Tooth surface recording

Sir, I would like to share with your readers a suggestion for numerically recording the status of tooth surfaces in addition to a visual dental chart.

The system involves numbering the labial/buccal surfaces as 1, the mesial surfaces as 2, the lingual surfaces as 3, the distal surfaces as 4, and the occlusal surfaces as 5. Anterior teeth therefore have surfaces numbered 1 to 4, and posterior teeth have surfaces numbered 1 to 5 (Fig. 1).

Figure 1

Surfaces with their numbers

The surface number is then used as suffix to the tooth number. Using the FDI system for example, indicating the occlusal surface of a right maxillary first premolar the code would be 145 (where 14 indicates the tooth and 5 indicates the surface). Similarly, the buccal surface of a left mandibular second molar would be 371 (where 37 indicates the tooth and 1 indicates the surface).

A further refinement is to use the symbols ^, v, <, >, and o. Here, if the arrow points towards the main horizontal line, it indicates the lingual surface; away from the horizontal line it indicates the labial/buccal surface; pointing to the median line indicates the mesial surface and away from the median line, the distal surface; o indicates the occlusal surface (Fig. 2).

Figure 2

Surfaces with their symbols

Taking an example of this the palatal surface of the right maxillary central incisor would be denoted 1v|, the labial surface 1^|, mesial 1>| and distal 1<|. Similarly, |6o would indicate the occlusal surface of a left maxillary first molar.

The system has other benefits such as when you see an even number surface code (2 or 4) as denoting caries, the even-numbered surface of the adjacent tooth might also be under carious threat.

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Huang, R. Tooth surface recording. Br Dent J 204, 5 (2008).

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