Dental Health Terms – Your 2022 Glossary

Excerpt: Dental terminology can be pretty confusing, even for lifetime patients...

Dental terminology can be pretty confusing, even for lifetime patients. Generally, the only people that are familiar with these terms are the dentists and their staff. If you want to increase your knowledge about dental terms and become more familiar with them, then this blog was made just for you.

 

We also recommend saving this blog for future use so you can come back to it when you need to.

A

Abrasion

Wear and tear on your enamel, is usually caused by flossing, brushing, or using toothpicks too aggressively. It can also be caused by holding objects with your teeth, i.e. screws, nails, pencils, etc.

Abscess

An abscess is a painful collection of pus, which is caused by an infection, that builds up in the skin, or teeth.

Abutment

These are the supporting teeth on either side of a bridge, or partial. They allow the dentist to attach the appliance to close the gap in the mouth.

Acrylic Resin

This is a thermoplastic material that is used in a variety of dental applications.

Adjustment

Changes or modifications to a dental appliance that generally, has already been inserted into the mouth.

Air Abrasion or Micro-Abrasion

This technique involves carefully removing the outer parts of the enamel, without a drill. The dentist will blast the tooth with air and an abrasive to remove minor cavities, stains, and discoloration. This method can also help prepare the surface of the tooth for bonding or sealants. 

Alveolar Bone

A bone that surrounds the root of each tooth, if this bone experiences loss, it can be a sign that you may have periodontitis (gum disease).

Amalgam

A popular filling material used to repair tooth decay. Also known as “silver fillings”, it can contain a variety of materials including, silver, tin, and copper, and can also contain zinc.

Anaerobic Bacteria

This is a type of bacteria that does not need oxygen to grow, this bacteria is often a result of periodontal disease.

Analgesia

A state where you are unable to feel pain.

Anesthesia

A type of medication that prevents the patient from feeling pain temporarily. Anesthesia may cause partial or complete unconsciousness.

Antibiotic

Medication that is aimed at slowing or stopping the growth of bacteria.

Antiseptic

A cleaning material that is used to destroy germs.

Apex

The highest point of the root of a tooth.

Appliance

A dental device that is inserted into the mouth for a variety of reasons. 

B

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

A common phenomenon in infants where the upper front teeth show signs of decay, due to exposure to liquids, over a long duration. Typically, this will result from the use of a baby bottle.

Bicuspid

These teeth are used for chewing, they are the fourth and fifth teeth from the center, to the back of the mouth. They are called “bicuspids” since they only have two points (cusps). An adult will have 8 bicuspids for their permanent set of teeth.

Biofeedback

This is the process of gaining greater awareness through your senses.

Biopsy

A piece of tissue is cut off to be examined.

Bite (occlusion)

Relationship between the upper and lower teeth when they are closed.

Bitewing

An individual x-ray that displays the upper and lower teeth (from the crown to the Alveolar bone). This x-ray is used to check for decay in the teeth.

Bleaching

A treatment involving chemicals, including peroxide to produce a whitening effect.

Bonding

This process involves cementing two different materials together with an adhesive.

Bone Resorption

The bone is broken by the body, a common result of periodontitis (gum disease).

Braces

Orthopedic devices are used to adjust the teeth of the patient over time.

Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

Occurs when a person grinds their teeth together, either consciously or unconsciously.

C

Calcium

A mineral used in the formation of healthy teeth, bones, and nerves.

Calculus (Tartar)

This is the result of plaque hardening on your teeth. Calculus will often show as yellow or brown stains on the teeth.

Canker Sore

Sores or ulcers that can occur in the mouth and may cause pain or discomfort while eating or talking. Typically, these last for around a week.

Cap

A term often used for “dental crown“.

Caries

Are commonly known as “cavities”, this is tooth decay as a result of bacteria buildup.

Cementum

A layer of tissue that covers the root of the tooth.

Clasp

A device used to attach a partial denture to teeth.

Cleaning

Involves the inspecting the teeth and the removal of any plaque or tartar on the teeth. Usually, this involves cleaning above the gum line.

Cleft Lip

Occurs when the upper halves of the lip are physically split or separated.

Cleft Palate

Occurs when the upper part of the mouth (roof) is physically split or separated.

Composite Resin Filling

This material is a mix of plastic, and glass or ceramic particles. It is a tooth-colored alternative to silver amalgam fillings.

Conventional Denture

A removable dental appliance used to replace some or all missing teeth in the mouth.

Cosmetic (Aesthetic) Dentistry

The process where a patient will enhance the looks of their smile. This is done through teeth whitening, as well as adjusting the teeth for a better fit. Teeth can also be reshaped and veneers can be inserted to change the tooth’s appearance if necessary.

Crown

This can refer to either the top of the tooth, or anything showing above the gum line. It can also refer to a restorative process where the crown of the tooth is replaced by one made by the dentist.

Cuspids

Commonly called “canines”, these teeth are found three spaces away from the center of your mouth. They are typically used for tearing and biting food.

Cusps

The points of your teeth can be rounded or pointed. Teeth with fewer cusps are used for biting and tearing, while teeth with more cusps are used for chewing.

Cyst

A abnormal sac that contains gas, fluid, or another semi-solid material.

D

DDS

Doctor Of Dental Surgery – Same as a DMD, Doctor of Dental Medicine.

Decay

Commonly referred to as “dental decay” or “tooth decay”, decay is the destruction of the tooth.

Deciduous Teeth

Regularly referred to as “baby teeth”, these are the primary teeth you grow in as a child. There are usually 20 of these teeth, and they will eventually fall out to make way for your permanent teeth.

Demineralization

Mineral from the tooth enamel will often appear as a white area on the surface of the tooth.

Dentin

The layer of the tooth that sits directly below the surface of the tooth enamel.

Dentures

Fixed or removable appliances that are used to replace one or more missing teeth. Dentures can either be complete, or partial, depending on the desired outcome.

DMD

Doctor of Medical Dentistry, equivalent to a DDS, Doctor of Dental Surgery.

Dry Mouth

A condition where there is an insufficient amount of saliva in the mouth. Dry mouth can be caused by many other underlying issues in the body.

Dry Socket

Occurs when a blood clot has failed to form, or is knocked loose from an extraction site. 

E

Edentulous

The result of either partial or complete tooth loss.

Enamel

The outer-most material used to protect the part of the tooth which sits above the gum line.

Endodontics

A field of dentistry that specializes in the workings of the “inner tooth”. Endo (Greek for “inner) and Dontics (Greek for teeth).

Endodontist

A dentist that has taken on extra training to specialize in endodontics.

Eruption

The moment it becomes visible when the tooth breaks through the gum line.

Extraction

The purposeful removal of a tooth or teeth.

F

Filling

restoration process that involves metal, porcelain, or resin materials, mainly used to repair dental decay.

Fistula

This is an unusual connection between two body parts. This can form under the gum line and is often a result of injury or trauma.

Flap Surgery

Lifting the tissue of the gums to clean and repair the tooth and bone structures.

Flossing

The process of using a thread-like material to clean in-between each tooth.

Fluoride

mineral used by the body to fortify teeth enamel. This mineral protects the teeth from decay, and makes them stronger. It is found in the food we eat, and can be found in tap water.

Fluorosis

The over-consumption of fluoride. This can show as white spots on the outer layer of the tooth, and can be nearly fatal in very rare cases.

G

General Dentist

A dentist with no specialization in a specific form of dentistry. General dentists can perform surgeries like root canal therapy, but if there are extra complications in the surgery, the general dentist may refer you to a specialist.

Gingiva

The tissue at the root of the tooth which soft, and often pink in color.

Gingivectomy

The surgical removal of the tissue at the root of the tooth.

Gingivitis (Gum Disease)

Usually the result of poor lifestyle choices, or oral care. An infection will cause your gums to have, pain, discomfort, bleeding, puffiness, and redness among others. Gingivitis is the beginning stage of gum disease, and it is the only stage in which gum disease is reversible.

Gingivoplasty

A process where the dentist or oral surgeon will reshape the gums to be more appealing, or more effective for the patient.

Gold Fillings

A alternative material for fillings used to fight tooth decay.

Gum Recession

A loss of gum coverage over the teeth.

Gutta Percha

Another material used for fillings.

H

Halitosis (Bad Breath)

Breath that smells unpleasant, it can have an underlying cause, or maybe a direct symptom of your oral care and lifestyle choices.

Handpiece

This instrument removes, shapes, finish, or modifies teeth as well as dental materials.

Hard Palate

The bony area on the roof (upper) area of your mouth.

Hygienist

A licensed dental professional who assists with dental work and educates patients on how they can improve.

I

Immediate Denture

This is a denture, which is made in advance of the surgery, it is inserted immediately after the removal of teeth or teeth. 

Impacted Tooth

A tooth that is either entirely, or only partially blocked and cannot erupt through the gum line.

Implant

A dental device (generally made out of titanium) that has been inserted into the upper or lower jawbone.

Impression

A mold, made from the teeth for dental procedures.

Incision And Drainage

A process where the affected area is cut and the pus is drained from it.

Incisors

Four upper and lower teeth (not including canines) that are used for cutting and tearing.

J

Jawbone

The bone that provides structure to the face and anchors the teeth.

L

Leukoplakia

The tongue or cheeks will show white or grey patches. This is the result of irritation to the mucous membranes in the mouth.

M

Malocclusion

Commonly referred to as a “bad bite”. Malocclusion is the technical term for miss-aligned teeth.

Mandible

The lower jaw.

Maxilla

The upper jaw.

Mercury

A type of metal can be used for fillings.

Molars

Three back teeth in each dental quadrant, are used for grinding and chewing food.

Mouth Guard

A protective device that is inserted into the mouth to prevent trauma and injury.

Muscle Relaxant

Medications are prescribed to reduce muscle contractions.

N

Nerve

The tissue that provides information to the brain through sensation.

Nerve (Root) Canal

The inner chamber of the tooth where the nerves and blood vessels are kept.

Night Guard

A removable appliance that protects the teeth when the patient is sleeping.

Nitrous Oxide

A drug used regularly for analgesic (used to sedate patients), it is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

O

Occlusal X-Rays

X-Rays which show full teeth development and placement.

Occlusion

The relationship between the upper and lower bite when the mouth is closed.

Onlay

A commonly used filling that protects the tooth against decay, often made out of, metal, porcelain, or acrylic.

Oral Cavity 

The mouth.

Oral And Maxillofacial Surgery

Dental procedures in the oral cavity, can include, cysts, tumors, and repair of fractured jaws.

Oral Medicine

The specialty of dentistry involves administering medication ingested via the mouth.

Oral Pathologist

Someone who specializes in the effects of disease on the oral structures in the mouth.

Oral Surgeon

Someone who specializes in surgical procedures on the oral structures in the mouth.

Orthodontist

A specialist who focuses on the relationship of the bite between the upper and lower jaws. They use orthopedic devices usually composed of, metal, wires, bands, and other materials.

Overbite

When the upper jaw is not aligned properly and extends past the lower jaw.

Overjet

When the upper jaw is not aligned properly and extends past either side of the lower jaw.

Overdenture

A denture that is designed to fit over the top of an implant.

 

P

Palate

The material that makes up the tissue of your mouth, there is a hard and soft tissue in a palate.

Panoramic X-Ray

An X-Ray that shows a complete visual representation of the relationship between the bite in the mouth.

Partial Denture

A removable appliance that is used as a replacement for missing teeth.

Pathology

The study of disease.

Pedodontics Or Pediatric Disease

A branch of dentistry that specializes in children.

Periapical X-Rays

Sideview x-rays that display the tooth from the crown to the root.

Periodontal Ligament

A tissue that surrounds and supports the tooth.

Periodontium

The tissue that surrounds and supports the tooth.

Permanent Teeth

Also referred to as “adult teeth”, this is the set of teeth you grow in after you outgrow your baby teeth.

Plaque

A colorless film of undigested food particles produced by the naturally-occurring bacteria in your mouth.

Pontic

A fake tooth which is used to close the gap via a fixed or removable appliance.

Porcelain

This a material used to closely replicate the color and function of the tooth.

Porcelain Inlay Or Onlay

A restoration procedure designed to repair decay, that is made out of porcelain.

Primary Teeth

The first set of teeth a human being grows in. These 20 temporary teeth are eventually discarded to make way for your “adult teeth”.

Prophylaxis

The teeth are cleaned to prevent periodontal disease and decay.

Prosthodontist

A dentist who receives extra training in restoring or replacing teeth can also treat a variety of facial deformities.
Pulp
The living material in the tooth that houses the roots and other internal structures.

R

Rinsing

Using antiseptics to clean tools and other appliances at the dental clinic.

Radiographic

X-rays

Radio Wave Therapy

A therapy technique involving the use of low-level stimulation via radio raves to increase blood flow and relieve pain.

Recontouring

The act of changing the shape of the tooth. The length and surface may also be modified.

Remineralization

Adjusting the tooth’s minerals into a demineralized (previously decayed) lesion.

Restoration

A process where the tooth is repaired back to it’s proper function and appearance using a variety of tools and methods.

Retainer

A removable appliance that is used to keep the teeth in a certain position.

Root

An oral structure that connects the tooth to the jaw.

Root Canal Therapy

A process where multiple tools are used to clear out the infected pulp within a tooth to prevent the spread of infection.

Rubber Dam

A latex or vinyl sheet that is used to isolate one or more of the teeth from materials it could be contaminated by.

S

Saliva

A fluid produced by the oral cavity that aids in digestion and hygiene.

Scaling And Root Planing

A procedure also referred to as a “deep cleaning“, where the plaque is cleaned from below the gum line and the gums are flattened back out onto the teeth.

Sedative

A family of drugs used to promote calmness and ease anxiety and stress.

Soft Palate

The back third of the mouth is compromised of soft tissue.

Space Maintainer

A dental appliance used to maintain separation through the loss of baby teeth.

Stains

Either intrinsic or extrinsic in nature, stains result in tooth discoloration. These stains can be caused by lifestyle choices i.e. tobacco, alcohol, food, etc., or an internal issue.

Stomatitis

An extra tooth.

T

Tartar

Plaque will eventually harden into tartar (calculus).

Teething

Baby teeth pushing through gums.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)

Also referred to as Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), this term is given to health issues concerning the joint which connects the lower jaw to the skull.

Thrush

An oral fungal infection caused by Candida.

Tooth Whitening

A process involving a variety of methods, whose goal is to turn the tooth a brighter shade of white.

Topical Anesthetic

An ointment that is meant to produce a numbing effect to relieve pain.

Trauma

Injury caused by an impact from a foreign object.

U

Underbite

When the lower jaw is not aligned properly and extends past the upper jaw.

Unerupted Tooth

A tooth that has not broken through the gum line.

V

Veneer

A thin, custom shell that is used to change the color, shape, or length of the tooth to a more optimal result.

Wisdom Teeth

The last set of molars that come in, usually between the ages of 18-25.

X-Rays

High-frequency light (or radiation) that penetrates different substances with different rates and absorption.

Frequently Asked Questions

No! This guide is not homework, it’s only there if you want to know!

You don’t need to know any of them! Our dentists don’t expect you to have a dental degree, that’s their job!

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