January 6, 2020

what is a dental arch?When you come into our Belltown Dental downtown office you will probably hear words that you have never heard before. It may feel like your dentist and hygienist are speaking a different language: “buccal,” “caries,” “prognathism,” “mandibular,” “malocclusion,” “dentifrice.” Okay let’s be real, you probably won’t hear “dentifrice” (this is what people used to call toothpaste!) but all of those other words are real and uttered by someone in our office on a daily basis.

At Bell Harbour Dental, when you hear a word that you don’t know please don’t hesitate to ask us for clarification. We love sharing and learning – and our front-desk administrator, Nora, has a soft spot for new words.

Most importantly: we want you to be on the same page with us in understanding what we are seeing and diagnosing. When you are in our clinic your experience, clarity and comfort is of utmost importance to us.

Here’s a recent question that we received: “What is a dental arch?”

Let’s put it simply: a dental arch is either the top or bottom set of teeth.

More specifically, the “dental arch” refers to the curved shape that the teeth are aligned in the mouth.

You will hear us use the terms “upper arch” or “lower arch” when talking about the set of teeth on either the uppers and the lowers.

So what do these dental arches have to do with anything?

Well for one thing think about this: what if your teeth were aligned in a straight line? This curved alignment of our teeth just so happens to miraculously fit all of them in our mouth. On top of that: all of our teeth are situated on either our upper or lower jawbone. This fabulous arrangement provides us with the structure and power to help us bite, chew and swallow our food. (If you’re thinking “wait – not all of my teeth fit in my mouth, what about my wisdom teeth?” – give our blog on the evolution of the mouth and wisdom teeth a read).

The upper and lower arches each contain 16 teeth and are located on the adjacent jawbone. As the mouth closes the arches of teeth approach each other. When the arches touch, we call this the “bite.” The alignment between the upper and lower teeth when we bite is called “occlusion.” When an arch has correct alignment the teeth fit together to form a comfortable bite. Correct positioning of the arches is when the upper teeth sit just in front of the lower teeth.

When the arches aren’t properly aligned the bite can be obstructed and we call this “malocclusion.” Crossbite is a classic case of malocclusion and involves the improper alignment of the dental arches.

If you are worried that your bite pattern is misaligned, orthodontics or invisalign might be the solution for straight teeth and a comfortable bite. Don’t hesitate to book an examination if you are seeking answers about the alignment of your smile. Dentists have special techniques to tell exactly where malocclusion occurs and various methods to correct it.

It may not seem important now but over time – improper alignment of the dental arches can lead to damaged and over-worn teeth, TMJ problems and even the development of speech challenges or impediments.

Book an appointment today to talk with one of our highly regarded and well-experienced doctors.

Do you have questions about specific dental terminology? Send us an email at info@perioinnovations.com and we will do our best to provide you with a comprehensible description. You may even inspire us to write a blog post about it!

Bell Harbour Dental is a family owned dental practice in Belltown, Seattle. We are home to periodontist Dr. Adrian Pawlowski and to general dentist Dr. Suzanna McAninley. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

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