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Education Resources: Dental Glossary

provided by: David DiGiallorenzo

Abrasion – A loss of the structure of a tooth that can be caused by poor brushing, using a toothbrush that is too hard, and grinding or clenching the teeth.

Abscess – A pocket of infection of the tooth or the bone or soft tissue surrounding the tooth.

Abutment – The name for the tooth that supports a bridge, either fixed or removable.

Adhesive Dentistry – The term that refers to dental restorations that involve some type of bonding to the natural teeth.

Air Abrasion – A newer technology in which a tooth structure is removed by blasting the tooth with air and abrasives.

Alveolar Bone – The jaw bone in which the roots of your teeth are anchored.

– The most common filling; made of mercury, silver, tin, copper, and zinc.

Anterior Teeth – The six lower or upper front teeth.

Apex – The tip located at the root of each tooth.

Apicoectomy – The removal of a root trip by surgery to treat a dead tooth.

Arch – The alignment of the lower and the upper teeth.

Attrition – The loss of tooth structure due to natural wear and tear.

Bicuspid – Also called the pre-molar, they are the transitional teeth behind cuspids.

Black Hairy Tongue – A condition where one has elongated papillae located on the tongue which promotes growth of certain microorganisms.

Bleaching – A treatment used on teeth for whitening, can be either chemical or laser.

Bonding – A technique in which a composite resin is used to repair or change the tooth.

Braces – A type of device placed on the teeth used to gradually reposition the teeth to a better alignment.

Bridge – A dental appliance that is fixed to the teeth to replace one or multiple missing teeth.

Bruxism – The term for grinding the teeth, usually happens when one is asleep.

Calcium – An element that is needed for healthy teeth, as well as bones and nerves.

Cap – Another term for a dental crown.

Cellulitis – A potentially dangerous infection of the soft tissue that requires immediate attention.

Cosmetic Dentistry – Any number of treatments performed to enhance the appearance of the teeth.

Decay – the destruction of a tooth or its structure caused by bacteria produced toxins.

Deciduous Teeth – The term for baby teeth.

Denture – A set of artificial teeth that are removable.

Diastema – Refers to the space between two teeth.

Enamel – A hard tissue that covers the portion of the tooth that is above the gum line.

Extraction – Refers to the removal of a tooth or teeth.

Filling – The restoration of a lost tooth with either porcelain, metal or other resin materials.

Fistula – A channel that emanates pus from the site of an infection.

Forceps – An instrument used by dentists in the removal of teeth.

Gingiva – The name for gum tissue.

Gingivitis – An infection causing inflammation of gum tissue.

Gum Recession – The exposure of the dental roots due to a shrinkage of gum tissue.

Halitosis – A condition causing bad breath.

Hygienist – A dental technician who cleans teeth and provides education to patients.

Impaction – An unexposed tooth that is wedged against something which in turn precludes the eruption process.

Impression – A mold made of the teeth and gums.

Incisors – The four lower and upper front teeth, excluding the canines or cuspids.

Jacket – A type of crown for a front tooth, usually made with porcelain.

Malocclusion – A misalignment of the lower and upper teeth.

Mandible – The term for the lower jaw.

Mastication – The term for the process of chewing food.

Maxilla – The term for the upper jaw.

Molars – The three back teeth in each of the four dental quadrants used for the grinding of food.

Moniliasis – The name for thrush, a fungal infection that normally occurs after taking antibiotics.

Inhaled Sedation – Laughing gas, used to reduce a patients anxiety before a procedure.

Occlusion – The relationship between the lower and upper teeth upon closure.

Oral Hygiene – The process in which one maintains cleanliness of the teeth and other mouth structures.

Orthodontics – A dental specialty that treats any misalignment of teeth.

Overbite – When the front teeth have a vertical overlap.

Palate – The soft and hard tissue that forms the roof of the mouth.

Periapical – The region located at the end of the roots of the teeth.

Periodontal Surgery – The surgical management of diseased gum and tissue.

Permanent Teeth – The set of 32 complete adult teeth.

Pit – A slight defect in tooth enamel.

Plaque – A substance that can accumulate on teeth, caused by inadequate dental hygiene.

Prophylaxis – The cleaning of teeth to help prevention decay and periodontal disease.

Pulp – The connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels inside a tooth.

Pulpitis – An inflammation of the pulp of a tooth which is a common cause of toothaches.

Root – The structure of the tooth that connects it to the jaw.

Root Canal – The process in which the pulp of a tooth is removed and filled with a different material.

Saliva – The clear fluid located in the mouth.

Sinusitis – Any inflammation of the sinuses that can mimic dental pains.

Supernumerary Tooth – An additional tooth that should not be there.

Tartar – A type of hard deposit that adheres to teeth and attracts plaque.

Tooth Bud – The early embryonic structure that eventually becomes a tooth.

Transplant – The process of placing a natural tooth in the empty socket of any other tooth.

Trench Mouth – A type of gum disease identified by severe mouth sores and a loss of gum tissue.

Veneer – A type of facing bonded to a tooth to improve its appearance.

Wisdom Teeth – The last set of molars that usually develop between the ages of 18-25.