How Do Dentists Keep Track Of What Restorations You Have Or Don'T Have?

Posted on: 28 September 2018

When you go in for a dental exam at a new office, your dentist will use all sorts of techniques to get a full scope of your restorations and other dental issues. Full examinations combine radiographs, intraoral imaging, palpation, instrumentation (like dental explorers), and so on.

But how does the office keep track its findings after an exam? Your dentist will use something known as dental charting.

What is Dental Charting?

When a document is edited by a copy-editor, he or she uses shorthand symbols to show the writer where he or she needs to make changes. Dental assistants perform a similar function by using a shorthand on anatomic diagrams of teeth that follow the Universal Numbering System of dental notation.

These diagrams contain 32 teeth, and they show five different views of each tooth, which include the

  • Facial surface, or the part of the tooth closest to the cheeks or lips
  • Occlusal/incisal surface, or the top of the tooth
  • Lingual surface, or the part of the tooth closest to the tongue
  • Mesial surface, or part of the tooth that is closest to the body's midline
  • Distal surface, or the part of the tooth furthest from the midline

As you can imagine, these views of the different surfaces can help dentists get specific with their charting. For instance, a dentist could ask the dental assistant to chart an amalgam filling on a portion of the mesial/occlusal surface.

Like editors, a dental assistant would follow the preferred shorthand of the office, so he or she would write something like "#2, MOA," which would stand for an amalgam restoration on the mesial/occlusal surface of tooth #2 (your right 2nd molar).

Besides Shorthand Abbreviations, What Other Charting Tools are Used?

The dentist or an assistant will use different colors on the diagram to identify both present conditions and conditions that need to be fixed. So besides writing an abbreviation like "MOA," the assistant would actually color in the mesial and occlusal areas on the diagram to give the dentist a quick visual reference.

If a patient already has a restoration or has been treated for something, then those symbols/abbreviations are made in black or blue ink. If a condition has been detected but not treated, then those symbols/abbreviations are made in red ink.

Along with abbreviations—like "#2, MOA," dentists use charting symbols, like circles, diagonal lines, etc.

If a patient has an abscess at the tip of a tooth root that needs to be fixed, the dental assistant would draw a small red circle at the apex of the root on the chart. A small red circle is the symbol for abscesses. symbol for an abscess is a small red circle at the apex of the root.

Another example: if a patient already has a gold crown, then the crown portion of a tooth would need to be outlined in black ink and have black diagonal lines running through it.

Every patient is unique, so it's important for dentists to use every tool at their disposal to properly chart completed or needed restorations along with radiographs, palpation, etc.