At your last oral exam, your dentist threw around terms like "mesial" and "malocclusion," and it sounded like they were speaking a foreign language. Dental visits can be confusing even without the industry jargon, so expanding your dental vocabulary will allow you to stay informed about your oral health and closely follow your dentist's instructions. Learning about your teeth' surface areas — such as the mesial part of the tooth — provides an excellent place to begin your tooth anatomy knowledge.
What Is the Mesial Part of the Tooth?
The mesial side of the tooth describes the surface area that's closest to the middle of your mouth's arch. This "in-between surface" usually touches the adjacent tooth and resides closest to the front and center of your smile. Each tooth has four other surfaces — just like a cube — each with its own directional name. These include:
- Occlusal - The chewing surface of the tooth.
- Distal - The backside of the tooth, another "in-between surface" that faces away from the front and center of your mouth.
- Buccal - The cheek-side of the tooth, also referred to as the facial surface for the front teeth.
- Lingual - The surface of the tooth that faces the tongue.
Giving each tooth surface a specific name allows dental professionals to communicate efficiently and easily specify which areas need attention. If you understand the different parts of the tooth, you can learn how to better care for your mouth. For example, when your dentist is concerned about mesial decay, you know to spend extra time cleaning between your teeth.
Your dental professional will treat your entire tooth and is concerned with your overall oral health. Though the primary infection might be located in a specific spot, tooth decay could impact multiple tooth surfaces. For example, mesial tooth decay might also affect the occlusal or chewing surface. If your dental professional takes time to educate you on these terms and the associated conditions, they invite you into the conversation and empower you to take charge of your oral health.
When a cavity occurs on the mesial part of your tooth, it's called mesial tooth decay. Because the mesial surface of one tooth often touches the adjacent tooth's distal surface, you can find these areas more difficult to clean. This in-between area, also known as an interproximal surface, needs extra attention. Besides brushing twice a day for two minutes, you should also clean between your teeth daily using floss, a water flosser, or another interdental cleaning device.
If decay is not addressed, it can eventually lead to bone loss. Sometimes the bone loss is also identified using directional terms. If your dental professional finds mesial bone loss in your mouth, then you have lost bone on the side of your tooth that faces the front and center point of your mouth.
Your teeth depend on proper care to stay healthy and strong. If your dental professional uses a term or phrase that you do not understand, politely ask them to clarify. Most dental professionals want to partner with you to maintain your oral health — and that starts with a mutual understanding of your tooth anatomy and the problems it might face.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.