Surfaces and Directions in the Mouth - Veterinary Online Courses
Lesson 1, Topic 1
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Surfaces and Directions in the Mouth

Brett December 12, 2019

Surfaces of Teeth and Directions in the Mouth



Vestibular is the correct term referring to the surface of the tooth facing the vestibule or lips; buccal and labial are acceptable alternatives.
Reference(s): Anonymous. Nomina Anatomica Veterinaria. 4th ed. Zurich and Ithaca: World Association of Veterinary Anatomists, 1994.
Comment(s): The term “facial” specifically refers to the surfaces of the rostral teeth visible from the front. According to Dr. A.J. Bezuidenhout, a veterinary anatomist at Cornell University, “facial” is a bit of a misnomer. Traditionally “facial” has been used in human dentistry for the aspect of teeth visible from the front, i.e. incisors and canines.


Lingual: The surface of a mandibular or maxillary tooth facing the tongue is the lingual surface. Palatal can also be used when referring to the lingual surface of maxillary teeth.


Mesial and distal are terms applicable to tooth surfaces. The mesial surface of the first incisor is next to the median plane; on other teeth it is directed toward the first incisor. The distal surface is opposite from the mesial surface.


Rostral and caudal are the positional and directional anatomical terms applicable to the head in a sagittal plane in non-human vertebrates. Rostral refers to a structure closer to, or a direction toward the most forward structure of the head. Caudal refers to a structure closer to, or a direction toward the tail.

Anterior and posterior are the synonymous terms used in human dentistry.