of tooth decay. The infection may spread through the tooth roots and into the bones supporting the tooth, and results in swelling of tissues within the tooth.

It can cause a painful toothache, as well as a collection of pus (live and dead bacteria, white blood cells, dead tissues) to develop. The toothache may stop if the root of the tooth dies, but if an abscess develops the infection will remain active and can spread to neighboring tissues. Antibiotics are prescribed if the patient is experiencing swelling and fever.

After a tooth extraction, it is important to properly care for your child’s mouth and teeth to ensure their wellbeing and comfort. The duration of time your child will experience numbness will vary, depending on the amount and type of anesthetic used and the area that was treated. While they are experiencing numbness, you will want to make sure they are careful to not bite their cheek, tongue, or lip. It is important they do have have any food that requires chewing while their mouth is numb. For liquid foods, it is important they do not use a straw. When a straw is used, the sucking action may loosen the blood clot and prevent proper healing. Numbness should subside within a few hours. If it doesn’t, please contact our office.

Bleeding

To limit bleeding, we will place a gauze pack on the extraction site. This also confines the blood while clotting takes place. After you leave our office, you should keep this gauze pack in place for 30 to 45 minutes. After the pack is removed, there may be some oozing or bleeding. If so, please follow this procedure:

1.1. Fold a piece of clean gauze into a pad thick enough to bite on. Dampen the pad with clean, warm water and place it directly on the extra

2. Apply moderate pressure by closing the teeth firmly over the pad. Maintain this pressure for about 30 minutes. If the pad becomes soaked with blood, replace it with a clean one as necessary.

3. Do not suck on the extraction site or disturb it with your tongue.

4. A slight amount of blood may leak from the extraction site until a clot forms. However, if heavy bleeding continues, call the office. (Remember, though, that a little bit of blood mixed with a lot of saliva can look like a lot of bleeding.)

Swelling and Pain

Your child may have some discomfort and notice some swelling after a tooth extraction. Applying cold compresses to their face can help reduce pain and swelling. You can periodically use a cold, moist cloth. Please call our office immediately if your child has prolonged or severe pain, bleeding, swelling, nausea or vomiting.

Diet

Make sure your child drinks plenty of liquids and eats soft, nutritious foods after their tooth extraction. Avoid giving them hot liquids. Do not let them use a straw. They can begin eating solid foods the next day or as soon as they can chew comfortably. For the first few days following the procedure, encourage them to chew food on the side opposite the extraction site. When it feels comfortable for them, they can resume chewing on both sides of their mouth.

Cleaning Your Mouth

The day of their procedure, avoid cleaning the teeth next to the healing tooth socket. However, floss and brush your child’s other teeth thoroughly. Your child can clean the teeth next to the healing tooth socket the next day. We also recommend making sure they clean their tongue. This helps to eliminate the unpleasant tastes and bad breath that are common after a tooth extraction.

To keep food out of the extraction site, in the days following the extraction procedure, have your child gently rinse their mouth with warm salt water after meals. Make sure they do not rinse their mouth too vigorously, as this may dislodge the blood clot.

Choosing oral hygiene products that carry the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance ensures it meets the ADA’s criteria for safety and effectiveness.

A canker sore or aphthous ulcer is a type of oral ulcer caused by a break in the mucous membrane, resulting in a painful open sore found inside the mouth or upper throat.

For cases of recurring or multiple ulcers, the condition is also known as aphthous stomatitis.

This type of ulcer more commonly affects young adults, and those who have family members who have experienced this type of ulcer have a greater tendency of developing them. Physical or chemical trauma, infections, and food sensitivity are also possible causes.

Every time your child consumes sugary liquids, bacteria in their mouth consume the sugar and produce acid byproducts. This acid attacks their baby teeth and after continuing attacks, their teeth may decay. This is commonly referred to as baby bottle syndrome. Liquids that contribute to this condition include: milk, formula, soda, fruit juices, and any other sweetened drinks.

The upper front teeth are most likely to be damaged by this condition. This is because they are some of the first teeth to erupt and have the longest exposure time to sugars in the bottle. Lower front teeth are usually protected by the tongue as the child sucks on the breast or nipple of the bottle.

If your child needs to go to bed with a bottle, we recommend you fill their bottle with water. To remove any plaque after they have been fed, it is also a good practice to wipe your child’s teeth and gums with a damp cloth. This can help prevent tooth decay.

Cavities are caused by tooth decay and result in breakdowns of tooth structure. Cavities can be prevented with good oral hygiene habits. They are often found during routine checkups (link to services page) and exams and may not cause patients any pain until the advanced stages of tooth decay. Digital X-rays may reveal cavities before they are visible to the naked eye.

If your child has a cavity, the decayed material will need to be removed and replaced with restorative materials. Composite resin and porcelain materials more closely match a tooth’s natural appearance. Today’s composite materials are durable, attractive, and strong, which makes them a preferred restoration method.

If decay is extensive and there is limited tooth structure, a dental crown may be used to restore health and structure to your child’s mouth. Weak teeth and large fillings can increase the risk of a tooth breaking. When this happens, we will remove and repair the weakened area by fitting a crown over the remainder of the tooth.

A dental arch expander is used to create room for permanent teeth to erupt in a natural position. It is a common early pediatric orthodontic treatment used today. Using a dental arch expander can eliminate or effectively minimize the need for braces when a patient gets older.

We recommend using a dental arch expander to help prevent problems in the future. Patients in their pre-teens tend to be more resistant and self-conscious than younger patients, so starting orthodontic treatment earlier may help prevent problems or resistance in the future.

Dental bonding is a restorative technique used to repair cracked, chipped or damaged teeth. It restores aesthetics and strength to a tooth. During the procedure, your child’s dentist will apply a tooth-colored resin material to a tooth, and then harden it with a special light. This creates a bond between the material and the tooth, and improves the overall appearance of teeth.

Dental crowns are used to protected weakened teeth from cracking or breaking. For baby teeth, crowns are usually prefabricated, then fitted and trimmed right here in our office. If we have to perform a procedure where some or all of the pulp area of a tooth is removed, this often does not leave enough of the original tooth structure intact. This means a crown must be used. Primary (baby) teeth are so small that when a tooth suffers from serious decay, a crown must be used to preserve structure and function.

Dental sealants provide protection to the pitted and grooved surfaces of the teeth. Using a clear or shaded plastic, a dentist applies the sealants to help keep teeth cavity-free. This is especially effective on the chewing surfaces of back teeth, where most childhood cavities are found. Cleaning the surfaces of back teeth can be difficult or sometimes impossible, which can cause food and bacteria to build up in the crevices. This leaves your child’s teeth in danger of tooth decay. Sealants reduce the risk of decay by sealing out food and plaque.

When properly cared for, dental sealants can last for many years. This means your child can remain protected throughout the years they are most cavity prone. Good oral hygiene habits will help sealants last longer.

While Digital X-Ray equipment is much more expensive than traditional x-rays, it offers patients tremendous advantages, including less exposure to radiation, better picture quality, shorter “chair time”, better dental records, and no resulting hazardous waste disposal. The digital images allow us to enlarge images for better view and can be instantly manipulated to help our team make a better diagnosis, which results in better care and better treatment for your child.

Tooth extractions are commonly used to remove seriously damaged teeth and may also be used to reduce the risk of infection when a tooth is impacted or is crowding other teeth.

Before any extraction procedure we will consult with you, review your child’s medical and dental history, and take a digital x-ray. This helps us determine the best way to extract the affected tooth. If needed, we will prescribe your child antibiotics to take before the extraction procedure. If your child is receiving anesthesia, they will have to prepare for that by not eating several hours before and making sure a parent or guardian can transport them home.

For information about post-extraction home care, please refer to our “After Extraction Home Care Instructions” toward the top of this page.

Together with dental sealants, fluoride can prevent about 95% of tooth decay. To receive the best benefits, we recommend your child drink fluoridated water and use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is a safe, highly effective and cost-efficient way to make teeth more resistant to decay.

About two-thirds of towns and cities across the country have fluoridated water. If your water is not fluoridated or if your child needs more fluoride to maintain good oral health, we will work with you to find the treatment option that best fits your child. This includes prescribing tablets, gels, or mouth rinse. Children between the age of six months to 16 years may require fluoride supplements. In order to prevent unsightly spots from developing on permanent teeth and a potential overdose, the amount of fluoride your child uses must be supervised.

An impacted tooth is a tooth that fails to fully emerge. The most common teeth to become impacted are wisdom teeth. These teeth normally emerge between the ages of 17 and 21 and it is very common for them to become impacted. When a tooth is impacted, it remains embedded in soft gingiva (gum) tissue or bone beyond its normal eruption time. This can cause overcrowding, and sometimes the impacted tooth will push on the next tooth, which can cause a misalignment of the bite.

Occlusion refers to the way teeth make contact, specifically how the upper and lower teeth fit together. Ideally the points of a molar should fit into the grooves of the opposing molar, and all teeth are spaced proportionally, straight, and aligned. The upper teeth keep the lips and cheeks protected from being bitten and the lower teeth protect the tongue.

Misalignment or malocclusion is the most common reason patients are referred to the orthodontist. While many people do not have perfectly straight teeth, many occlusion problems are so minor they do not require treatment. Treating moderate or severe malocclusion makes it easier to clean teeth, reduces risk for tooth decay and periodontal diseases. It also reduces strain on jaw muscles and teeth, which reduces symptoms of TMJ and decreases the risk of breaking a tooth.

A number of factors can affect tooth alignment, including heredity, extra teeth, impacted or lost teeth, malformed teeth, and abnormal eruption of teeth. In addition, habits like thumb sucking, tongue thrusting and pacifier use beyond the age of three can affect the shape of the jaws.

In addition to being more attractive, metal-free fillings prevent the side effects experienced with metal fillings. This includes biting pain, sensitivity to hot/cold foods. It also preserves tooth structure, and unlike metal fillings, composite fillings are virtually undetectable to the naked eye.

Taking a proactive approach to metal filling replacement helps to eliminate unnecessary pain. Our use of composite fillings is part of our commitment to providing our patients with the latest and best pediatric dentistry treatments.

Our pediatric dentist office is especially designed for children to make them feel special and secure while they are receiving dental treatments. We do our best to make children feel welcome in our office (link to about us page) and are proud to have a team who loves working with kids.

However, some children feel anxious during dental treatments and may need more support than just a gentle, caring environment to feel comfortable. Nitrous oxide/oxygen is an effective and safe way to help calm a child’s fear of the dentist. It does not inhibit your child’s natural reflexes.

If your child is unable to be treated using nitrous oxide due to nasal congestion, severe anxiety, or discomfort with wearing a nasal mask, we will explore other treatment options with you.

An open bite refers to when the upper and front teeth don’t meet when you bite down. The back teeth may receive too much pressure because the front teeth don’t share equally in the biting force. This can lead to premature wear of the back teeth and makes chewing less efficient.

A more generic term for an open bite is malocclusion. For more information about this condition, please refer to the definition above.

While you may think gum disease only affects adults, the first stage of periodontal disease, gingivitis, has been found in children and teens. The main cause of gum disease is bacterial plaque, which is a sticky, colorless film that is constantly forming on your teeth.

If not treated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, which affects a child’s first molars and incisors. Signs of gingivitis in children are swollen gum tissues, redness, and bleeding. If left untreated, it can affect the gums and bone supporting the teeth, which can lead to tooth loss. You should schedule an appointment at our office as soon as possible if your child is exhibiting signs of gum disease. If your child has an advanced form of periodontal disease, it may be an early sign of diabetes or another systemic disease. If this is the case, they should receive a medical evaluation to ensure they receive the appropriate treatment.

The foundation of good preventive care is a combination of professional dental treatments and good at-home dental practices. Together with you, we will help you monitor and maintain your child’s dental and oral health.

In addition to good feeding habits in infancy and childhood, professional dental visits (link to patient information page) are important for establishing long term dental health. Preventive dental care for children includes: regular dental checkups and cleanings, early treatment for congenital conditions, dental sealants, early detection and treatment of cavities, as well as use of space maintainers.

The team at Exton Pediatric & Adolescent Dentistry is dedicated to helping your child establish good dental health to last a lifetime.

Also known as a root canal, a pulpectomy is used to save and repair an infected or decayed tooth. A root canal procedure involves removing the nerve and pulp of a tooth. The inside of the tooth is then cleaned and sealed. The nerves are in the roots or “legs” of the tooth. The pulp is the soft area within the center of a tooth. The tooth is nourished by blood vessels and connective tissue that travel from the tip of the tooth’s root into the pulp chamber.

Because the enamel of baby teeth is very thin compared to permanent teeth, it is easier for tooth decay to infect the pulp and nerve area of primary teeth. When this happens, your child will have to receive a pulpotomy. This is when some of the pulp or nerve tissue above the gum line is removed, along with decay. A layer of sedative filling material is placed in the cavity after the area is thoroughly cleaned. This protects the remaining nerve tissue. The rest of the tooth either receives a stainless steel dental crown or is filled with composite resin material. The material used depends on what part of the tooth is affected.

For more severe cases of decay, a pulpectomy or root canal may need to be performed.

Supernumerary teeth are extra teeth that develop in addition to the normal 32. This is a condition called hyperdontia. These extra teeth will most likely lead to crowding, poor oral hygiene and the need for orthodontic treatments.

The development of supernumerary teeth can be seen on x-rays, and our dentists will work to extract these teeth as early as possible. This prevents crowding and shifting. These teeth are most commonly found behind the teeth directly in front of the molars and just behind the upper teeth. They can also be found in near the back teeth/wisdom tooth area.

Thumbsucking is a normal habit for many children. Its peak occurrence is at about age two and it can be an important source of pleasure for an infant or toddler. This habit is usually nothing to worry about since your child will usually outgrow the habit. However, if they continue to suck their thumb past age 4, dental problems such as malocclusion may occur.

Second only to the common cold, tooth decay is one of the most common disorders affecting children and young adults. It is a common cause of tooth loss in younger people. This risk for tooth decay is increased by consuming carbohydrates (sugars and starches), and sticky foods tend to be more harmful because they cling to the surface of teeth.

The bacteria present in your mouth convert all foods–especially sugar and starch–into acids. Within 20 minutes after eating, plaque begins to build up on teeth. Plaque is a sticky substance formed from bacteria, acid, food debris, and saliva. If the plaque is not removed from the teeth, it mineralizes into tartar and allows tooth decay to develop. The resulting cavities are caused by the acids in plaque creating holes in the tooth that dissolves the enamel surface of the tooth.

Cavities are usually painless until they start affecting the nerves, grow large, or cause a tooth fracture. If left untreated, it can lead to a tooth abscess and destroy the internal structures of the tooth. This can lead to tooth loss.

For more information about nutritional issues (link to nutritional issues page) and how your child’s diet can affect their dental health, please contact us today.

There are many different factors that can cause tooth discoloration. An abnormally colored tooth is anything other than the yellowish-white to white color of normal teeth. The factors that contribute to tooth color include congenital conditions, genetics, infections, and environmental factors. Abnormal color and shape may be caused by malfunction in body processes. Some of these factors can influence the way your child’s enamel is formed, while others simply stain the enamel. Teeth may be uniformly discolored or it may appear as spots or lines in enamel. In addition, discolored areas may have a different density and porosity than normal enamel.

The color and hardness of enamel can also be affected by drugs or medications taken by either the child during the time of tooth development or by the mother while pregnant.

A number of factors contribute to tooth aches, or pain in or around a tooth. These factors include cavities, tooth decay, or in some cases, a tooth abscess. Poor dental hygiene is often a cause of tooth decay, but the tendency to develop tooth decay can be inherited.

While waiting to be seen by the dentist, you may give your child over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or aspirin. This will help alleviate some of the pain. If they are in serious pain, we will arrange an emergency visit.

If your child is experiencing toothaches due to an abscess, the dentists may recommend your child undergo antibiotic therapy or receive a root canal.

Good oral hygiene habits help prevent tooth decay. In addition to regular flossing and brushing and visits to the dentist, a low sugar diet is recommended. Fluoride treatments and sealant applications are also important for preventing tooth decay.