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Helpful Dental Terms

2 min read
by Angela Todd |

Technical terminology can be tricky, especially if you aren’t familiar with the field. When it comes to dental terminology, there are a handful of terms we use regularly when discussing the details of night guards. We’ve compiled a list of commonly used dental terms and their definitions. 


Bruxism: This is a fancy term which means the excessive or intense grinding of the teeth. Bruxism can occur in any individual regardless of their age. There are a number of potential causes for bruxism and an evaluation by a medical professional is recommended to determine the proper treatement options for your bruxism and it’s origin. 


Occlusion: Occlusion is a term used to describe the natural and proper alignment of the teeth when the upper and lower jaw are closed. 


Malocclusion: Malocclusion is a term which is used to describe the abnormal or imperfect alignment of the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed. Like bruxism, malocclusion can have a number of different causes and would need to be evaluated by a dental professional. 


Distal: This term refers to the back side of the tooth. 


Buccal: This term refers to the side of the tooth which is against the cheek. 


Lingual: This term refers to the side of the tooth which is against the tongue. 


Mouth guard: A dental device that covers the teeth, and possible gums, to help protect the teeth from damage or accident. Mouth guards are typically used in sporting or athletic events. 


Night guard: A dental device that covers and separates the teeth to help protect against damage caused by clenching and/or grinding of the teeth during the night time. 


Retainer: A dental device used to help maintain a braces or aligner treatment meant to straighten the teeth. 


Impression: a putty based imprint of your teeth, made with an impression tray and a two-part putty. 


Teeth Mold: A white plaster mold of your teeth that is poured from your impression. 


Masseter Muscle: The masseter muscle is a specific muscle in the face which connects the lower jawbone to the cheekbone. It is the primary muscle used in chewing. 


Cusp: The cusp is an area of eminence in either the occlusal or insical. In layman’s terms, the cusps of your teeth are the higher points where your teeth make contact with each other or with food. For example, your incisors only have one cusp while molars can have as many as 5 cusps.


Cuspid: This is another name for your incisors. They are teeth with a single point. 


Molars: These are the wide, more flat teeth found at the rear of your upper and lower mouth. 


Tori: An excess of both growth on either the upper or lower jaw, typically behind the teeth. A tori on the upper jaw is called a torus palanius, while a tori on the lower jaw is known as a torus mandibularis. 


Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ): A joint on either side of the jaw, which connects the jaw the the skull. 


TMJ disorders: conditions or disorders that affect the temporomandibular joint,or the surrounding muscles, ligaments or tissues. TMJ disorders are often accompanied by symptoms such as bruxism, clenching, jaw soreness, clicking or locking sensations. There are a number of conditions that can contribute to your TMJ symptoms. A specialist is needed to address proper treatment and care to reduce the effects of TMJ symptoms. 

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