How Dental Cavities Are Classified

Oral Health

During a dental examination, you may hear our Phoenix, Arizona dentist say several numbers followed by a bunch of letters.  While this might sound like gibberish to you, the code that he’s using is how we classify and document dental cavities. 

What Do The Numbers Mean?

When you hear Dr. B call out a number, he’s referring to a specific tooth.  With 32 teeth in the human mouth, they have to be tracked somehow.  

Starting on the upper right of your mouth, with your wisdom tooth, all the way in the back is tooth #1.  In front of it are your other two molars (teeth #s 2 and 3). As you continue toward the front of your mouth, each tooth is numbered all the way through 16 which is your upper left wisdom teeth.

When you get to the bottom you start counting directly below tooth #16, which makes your lower left wisdom tooth number 17. Again, you continue all the way across the arch until you’ve reached the last tooth on the right side which is tooth #32.

If you’re looking in your mouth and trying to figure out which teeth are which, you should keep in mind that you may be missing some teeth.  For example, some people don’t have all of their wisdom teeth. Though a tooth may be absent, it’s still represented by a number. 

How Dental Cavities Are ClassifiedHow Dental Cavities Are Classified

Cavity Classifications

Every tooth has five different surfaces and when we classify dental cavities they’re based on what surface of the tooth is affected. 

For example, the biting surface of a tooth is called the occlusal surface.  If your upper right first premolar has a cavity on the occlusal of the tooth, then for charting purposes you’ll hear our dentist call out “#4, O”. Another name for the occlusal surface is the incisal edge which is the biting surface of front teeth.

Other surfaces include the facial or buccal which is the front of the tooth, the surface that rubs your lips and cheeks.  Then there’s the lingua,l which is the back of your tooth, the surface that your tongue rubs against. Finally, you have the distal and mesial which are the sides.  The distal is the side of the tooth that’s closest to the back of your mouth, while the mesial is the side that’s toward the middle of your smile. 

Cost of Fillings Is Based On Classifications

Generally, the more surfaces that your cavity is spread into the more time it’ll take to repair your tooth.  Also, the surfaces on certain teeth are larger than they are on others. For this reason, you may notice a fluctuation in the cost of each filling treatment. 

More Help Understanding Your Dental Treatment

If you need help understanding your dental treatment don’t be afraid to ask Dr. B and his friendly staff.  We’re here to provide the residents of Phoenix, Arizona with excellent dental care and always enjoy helping them learn more about their mouths. Come to see us today.

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