We strive to provide you with informative and helpful content related to all things dental. We understand that the world of dentistry can be overwhelming at times, especially with all the unfamiliar terminology and procedures. That’s why we’ve created this glossary to serve as a resource for our patients, providing definitions of commonly used dental terms. Our goal is to help you feel more comfortable and informed when it comes to your dental care.
Amalgam – Material made from mercury and other alloy mixtures used to restore a drilled portion of a tooth.
Anesthesia – Medications used to relieve pain.
Anterior teeth – Front teeth. Also called incisors and cuspids.
Arch – The upper or lower jaw.
Baby bottle tooth decay – Caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby’s mouth.
Bicuspids -A premolar tooth; tooth with two cusps, which are pointed or rounded eminences on or near the masticating surface of a tooth.
Bitewings – X-rays that help a dentist diagnose cavities.
Bonding – Application of tooth-colored resin materials to the surface of the teeth.
Bridge – A prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth cemented or otherwise attached to the abutment teeth or implant replacements.
Bruxism – Teeth grinding.
Calculus – A hard deposit of mineralized substance adhering to crowns and/or roots of teeth or prosthetic devices.
Canal – The narrow chamber inside the tooth’s root.
Canines – Also called cuspids.
Canker sore – One that occurs on the delicate tissues inside your mouth. A canker sore is usually light-colored at its base and can have a red exterior border.
Caries – A commonly used term for tooth decay, or cavities.
Cold sore – Usually occurs on the outside of the mouth, usually on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious because it is caused by the herpes simplex virus, and it is usually painful and filled with fluid.
Composite filling – Tooth colored restorations, also known as resin fillings.
Composite resin – A tooth colored resin combined with silica or porcelain and used as a restoration material.
Contouring – The process of reshaping teeth.
Crown – An artificial tooth replacement that restores missing tooth structure by surrounding the remaining coronal tooth structure. It is also placed on a dental implant.
Cusps – The pointed parts on top of the back teeth’s chewing surface.
Cuspids – Front teeth that typically have a protruding edge.
Dentin – The tooth layer underneath the enamel.
Denture – A removable set of teeth.
Endodontics – A form of dentistry that addresses problems affecting the tooth’s root or nerve.
Fluoride – Fluoride is often called nature’s cavity fighter and for good reason. Fluoride, a naturally-occurring mineral, helps prevent cavities in children and adults by making the outer surface of your teeth (enamel) more resistant to the acid attacks that cause tooth decay.
Fluorosis – A harmless over-exposure to fluoride and resulting sometimes in tooth discoloration.
Gingiva – Another word for gum tissue.
Gingivitis – A minor disease of the gums caused by plaque.
Gum disease – An infection of the gum tissues. Also called periodontal disease.
Impacted teeth – A condition in which a tooth fails to erupt or only partially erupts.
Implant – A permanent appliance used to replace a missing tooth.
Incisor – Front teeth with cutting edges; located in the center or on the sides near the front.
Inlay – An artificial filling made of various materials, including porcelain, resin, or gold.
Laminate veneer – A shell that is bonded to the enamel of a front tooth. The shell is usually thin and made from porcelain resin.
Malocclusion – Bad bite relationship.
Mandible – The lower jaw.
Maxilla – The upper jaw.
Molar – Usually the largest teeth, near the rear of the mouth. Molars have large chewing surfaces.
Neuromuscular Dentistry – Addresses more than the aches and pains felt in and around the neck and head that are associated with your teeth and jaw.
Onlay – A filling designed to protect the chewing surface of a tooth.
Orthodontics – A field of dentistry that deals with tooth and jaw alignment.
Overdenture – A non-fixed dental appliance applied to a small number of natural teeth or implants.
Palate – Roof of the mouth.
Partial denture – A removable appliance that replaces missing teeth.
Pediatric Dentistry – A field of dentistry that deals with children’s teeth
Perio pocket – An opening formed by receding gums.
Periodontal disease – Infection of the gum tissues. Also called gum disease.
Periodontist – A dentist who treats diseases of the gums.
Permanent teeth – The teeth that erupt after primary teeth. Also called adult teeth.
Plaque – A sticky, colorless substance that covers the teeth after sleep or periods between brushing.
Posterior teeth – The bicuspids and molars. Also called the back teeth.
Primary teeth – A person’s first set of teeth. Also called baby teeth or temporary teeth.
Prophylaxis – The act of cleaning the teeth.
Prosthodontics – The field of dentistry that deals with artificial dental appliances.
Pulp – The inner tissues of the tooth containing blood, nerves and connective tissue.
Receding gum – A condition in which the gums separate from the tooth, allowing bacteria and other substances to attack the tooth’s enamel and surrounding bone.
Resin filling – An artificial filling used to restore teeth. Also called a composite filling.
Root canal – A procedure in which a tooth’s nerve is removed and an inner canal cleansed and later filled.
Root planing – Scraping or cleansing of teeth to remove heavy buildup of tartar below the gum line.
Sealant – A synthetic material placed on the tooth’s surface that protects the enamel and chewing surfaces.
TMJ – Temporomandibular joint disorder. Health problems related to the jaw joint just in front of the ear.
Tarter – A hardened substance (also called calculus) that sticks to the tooth’s surface.
Veneer – A laminate applied or bonded to the tooth.
Whitening – A process that employs special bleaching agents for restoring the color of teeth.
Wisdom tooth – Third set of molars that erupt last in adolescence.
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