Basic Terminology

Welcome to the world of dentistry! We're so glad you're here.

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Midline / Dental Quadrants

Midline: An imaginary, midsagittal line through the center of the maxillary and mandibular arches. The blue line on this model indicates the midline.

Dental quadrant:
The midline divides the dentition into 4 quadrants: 2 maxillary quadrants and 2 mandibular quadrants. Each quadrant begins at the midline of the dental arch and extends towards the last tooth in the mouth. Each quadrant contains about 5-8 teeth. The quadrants are divided on this model by both the blue midline and the horizontal red line.

Mesial, Distal, and Buccal

Mesial (M): Toward or situated closer to the middle or midline of the dental arch. 

Distal (D):
Farther or situated away from the midline of the dental arch.

Buccal (B):
Pertaining to or toward the cheek.
For anterior teeth, see "Facial".

Lingual (L): Pertaining to, facing, or around the tongue (generally referring to mandibular teeth).


Palatal: The lingual surface of maxillary teeth is also called the "palatal." Palatal means pertaining to or toward the palate or tongue side of the maxillary teeth. You will often see palatal denoted as lingual, or simply "L".


Occlusal: Pertaining to the biting surfaces of the posterior teeth. For anterior teeth, see "Incisal".

Occlusion: Any contact between the biting or chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth.

Incisal and Facial

Incisal: Pertaining to the cutting edges of the anterior teeth. For posterior teeth, see "occlusal".

Facial: Pertaining to or toward the face of the anterior teeth. For posterior teeth, see "buccal".

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