Glossary of Dental Terms

 

Dentists use a lot of special words and phrases to describe parts of the mouth, problems and procedures. Your dentist can explain any term you don’t know, but in the meantime, here are some you can learn about:

  • Abscess: An abscess in the mouth is localized buildup of pus by an area of infection, typically around a tooth or in the gums. The inflammation and swelling can destroy oral tissue.  Possibly acute (comes on suddenly, lasts a short time, and typically painful) or chronic (develops slowly and often with no pain).
  • Abutment: A natural tooth or implanted tooth substitute that supports a removable partial denture or fixed bridge work.
  • Abrasion: Wear on a tooth caused by a mechanical process, like brushing too hard, holding things in your teeth, and other abnormal actions. This type of wear is similar to attrition, which is caused by tooth-to-tooth contact, such as grinding.
  • Acid etching: A process that prepares the tooth surface for the bonding of a tooth-colored filling or sealant by roughening the tooth enamel with a weak acid solution.
  • Alloy: A mixture of two or more metals created to provide better performance, like more strength or corrosion resistance. The mixture usually refers to dental amalgam (a blend of silver, tin, mercury and traces of other metals).
  • Alveolar bone: The bone that attaches to the teeth.
  • Alveoloplasty: A surgical procedure that reshapes the bone that supports the teeth is referred to as alveoloplasty.
  • Amalgam: A mixture of different metals, such as mercury, silver, tin and copper, used to fill cavities is called amalgam and is often referred to as a “silver filling.”
  • Anatomical crown: The visible part of a tooth covered by enamel is an anatomical crown.
  • Antibiotic prophylaxis: The use of antibiotics before exposure to bacteria to prevent or reduce the risk for an infection is antibiotic prophylaxis or premedication.
  • Apexogenesis: Pulp therapy in a developing tooth that encourages growth of a tooth’s roots is called apexogenesis.
  • Apicoectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the tip of the tooth’s root end is apicoectomy, which is typically performed if an infection persists after a root canal procedure.
  • Artificial crown (crown or cap): A tooth-shaped replacement or covering for the visible part of the tooth usually damaged by decay or trauma is an artificial crown.
  • Avulsion: When a tooth is knocked out of its socket usually due to trauma, avulsion occurs.
  • Band: A metal ring put around a tooth with cement as part of orthodontic treatment is a band, which can hold various attachments to assist with tooth movement.
  • Bicuspid: Teeth located between the canines and molars that have two cusps or pointed areas on top are bicuspid, or more commonly called premolars.
  • Bitewing: A bitewing X-ray shows the crowns of the upper and lower molar and premolar teeth when biting down.
  • Bleaching: A teeth whitening process that chemically removes stains that have penetrated the tooth enamel and cannot be removed by cleaning and polishing alone is called bleaching.
  • Bonding: The process by which a tooth-colored resin filling material is firmly connected to the natural tooth to repair or change its shape or color is bonding. It follows acid-etching of the tooth. Bonding also describes how an orthodontic bracket is affixed or “cemented” to the tooth.
  • Bone loss: A decrease in the amount of bone that supports a tooth or implant is referred to as bone loss.
  • Bridge: An appliance that replaces missing teeth by securely attaching an artificial tooth or teeth to the natural teeth or dental implants next to it is a bridge, also known as a fixed partial denture. It cannot be removed by the patient.
  • Bruxism: An unconscious habit of grinding or clenching of the teeth, which often happens when a person is sleeping, but may also occur while awake, is bruxism.
  • Buccal: Of or near the inside surface of the cheeks or surfaces of the teeth or restorations nearest the cheeks is the buccal area.
  • Calculus: A hard deposit of minerals coated with bacterial plaque that can attach to and build up on the teeth and cause gum inflammation is calculus, also known as tartar. It cannot be brushed off and is removed during a professional cleaning.
  • Caries: The technical name for tooth decay is caries, which is a dental disease process where the tooth surfaces are slowly destroyed by acid-producing bacteria.
  • Cavity: An area of a tooth that is damaged due to caries, erosion or abrasion is a cavity, also called carious lesion, when caused by caries.
  • Cement base: Material sometimes used to replace missing tooth structure beneath a filling is cement base.
  • Cementum: The thin, hard tissue that covers the root of a tooth is cementum.
  • Cleft palate: A birth defect that occurs when the tissues that make up the roof of the mouth do not join together completely, resulting in an opening in the soft and/or hard palate is cleft palate. This failure of tissues to fully join can also occur on the upper lip – cleft lip.
  • Complete denture: A removable dental prosthesis that replaces all upper or lower teeth is complete denture.
  • Composite: A tooth-colored resin filling material used to repair teeth is a composite and is the most common type of filling placed. Composite may be reinforced with several types of filler substances. It is bonded to the remaining natural tooth surface.
  • Core buildup: Replacing a large part of the missing natural tooth with a filling material, when there is insufficient tooth structure to retain a prosthetic crown, is core buildup.
  • Cosmetic dentistry: Procedures and services conducted solely to improve one’s esthetic appearance is cosmetic dentistry.
  • Crown: The top part of the tooth that is covered with enamel is a crown. Also, an artificial cover for an implant or for a natural tooth to repair it or restore it to its normal shape and size after a root canal, fracture or loss of tooth structure due to decay is a crown.
  • Crown lengthening: A surgical procedure that exposes more of the tooth crown to view is called crown lengthening.
  • Cusp: One of the pointed parts on the top of a tooth that forms the chewing or biting surface is a cusp.
  • Cuspid: A tooth with one cusp located between the incisors and premolars (bicuspids) is a cuspid, also called a canine tooth.
  • Debridement: Procedure for removing plaque and calculus so an oral evaluation (exam) can be performed is debridement.
  • Decay: Common term for carious lesions on the tooth, resulting from destruction of tooth surface by acid-producing bacteria, is decay.
  • Deciduous teeth: The first teeth a child gets are deciduous teeth, also called primary teeth or baby teeth. There are 20 deciduous teeth, which are usually all in place around age 2.
  • Dental floss: Thin strands of string-like material used to clean food, bacteria and other debris from between the teeth and around the gums that cannot be reached by brushing alone is dental floss.
  • Dentin: A hard, calcified material that makes up the bulk of a tooth is dentin. It is right below the enamel on the tooth crown and under the thin coating of cementum on the tooth root.
  • Denture: An oral prosthetic to replace some missing teeth (partial denture) or all natural teeth (full or complete denture) is a denture.
  • Dry socket: Severe pain inside and around the tooth socket, which usually occurs one to three days after a tooth extraction, is dry socket. The condition is more common after wisdom tooth (third molar) extractions and usually requires return to the dental office for post-operative care.
  • Enamel: The hard, calcified surface of the crown of a tooth is enamel.
  • Endodontist: A dentist that specializes in diagnosing and treating tooth pain or infections and performing root canal treatment and other procedures involving the tooth nerve or pulp is an endodontist.
  • Erosion: A destructive process in which tooth surface is worn down by acids and not from bacteria is erosion. Common causes of erosion can include vomiting, stomach reflux, acidic carbonated sodas and sports drinks.
  • Extraction: The pulling or removal of all or part of a tooth is an extraction.
  • Facial surface: The side of a tooth facing the cheeks or lips, as opposed to the side facing the tongue, is facial surface.
  • Filling (restoration): Material that is used to repair a damaged area of a tooth is a filling. It can be made of metals, plastic (resin) or porcelain.
  • Fixed partial denture: A prosthetic for one or more missing teeth that is affixed (cemented) to teeth next to the missing tooth/teeth is a fixed partial denture, which cannot be removed by the patient.
  • Fluoride: A mineral that strengthens enamel and reduces dental decay is fluoride. Contained in a high percentage of community tap water, fluoride is in most toothpastes, some mouthwashes, and a number of professionally applied products.
  • Fluoride varnish: A liquid containing fluoride that is painted onto the teeth and hardens is a fluoride varnish, which is used to prevent or reduce the risk for caries.
  • Gingiva: Also known as the gums, gingiva is the soft tissues around the teeth.
  • Gingivectomy: A surgical procedure for removing gingiva to help restore periodontal (gum) health, or to improve esthetic appearance, is gingivectomy.
  • Gingivitis: An early form of periodontal (gum) disease, where the gums are inflamed and become red, swollen and bleed easily, is gingivitis. Plaque buildup is usually the cause of gingivitis.
  • Gingivoplasty: A surgical procedure for reshaping gingiva is gingivoplasty.
  • Graft: Tissue, bone or other material used to repair defects or deficiencies in oral structures are a type of graft.
  • Impacted tooth: A tooth that is blocked from coming up through the gums by another tooth, bone or soft tissue is an impacted tooth.
  • Implant: A device that is put into the jawbone to hold prosthesis, such as a crown or bridge, is an implant.
  • Incisor: A tooth used for cutting or incising food, located at the front of the mouth, is an incisor.
  • Labial: Of or near the lips is labial.
  • Lingual: Of or near the tongue is lingual.
  • Lingual surface: The side of a tooth facing the tongue, as opposed to the side facing the cheeks and lips, is the lingual surface.
  • Malocclusion: When the upper and lower teeth are not lined up well in order to bite and chew properly describes malocclusion.
  • Mandible: The lower jaw is the mandible.
  • Maxilla: The upper jaw is the maxilla.
  • Microabrasion: A conservative method using acid-etching and mild abrasives for removing surface stains and irregularities on the outer enamel layer of a tooth is microabrasion.
  • Molars: The large teeth near the back of the jaws that are used for chewing and grinding food are the molars.
  • Mouthguard: A removable plastic device that a person wears over their teeth and gums to protect them from damage during sports is a mouthguard.
  • Nightguard: A removable device that a person wears over their teeth at night to protect them from damage due to clenching or bruxism is a nightguard.
  • Occlusion: The relationship between the upper and lower teeth as they are brought into contact in order to bite and chew is occlusion.
  • Ondontoplasty: A procedure that makes changes to the length, size and/or shape of a tooth is ondontoplasty.
  • Operculum: A flap of gingival tissue over the crown of an erupting tooth is operculum.
  • Operculectomy: A procedure that removes the flap of tissue over an unerupted or partially erupted tooth is operculectomy.
  • Oral: Pertaining to the mouth is defined as oral.
  • Oral hygiene: Activities you do to keep your mouth clean are related to oral hygiene. These include brushing your teeth, cheeks, tongue and dentures or using mouthwash and dental floss. They also can include having a dentist or hygienist clean your teeth.
  • Orthodontist: A type of dentist that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, interception, guidance and correction of the tooth and jaw positions through use of braces and other devices is an orthodontist.
  • Overdenture: A prosthetic denture that lies over preserved teeth roots or implants is an overdenture.
  • Palate: The hard and soft tissues that form the roof of the mouth is the palate.
  • Partial denture: A prosthetic that replaces missing teeth is a partial denture. When it is cemented in place and cannot be removed by the patient, it is called a fixed bridge. When it can be removed and cleaned by the wearer, it is a removable partial denture.
  • Pediatric dentist: A dentist who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and management of the oral health needs of children is a pediatric dentist.
  • Peri-implantitis: An infection that develops around an implant, which can cause bone loss, is peri-implantitis.
  • Periodontal pocket: A periodontal disease condition, resulting in a deep area between a tooth and gum that is difficult to clean and may result in further destruction if not corrected, is periodontal pocket.
  • Periodontist: A dentist who specializes in diagnosing, managing and treating the tissues that surround the teeth is a periodontist.
  • Periodontal disease: Commonly known as gum disease, periodontal disease is caused by plaque. When the plaque is not removed, it can cause your gums to become inflamed and bleed easily. There are different degrees of periodontal disease, starting with easily reversible gingivitis.
  • Periodontitis: A severe form of gum disease caused by plaque is periodontitis. It occurs when gingivitis is inadequately treated and gets worse. It can cause the gums and bones that support the teeth to break down. Teeth can then loosen and fall out.
  • Plaque: A sticky film of bacteria and other substances that coat the teeth every day is plaque. Brushing and flossing help remove plaque. If not removed regularly, plaque can lead to gum disease.
  • Preventive dentistry: Procedures and services administered to prevent the initiation, progression or recurrence of oral diseases is preventive dentistry, also considered a philosophy of practice.
  • Prophylaxis: A dental cleaning that consists of the removal of plaque, calculus and stains from the exposed and unexposed surfaces of the teeth by scaling and polishing, as a preventive measure for the control of local irritational factors, is prophylaxis.
  • Prosthesis (dental prosthesis): A device designed to restore form and function to a defect in the mouth, like missing or damaged teeth and missing soft or hard structures of the jaws or palate, is prosthesis. Examples of dental prosthesis include crowns, fixed bridges, removable complete and partial dentures, and others.
  • Pulp: The soft tissue inside the tooth that has blood vessels and nerves is pulp.
  • Pulpectomy: A procedure in which pulp tissue is removed from the root canal is pulpectomy.
  • Pulpitis: Inflammation of the dental pulp is pulpitis.
  • Pulpotomy: A procedure that removes diseased pulp tissue is pulpotomy.
  • Quadrant: One of the four equal sections into which the dental arches can be divided is a quadrant, typically referred to as upper and lower right and upper and lower left. The quadrant begins at the midline of the arch and extends to the last tooth.
  • Recession: When the gums pull away from the teeth, often exposing the root, recession occurs.
  • Reimplantation: When returning a natural tooth to its socket, after it has been knocked out, a reimplantation takes place. Infrequently an intentional tooth extraction is performed and the tooth is reinserted in an effort to save it.
  • Removable partial denture: A dental prosthetic for missing teeth that is not fixed in place is a removable partial denture.
  • Restoration: A kind of treatment that repairs or replaces teeth to return them to proper form and function is called a restoration, with examples including amalgams, composites, crowns, bridges, veneers and others.
  • Retainer: A removable device that is worn in the mouth to prevent teeth from moving out of position is a retainer, which can be fixed in place or removable.
  • Risk assessment: An overall evaluation of the factors that, if present, may increase the likelihood of disease occurrence or progression is a risk assessment.
  • Root: The bottom part of the tooth that anchors it in the jaw and is covered by bone and the gums is the root.
  • Root canal: A treatment that removes the tooth nerve (pulp) and seals the space formerly occupied by the nerve with an inert material is a root canal. A crown is then often recommended to cover the tooth to prevent it from breaking.
  • Root planing: Procedure performed on tooth roots to remove rough cementum or dentin, bacteria, calculus and diseased surfaces are root planing.
  • Scaling: A procedure that uses dental instruments to remove plaque, tartar and stains from teeth crown and root surfaces is scaling.
  • Scaling and root planing: Combined periodontal procedure performed for individuals with periodontitis and bone loss.
  • Sealant: A thin plastic (resin) coating that can be bonded into the grooves and pits on the biting surfaces of back teeth to keep food from getting packed in them and bacteria out to help prevent caries (cavities) is a sealant.
  • Sjögren syndrome: An illness in which the immune system attacks the body's own cells is Sjögren syndrome. Primarily affecting women, Sjögren syndrome mainly causes dry mouth and dry eyes but can distress other areas of the body, like the joints.
  • Space maintainer: An oral appliance cemented in place to hold the teeth in one position is a space maintainer.
  • Stomatitis: A general term for an inflamed and sore mouth is stomatitis, which can refer to anywhere in the mouth.
  • Sublingual: Under the tongue is sublingual.
  • Submandibular: Below the lower jaw is submandibular.
  • Supernumerary teeth: Extra teeth beyond the normal 32 adult teeth are called supernumerary teeth.
  • Tartar: A hard deposit of minerals coated with bacterial plaque that can build up on the teeth and cause the gums to get inflamed is tartar, also known as calculus. It is scraped off when a dentist cleans your teeth.
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ): The joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull is the temporomandibular.
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD): Pain, clicking and other symptoms that are caused by problems with the temporomandibular joint and the associated muscles are referred to as temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
  • Topical: Medications that are applied to the surface of the body or body part are topical. Topical fluoride in the form of gels or varnish is frequently applied to the teeth to help prevent caries (tooth decay).
  • Unerupted: Teeth that have not broken through the gums and into the oral cavity are unerupted.
  • Veneer: A thin, custom-made shell that covers the front part of a tooth to correct its shape or color is a veneer, which is made to look and feel like a real tooth. Veneers can be made of porcelain, ceramic, composite or acrylic resin.
  • Wisdom teeth: The last teeth to come in during the mid to late teenage years are wisdom teeth, also called third molars.
  • Xerostomia: Dry mouth caused by salivary glands that don’t work properly or reduced flow of saliva from medications is xerostomia, which can refer to an actual reduction or loss of saliva or the perceived feeling of dryness.
  • X-ray: An image of bones, teeth and restorations made with radiation is an x-ray, also referred to as a radiograph or radiographic image.

 

 

 

American Dental Association –  Glossary   https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/glossary

Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry – Glossary of Prosthodontic Terms – Ninth Edition – 2017

https://www.thejpd.org/article/S0022-3913(16)30683-7/pdf

American Academy of Periodontology – Glossary of periodontal terms

https://members.perio.org/libraries/glossary/search?executeSearch=true&showAdvanced=true&ProductList=Announcement%2cBlog%2cCommunity%2cEgroup%2cCalendarEvent%2cGlossary%2cNavigation%2cLibrary%2cLibraryEntry&SearchTerm=prophylaxis&SearchMatch=all