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When your dentist or your hygienist tells you about a cavity on your teeth, he or she identifies the tooth by a name or a number. For example, your dentist may say that you have a cavity on your first molar on the left side, also called tooth #26.
This numbering system is also used by dental insurance companies on requests for claims or estimates of treatment costs.
Each dental arch is divided into a right and a left quadrant:
Each quadrant consists of a central incisor, a lateral incisor, a canine (cuspid), 2 premolars and 3 molars.
Each tooth surface has a name. For example, a cavity or another anomaly can be located on one or more surfaces of a tooth. In addition, billing for treatments is made by the surface, which explains why fillings on two different premolars may have different fees.
In writing, we use the first letter of the surface to describe the area in question. For example: tooth #37 O (O = occlusal).
Mesial = M
Lingual = L
Distal = D
Occlusal = O (for molars) or Incisal = I (for front teeth)
Since cavities can appear on more than one surface of a tooth at the same time, several letters may appear next to the number of the tooth. For example, for a filling on tooth #35 MODBL, we would be talking about a filling on the lower left premolar involving all its surfaces.
To facilitate your understanding, your dentist or your hygienist can introduce you to an overview of the dentition using a diagram: the dental chart.
Although many other elements make up the structure of a tooth, this diagram will allow you to better visualize and understand the majority of symptoms, diseases, and treatments.