Dental Glossary

A wearing away of tooth structure that compromises the enamel layer and can even expose the root of the tooth.

Acrylic Resin
A hard plastic material commonly used to make dentures. The surface of the resin is coated with a veneer to give a realistic look to the tooth.

ADA Seal of Acceptance
The American Dental Association’s seal of acceptance is a standard that ensures the quality of dental products.

Adhesive Dentistry
The method for permanently attaching composite materials to natural teeth. This method is primarily used for crowns, veneers and fillings.

Air Abrasion
A method for removing damaged tooth material without using a drill. The tooth is blasted with a micro stream of fine particles that erode the infected tooth material.

The metal alloy commonly used for making crowns and fillings. The alloy consists primarily of mercury and silver, with other metals.

A lower level of consciousness experienced by the patient during a dental procedure. General anesthesia describes a complete loss of consciousness, local anesthesia is the numbing of a specific area while the rest of the body is left unaffected.

Anterior Teeth
The teeth located near the front of the mouth. Includes teeth numbered six through 11 and 22 through 27.

The gradual wearing away of tooth structure due to abrasion from the opposing teeth. Grinding and clicking the teeth often cause such attrition.

Describes the way your teeth meet when you bite, also known as occlusion. Common bite problems include overbite and underbite.

A method of tooth whitening. A mix of chemicals and heat are applied to the teeth to correct discoloration and remove staining.

Attaching two components together with a surface adhesive. Bonding is commonly used when applying tooth veneers.

A device that promotes correct tooth alignment. This aspect of dentistry is typically addressed by orthodontic dentists.

An artificial replacement of missing teeth or tooth fragments. The bridge attaches to neighboring teeth to restore tooth structure.

Clenching or grinding the teeth in a manner that exceeds normal use, causing tooth attrition. Bruxism is typically brought on by stress and fatigue.

Canker Sore
A mouth ulcer typically located in the tissue that lines the mouth. Canker sores cause local inflammation and discomfort, and can be treated with an antimicrobial mouth rinse.

Also known as a crown. A dental cap is an artificial replacement of the top of a damaged tooth. The cap restores tooth structure and usability.

An infection that typically occurs in the gums due to an untreated tooth. The infection causes swelling and can rapidly expand if it is not treated quickly.

A diagram of the mouth and location of each tooth. An individual’s dental chart includes detailed information about the shape and characteristics of each tooth, as well as his dental history.

A process that removes unwanted buildup and stains from the teeth. Dentists recommend regular cleaning for optimum dental health.

Cosmetic (Aesthetic) Dentistry
A field of dentistry that focuses primarily on the visual appeal of the teeth. Cosmetic dentistry typically involves teeth whitening and surgery to properly align the teeth.

Cross Bite
A condition where the teeth are oriented improperly in relation to their opposites. Often due to a lateral jaw shift.

Also known as a cap. A crown is bonded to the surface of a compromised tooth, protecting the exposed tooth and restoring functionality.

Doctor of Dental Surgery, equivalent to DMD. The dental physician responsible for primary dental care and regular assessment of dental health.

Doctor of Dental Medicine, equivalent to DDS. A physician whose field of specialty involves dental care of the mouth, teeth, and gums.

The natural breakdown of teeth due to bacterial and acidic activity. Dental decay causes cavities and gum disease and can be prevented with regular maintenance that includes involvement with a dentist.

Deciduous Teeth (baby teeth)
Teeth that are naturally shed from the mouth as a person grows older. An expanding mouth requires larger teeth so children begin to lose their teeth at a young age so that permanent, adult teeth can grow in their place.

Dental Implant
Material that is grafted directly into the existing tooth to replace or strengthen the natural tooth. An implant may be inserted into the core of a tooth, bridge the connection between one or more teeth, or be bonded to the surface of a tooth.

A dental appliance that replaces the natural teeth. Dentures are typically removable for cleaning and comfort.

The hard coating of calcium that encases each tooth, protecting them from abrasions and damage. A weak coating of enamel makes the tooth prone to cavities and bacterial infection.

Enamel Shaping
Modifying the shape of the tooth by filing down the enamel. Enamel shaping can be used to even out a chipped tooth or slightly misaligned teeth.

The removal of a tooth. Tooth extraction can become necessary for a variety of reasons; including tooth decay, misalignment, or generally problematic teeth such as wisdom teeth.

Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry. A title applied to a dental physician who has been recognized by his peers as a person who is well versed in dentistry and is an example in the field.

A term that refers to the restoration of the tooth’s surface using metal, plastic, or porcelain. Fillings are commonly used to remedy cavities.

Fixed Bridge
A solution to replace multiple lost teeth in sequence. The bridge connects to neighboring teeth and permanently closes the gap between the teeth with an artificial tooth.

Flap Surgery
A surgical procedure that allows a dentist to access the root of the teeth, an area that is not normally exposed. During flap surgery, the dentist cuts and folds back a section of the gum to inspect and correct problems with the root of a tooth.

An element of the recommended regular teeth cleaning and maintenance regime that should be performed daily along with brushing and using mouthwash. Flossing involves passing a fine filament between each tooth to eliminate any buildup.

A mineral that is naturally occurring in water. Fluoride helps prevent cavities in children and adults. It shields the teeth against decay.

Full Denture
A dental appliance that fully replaces all of the teeth in the patient’s mouth. Full dentures are typically not permanently fixed in the mouth, but can be removed regularly for cleaning and maintenance.

Full Mouth Reconstruction
A procedure used by cosmetic dentists to completely rework and correct any aesthetic problems in the bones, muscles, and teeth around the mouth. The procedure corrects a number of problems including overbite, decaying teeth, and misaligned teeth.

Guided tissue regeneration is a process that encourage bone regeneration by separating the gum tissue from the existing bone structure.

General Anesthesia
A procedure that renders a dental patient completely unconscious and unaware of any painful procedures employed by the dentist. General Anesthesia is typically used during extensive dental surgery such as wisdom tooth removal or root canals.

A condition involving the inflammation and sensitivity of the gums. Common symptoms of gingivitis include bleeding gums, bright red gum color, and tender gum tissue.

Gum Recession
A condition described by a pulling back of the gum line to expose the roots of the teeth. Gum recession is commonly caused by improper tooth care, regular use of tobacco products, and eating disorders.

A dental hygienist typically assists a professional dentist in the regular maintenance of teeth. The hygienist is typically responsible for professional teeth cleaning and taking X-rays.

Tooth pain that is caused by an exposed nerve in the tooth. The intensity of the pain can vary greatly from person to person, but any such condition should be treated quickly to prevent further damage or infection in the tooth.

Artificial material that is integrated with existing tooth material to enhance, repair, or replace the tooth. Implants are usually made from a resin that is similar in composition and texture as natural teeth.

A procedure for creating an exact model of the teeth. By obtaining an imprint of the teeth, a dentist can create an accurate impression that can be used to make a mold for tooth replacement or corrective appliance creation.

A component of the procedure used to fill a deep cavity. A corrective inlay is pre-formed outside of the mouth, then inserted into the cavity and secured there by dental cement.

Intraoral Camera
A camera designed specifically for taking still images or videos of the interior of the mouth. Dentists typically use intraoral cameras to obtain images that help patients understand what is going on with their teeth. Some intraoral cameras are available on the consumer level.

Similar to a crown or cap, a dental jacket is placed over a tooth that has experienced structural compromise. The tooth is ground into a shape that will accommodate the jacket, and the jacket is applied to the tooth with adhesive.

Laminate Veneer
A product used by aesthetic dentists to enhance the look of a patient’s teeth. An appliance, typically made of porcelain, is permanently attached to the surface of a tooth to create a bright white look.

The process of attaching a porcelain veneer to the surface of a tooth. The veneer may be applied to correct a structural defect in the tooth, or for aesthetic reasons to create a whiter smile.

Laughing Gas
A colorless, odorless sedative gas that has a calming effect on nervous dental patients. Laughing gas is typically used with children and adults to relieve anxiety.

Local Anesthesia
A procedure for numbing only the local area around a region to receive dental surgery. This is less invasive than general anesthesia and leaves the patient awake during the entire procedure. No pain from the surgery is typically felt by the patient even though he is awake.

The lower jaw, connected to the jaw bone. The mandible does most of the moving during chewing and talking and is controlled by the powerful jaw muscle.

Mastership in the Academy of General Dentistry, a prestigious title that is indicative of extensive continued learning in the field of dentistry. A dentist with the Mastership title has studied widely among the 16 disciplines of dentistry.

Maryland Bridge
A bridge that fills the gap between two or more teeth. The main distinct advantage of a Maryland bridge is that it connects to the two adjacent teeth with metal wings for permanent stability.

The upper jaw, connected to the skull. The teeth attached to the maxilla are the primary visible teeth and often the main concern for aesthetic dentists.

The rear teeth, responsible for grinding food into a digestible size.

Nerve (root) Canal
A procedure that removes infected nerve tissue from a damaged tooth. The dentist uses a variety of tools to drill out the tooth core and fill it with artificial resin.

Night Guard
A mouth appliance that is typically inserted at night to keep the patient from tooth grinding in their sleep.

Nitrous Oxide
Also known as “laughing gas”, a colorless, odorless gas that is administered to anxious patients to calm their nerves and allow them to relax.

Similar to an inlay, an onlay is inserted into the tooth to fill a cavity. The primary difference between an inlay and onlay is that the latter extends over the edge of the tooth to improve the structural integrity of the tooth.

Oral Cavity
The opening of the mouth. The oral cavity contains the mouth lining, gums, teeth, tongue, and various other tissue in the mouth region.

Oral Hygiene
The process of maintaining cleanliness of the teeth and related structures. Routine trips to your dentist can improve your overall oral hygiene.

Special dentistry that uses braces, retainers, and other dental apparatuses to treat misaligned teeth, in order to restore them to proper functionality.

Dental problem described as the excessive protrusion of the upper jaw, which results in a vertical overlap of the front teeth.

A denture that fits over remaining roots or dental implants.

Panoramic X-Ray
X-ray type that displays a complete two-dimensional representation of all the teeth in a patient’s mouth. This x-ray also reveals the relationship of the teeth to the jawbones and the jawbones to the skull and surrounding bone structure.

Partial Denture
Removable appliance used by dentists as a replacement for one or more of the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.

Periodontal Surgery
The re-contouring or aesthetic management of diseased gum and its supporting tissue.

A dentist who specializes in treating the gums and supporting soft and hard tissues retaining a patient’s natural teeth and the placement of dental implants.

Permanent Teeth
The complete number of adult teeth in a dentition. This number for most is thirty-two.

A soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth. Plaque is composed of bacteria and food debris that results from inadequate dental hygiene.

Ceramic material that is colored to match surrounding teeth. Porcelain is fused at high temperatures to form an enamel-like substance, which is rigid and durable.

Porcelain Crown
Porcelain restorations that cover the coronal portion (portion of the tooth above the gum line) of the tooth.

Porcelain Veneers
A thin layer of porcelain that is fabricated by a laboratory to be bonded to a natural tooth to straighten teeth, replace lost tooth structure, close spaces and/or change the color and shape of the tooth.

Preferred Provider Organization or Preferred Dental Organization which a health care provider may join. PPO and PDOs offer fee for service treatment at reduced fees.

Cleaning of teeth as a preventative measure for preventing tooth decay and periodontal disease.

Restoration (restorative dentistry)
Replacements for lost teeth or tooth structure. Restorations can include: dental implants, crowns, fillings, dentures and bridges.

A removable apparatus that is used by dentists to maintain a patient’s teeth in a given position. Non-permanent retainers are usually only worn at night.

The tooth structure that is responsible for connecting the tooth to the jaw.

Root Canal
A root canal procedure is necessary when the pulp within a tooth dies or becomes infected. The pulp is made up of the tooth’s nerve and blood supply, as well as other soft tissue. Infections in the root canal will not heal on their own. Unfortunately, this means without action taken the pulp will be destroyed by the infection.

Root Canal Therapy
This is the process used by dentists to remove the pulp of a tooth and then to fill it with an inert material.

Saliva is the clear lubricating fluid found in the mouth, which contains water, enzymes, bacteria, viruses, blood cells, mucus and undigested food particles.

Salivary Glands
These saliva-producing glands are located under the tongue and cheeks.

Scaling and Root Planing
This is the meticulous removal of calculus and plaque from tooth surfaces as performed by dentists.

Thin, clear or white resin substance that aids in tooth decay prevention when applied to the biting surfaces of teeth.

Sedation Dentistry
This term refers to the use of pharmacological agents to calm and relax a patient during and prior to a dental appointment.

Sleep Apnea
A delay or interruption in one’s breathing during sleep.

Common term used to describe dental calculus. Tartar is a hard deposit that adheres to teeth, attracts plaque and produces rough surfaces.

Acronym for Temperomandibular Disorder. TMJ is the term given to a condition characterized by facial pain and the restricted ability to open or move one’s jaw.

Acronym for Temperomandibular Joint. The TMJ is the point where the lower jawbone attaches to the skull.

Tooth Whitening
A chemical or laser procedure to lighten the color of teeth.

The placement of a natural tooth in the empty socket of a missing tooth.

A thin layer of porcelain or plastic that is fabricated by a laboratory to be bonded to a natural tooth to straighten teeth, replace lost tooth structure, close spaces and/or change the color and shape of the tooth.

Wisdom Teeth
The third molars, also the last, that usually erupt between the ages of 18 and 25.

In dentistry there are four types of X-rays: bite-wing, occlusal, panoramic and periapical X-rays are taken by the use of high frequency light, or radiation, that penetrates different substances with different absorption and rates.