Dental Dictionary

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

abrasion:
loss of tooth structure caused by tooth grinding, an improper bite, a hard toothbrush or poor brushing technique
abscess:
a localized infection of a tooth and/or the gum
abutment:
tooth or teeth that anchor a fixed or removable bridge
allergy:
an unwanted bodily response to a substance or organism
alveolar bone:
the bone surrounding the roots of teeth
amalgam:
the most common material used for fillings, also called silver fillings; a mixture of mercury (app 50%), silver, tin, copper and zinc used for fillings
analgesia:
partial loss of pain sensation
anesthesia:
absence of pain sensation; numbing a tooth is local anesthesia; with general anesthesia, the patient is unconscious
anterior teeth:
the six upper and six lower front teeth
antibiotic:
a drug that stops or slows the growth of germs (bacteria)
ANUG:
an acronym for Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis, more commonly known as trench mouth or Vincent’s disease, often brought on by stress and/or smoking
apex:
the tip of the root of a tooth
apicoectomy:
removal of the root end of a tooth to treat an infection
arch :
shape assumed collectively by upper and lower teeth

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B

baby teeth:
the first teeth, also called deciduous teeth; usually there are twenty baby teeth
base:
a cement applied under a filling or crown to decrease sensitivity to heat or cold and protect the filling
biopsy:
removal of a small piece of tissue to determine if it is diseased
bite:
how the upper and lower teeth come together; may also be called occlusion
bitewings:
x-rays that help a dentist diagnose cavities
black hairy tongue:
excessive growth of fungi that normally live in the mouth
block injection:
anesthetizing a nerve that serves a large area of the jaw, usually the lower jaw; may numb teeth, tongue and half of the jaw in that area
bonding:
applying a tooth-colored resin to repair and/or change the color or shape of a tooth, most often a front tooth
bone loss:
decrease in bone supporting the roots of teeth; a common result of gum disease
bone resorption:
the gradual loss of bone; Orthodontists use this process to “pull” teeth through bone to new positions.
braces:
devices used by orthodontists to gradually reposition teeth
bridge:
appliance cemented to teeth adjacent to a space that replaces one or more missing teeth; usually cemented or attached to teeth or implants adjacent to the space
bruxism:
involuntary, “nervous” grinding of the teeth while the patient is asleep

bruxomania:
involuntary, “nervous” grinding of the teeth while the patient is awake
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C

calcium:
chemical element needed for healthy teeth, bones and nerves
calculus:
hard residue, ranging from yellow to brown, forming on teeth when oral hygiene is incomplete or improper
canal:
the narrow chamber inside the tooth’s root
canker sore:
whitish, often circular mouth sore lasting ten to fourteen days
cantilever bridge:
fixed bridge that attaches to adjacent teeth on one end only
cap:
common term for crown
caries:
tooth decay or cavities
cavitron:
dental tool that uses high-frequency sound waves to clean teeth
cellulitis:
uncontrolled infection causing extensive swelling; Since this is a dangerous condition, a dentist or physician should be consulted as soon as possible.
cementum:
hard tissue that covers the roots of teeth
chart:
to measure the depth of the gum pockets around teeth
clasp:
device that retains a removable partial denture
cleaning:
removal of plaque and calculus from teeth, generally above the gumline
composite:
common bonding mix of plastic and glass/ceramic particles; usually cured with light or chemicals, sometimes referred to as white fillings or tooth colored fillings
cosmetic fillings
tooth colored fillings
crown:
two meanings: (1) the portion of a tooth covered by enamel, and (2) a restoration that covers all or most of the natural tooth above the gumline
curretage:
removal of dead inner tissue from a gum pocket
cyst:
a fluid-filled sac
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D

decay:
destruction of tooth structure caused by acid produced by bacteria
deciduous teeth:
baby teeth
dentin:
hard, living inner layer of a tooth (the layer immediately under the outer enamel layer)
dental implant:
a (usually) titanium cylinder surgically placed in the bone of the upper or lower jaw to replace the root of a missing tooth
dental veneer:
a shell that is bonded to the enamel of a front tooth. The shell is usually thin and made from porcelain resin. See laminate.
dentition:
your teeth and how they are arranged in your mouth

denture:
a removable set of artificial teeth

diastema:
the space between front teeth
digital x-ray:
computerized dental radiographs using very low levels of radiation
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E

enamel:
hard tissue covering the crown (portion above the gumline) of a tooth
endodontist:
a specialist who treats injuries, diseases and infections of the tooth pulp
eruption:
the process whereby teeth grow through the gums

exodontia:
See extraction.

explorer:
a pointed instrument for examining the surfaces of teeth

extraction:
removal of a tooth/teeth

eyeteeth:
the four upper and lower canine or eye teeth
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F

facing:
the visible portion of a crown; may be acrylic, composite or porcelain
filling:
restoring lost tooth structure with metal, alloy, porcelain or resin
fistula:
tunnel conducting pus from one infection to the site of another; a mouth fistula is called a gum boil
flap surgery:
loosening of gums from bone to expose and clean underlying tooth structures
forceps:
instrument used to remove a tooth
full denture:
removable denture replacing all teeth in upper or lower arch
frenectomy:
removal of the frenum, the thin cord of tissue that attaches the upper or lower lips to the gum or the tongue to the floor of the mouth
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G

GTR:
(guided tissue regeneration) a new technique for replacing bone tissue lost between roots of teeth
general anesthesia:
a controlled state of unconsciousness, accompanied by a partial or complete loss of pain sensation, protective reflexes, and the ability to respond purposefully to physical stimulation or verbal command
geographic tongue:
loss of all usual color and texture of tongue; does not require treatment
gingiva:
the gums
gingivectomy:
removal of gum tissue
gingivitis:
inflammation of gum tissue
gum boil:
See fistula.
gum disease:
an infection of the gum tissue, also called periodontal disease
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H

halitosis:
bad breath
hydrogen peroxide(H202):
compound used as a dental whitening agent and mouthwash
hyperemia:
dental sensitivity to temperature and sweets; can precede an abscess
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I

impacted tooth:
an unexposed or partially exposed tooth that is so wedged against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue that complete exposure of the tooth is unlikely
implant:
artificial device replacing tooth root; may anchor an artificial tooth, bridge, or denture
implant crowns:
an artificial tooth replacement that restores missing tooth structure and is attached to an implant post
incision and drainage:
making an incision in an abscess to drain infection
incisors:
four upper and four lower front teeth, (excludes the canine teeth)
infiltration:
process for numbing the upper teeth (placing anesthetic liquid under the gum tissue and allowing it to migrate into the bone)
inlay:
a filling made by a dental laboratory that is cemented into place, generally requires two dental appointments
intraoral camera:
a tiny TV camera used to view tissues of the mouth (owned by approximately 50 percent of U.S. dentists
Invisalign:
a series of clear removable aligners used to straighten teeth without
braces, metal wires or brackets
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J

jacket:
crown for a front tooth, usually made of porcelain
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L

laminate:
thin plastic or porcelain veneer produced in a dental laboratory and then bonded to a tooth to improve its appearance
laughing gas:
common name for nitrous oxide; used to reduce anxieties and relax patients
local anesthesia:
elimination of the sensation of pain, in one part of the body by the surface application or regional injection of an anesthetic drug
ultra-thin translucent Cerinate porcelain veneer
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M

malocclusion:
“bad bite” or misalignment between the upper and lower teeth
managed care:
program whereby patient-dentist assignment and dentist reimbursement are administered by a separate, external organization
mandible:
the lower jaw
margin:
point of contact between a restoration and the tooth
Maryland bridge:
a bridge that is bonded or cemented only to the backs of the adjacent teeth
maxilla:
the upper jaw
milk teeth:
the baby teeth
molars:
the twelve back teeth in the entire mouth (or the three back teeth in each fourth of the mouth if the wisdom teeth are in)
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N

nerve:
common term for tooth pulp which is the sensitive innermost portion of a tooth
nightguard:
plastic device that covers all of the upper or lower teeth; used to prevent wear caused by tooth grinding during sleep
nitrous oxide:
a gas used to reduce patient anxiety
Novocain:
older brand name for a local anesthetic
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O

occlusion:
how the upper and lower teeth come together
onlay:
laboratory-produced restoration covering the cusps of a tooth
oral and maxillofacial surgeon:
a specialist who deals with the diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases, injuries and deformities of the mouth and supporting structures. Generally requires four additional years of training after dental school
oral cancer screening:
oral tissue exam including lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, roof and floor of mouth
oral cavity:
the mouth
oral hygiene:
the process of maintaining the cleanliness of the mouth
oral surgery:
operations on the mouth; for example, extractions, removal of cysts or tumors, and repair of broken jaw bone
orthodontics:
dental specialty that treats misalignment of teeth
overdenture:
denture that fits over tooth roots or dental implants
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P

palliative treatment:
treatment that is designed primarily to reduce or eliminate pain
parasthesia:
loss of sensation in part of the body
partial:
removable denture replacing some of the teeth
pedodontics:
dental specialty focusing on treatment of children
periodontist:
a specialist who treats the gums and supporting structures of the teeth
permanent teeth:
the thirty-two adult teeth
pit:
a small defect in the tooth enamel, usually found on the back teeth
plaque:
a soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth; composed largely of bacteria and food substances suspended in saliva
pontic:
a false tooth mounted on a bridge
porcelain crowns:
a porcelain cap which covers the crown (that portion above the gumline) of the tooth to repair it or change the shape and/or color
porcelain inlay or onlay:
a tooth-colored filling, made of porcelain
porcelain veneers:
a thin layer of porcelain bonded to the front and top of a front tooth to repair or change the color and/or shape
post:
a thin metal rod inserted into the root of a tooth after root canal therapy; provides retention for a “core” which is a buildup of material that replaces the lost tooth structure
post-core:
a post and a buildup of material that replaces the lost tooth structure
post-crown:
single structure that combines post-core and crown
prognosis:
the probable outcome of treatment
prophylaxis:
procedure for preserving the health and preventing infection of teeth
prosthesis:
an artificial replacement for a body part
prosthodontist:
a dentist who specializes in restoring teeth, replacing missing teeth with bridges and dentures, and maintaining proper occlusion
pulp:
the nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue inside a tooth
pulp cap:
a medicated covering over a small area of exposed pulp
pulp chamber:
the center or innermost portion of the tooth containing the pulp
pulpectomy:
total removal of the pulp in children’s teeth
pulpitis:
inflammation of the pulp; a common cause of a toothache
pulpotomy:
partial removal of the pulp
pyorrhea:
common term for gum disease
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R

reimplantation:
return to mouth of tooth/teeth lost through trauma
reline:
plastic buildup of denture to compensate for bone loss (usually accomplished in conjunction with a dental laboratory)
receding gum:
a condition in which the gum separates from the tooth, allowing bacteria and other substances to attach the tooth’s enamel and surrounding bone.
resin filling:
an artificial filling used to restore teeth. Also called a composite filling.
restoration:
the replacement part or portion restored on a damaged tooth
retained root:
root remaining in jaw after tooth is extracted or broken off
root:
tooth structure that connects the tooth to the jaw
root canal:
common term for root canal therapy, also the interior space of the tooth root
root canal therapy:
process of removing pulp of a tooth and filling it with an inert material
root planing:
scraping or cleansing of teeth to remove heavy buildup of tartar below the gum line.
root resection:
removal of root of a tooth while retaining the crown
rubber dam:
soft latex sheet used to protect one or more teeth from moisture and to keep materials from falling to the back of the throat
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S

saliva:
clear fluid in the mouth containing water, enzymes, bacteria, mucus, viruses, blood cells and undigested food particles
saliva ejector:
suction tube placed in the mouth to remove saliva
salivary glands:
located under tongue and in cheeks, produce saliva
scaling:
meticulous removal of plaque and calculus from tooth surfaces
sealants:
plastic material bonded in the grooves and pits of back teeth for the prevention of decay
secondary dentin:
produced by the pulp in response to tooth irritation
sleep apnea:
the periodic interruption or delay in breathing during sleep
space maintainer:
dental device that holds the space lost through premature loss of baby teeth
splint:
to connect two or more teeth so they function as a stronger single structure
supernumerary tooth:
extra tooth
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T

tartar:
also called calculus, a hard deposit containing bacteria and minerals that adheres to teeth
tmd:
temperomandibular disorder; term given to condition characterized by facial pain and restricted ability to open/move the jaw
tmj:
the temporomandibular joint, the point where the lower jaw attaches to the upper jaw
tmj disorder:
term given to condition characterized by facial pain and restricted ability to open/move the jaw
third-party provider:
insurance company, union, government agency that pays all or a part of cost of dental treatment
tooth bud:
early embryonic structure that becomes a tooth
tooth whitening:
a process to lighten the color of teeth
torus:
common bony growth on the palate or lower jaw
transplant:
placing a natural tooth in the empty socket of another tooth
trauma:
injury caused by a blow, chemicals, temperature extremes, or poor tooth alignment
trench mouth:
gum disease characterized by severe mouth sores and loss of tissue. See ANUG.
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U

unerupted tooth:
a tooth that has not pushed through the gum and assumed its correct position in the jaw
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V

veneer:
a shell that is bonded to the enamel of a front tooth. The shell is usually thin and made from porcelain resin. See laminate.
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W

wisdom teeth:
the third set of molars that usually erupt when a person is 18-25 years of age
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X

xerostomia:
>decrease in production of saliva
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