Glossary Dental Terms

Glossary of Dental Terms

A Guide to Dental Terms

Abscess: An infection of a tooth, soft tissue, or bone

Amalgam: A common filling material, also known as a silver filling, contain mercury (approximately 50%), silver, tin, copper and zinc

Anesthesia: Partial or complete elimination of pain sensation; Numbing a tooth is an example of local anesthesia; general anesthesia produces partial or complete unconsciousness.

Antibiotic: A drug that stops or slows the growth of bacteria

Bite: Relationship of the upper and lower teeth on closure (occlusion)

Bleaching: Chemical or laser treatment of natural teeth for a whitening effect

Block Injection: Anesthesia of a nerve trunk that covers a large area of the jaw; A mandibular block injection produces numbness of the lower jaw, teeth, and half the tongue.

Bonding: Adhesive dental restoration technique; A tooth-colored composite resin to repair and/or change the color or shape of a tooth

Bone Resorption: Decrease in bone supporting the roots of teeth, which is a common result of periodontal (gums & bone) disease

Bridge: Stationary dental prosthesis (appliance) fixed to teeth adjacent to a space; A bridge replaces one or more missing teeth, and is cemented or bonded to supporting teeth or implants adjacent to the space.

Bruxism: Grinding of the teeth, most commonly while asleep

Calculus: Hard residue, commonly known as tartar, that forms on teeth due to inadequate plaque control; Calculus-containing teeth are often stained yellow or brown.

Cap: Common term for dental crown

Caries: Tooth decay or “cavity”

Cavitron: Dental tool that uses high frequency ultrasonic waves and water to clean teeth

Cementum: Hard tissue that covers the roots of teeth

Composite Resin: Material composed of plastic with small glass or ceramic particles that is usually cured with filtered light or chemical catalyst

Crown: The portion of a tooth above the gum line; Also, a dental restoration covering all or most of the natural tooth

Cusp: The mound of tooth structure on posterior teeth

Cyst: A soft or hard tissue sac filled with fluid

D.D.S.: Doctor of Dental Surgery, equivalent to D.M.D.

Decay: Destruction of tooth structure caused by toxins produced by bacteria

Deciduous Teeth: Commonly called “baby teeth,” the first set of permanent teeth

Dentin: Inner layer of tooth structure, immediately under the surface enamel.

Denture: Removable (partial or complete) set of artificial teeth

Diastema: A space between teeth

Enamel: Hard tissue covering the portion of tooth above the gum line

Facing: Tooth colored overlay on the visible portion of a crown that is made of acrylic, composite, or porcelain.

Filling: Restoration of lost tooth structure with metal, porcelain, or resin materials

Fistula: The channel that emanates pus from an infection site, which is a gum boil

Flap Surgery: The lifting of gum tissue to expose and clean underlying tooth and bone structures

Full Mouth Reconstruction: Extensive restorations of natural teeth with crowns and/or fixed bridges to manage bite problems

General Anesthesia: 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

Gingivitis: The inflammation of gum tissue

Gum Recession: The exposure of dental roots due to shrinkage of the gums as a result of abrasion, periodontal disease, or surgery.

Halitosis: Bad breath of oral or gastrointestinal origin

Hyperemia: Increased blood flow that may cause dental sensitivity to temperature and sweets; May precede an abscess

Impaction: A partial or completely unexposed tooth that is wedged against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue, precluding the eruption process

Implant: An artificial device that replaces the tooth root and may anchor an artificial tooth, bridge, or denture

Infiltration: A procedure with local anesthetic effective for upper teeth and soft tissue or for the placement of anesthetic under the gums, allowing it to seep into the bone

Inlay: An indirect filling made by a dental laboratory that is cemented or bonded into place; or a direct placement of dental composite resin restoration at chairside

Intraoral Camera: A small video camera used to view and magnify oral conditions from which images may be printed

Laminate: A thin plastic or porcelain veneer produced in a dental laboratory and then bonded to a tooth

Laughing Gas: Nitrous oxide, an odorless inhalation agent that produces relative analgesia (sedation), reduces anxiety, and creates a state of relaxation

Local Anesthesia: Partial or complete elimination of pain sensation, in the immediate vicinity of its application or injection

Mucogingival Junction (MGJ): The meeting of thick, protective, gingival tissue around the teeth and the friable mucous lining of the cheeks and lips

Night Guard: An acrylic appliance used to prevent wear and temporomandibular damage caused by the grinding or clenching of teeth during sleep

Nitrous Oxide: A gas used to reduce patient anxiety

Novocain: The older brand name for a local anesthetic, currently replaced by safer, more effective agents

Onlay: A laboratory-produced restoration covering one or more cusps of a tooth

Partial Denture: A removable dental prosthesis (appliance) that replaces one or more natural teeth

Periodontal Chart: A record measuring the depth of gum pockets around the teeth

Pit: A small defect in the tooth enamel, or the junction of four formative lobes of a developing tooth

Plaque: A soft, sticky substance that accumulates on teeth and is composed of bacteria and food debris due to inadequate dental hygiene practices

Porcelain Crown: An all-porcelain restoration that covers the coronal portion of the tooth (above the gum line)

Porcelain Fused to Metal (PFM) Crown: A restoration containing metal coping for strength covered by porcelain for aesthetics

Porcelain Inlay or Onlay: A tooth-colored restoration made of porcelain and cemented or bonded in place

Porcelain Veneers: A thin layer of porcelain, fabricated by a laboratory and bonded to a natural tooth to replace lost tooth structure, close spaces, straighten teeth, or change color and/or shape

Post: A thin metal rod inserted into the root of a tooth after root canal therapy; It provides retention for a “coping” which replaces lost tooth structure and retains the crown

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

Pulp Cap: A medicated covering over a small area of exposed pulp tissue

Pulp Chamber: The center or innermost portion of the tooth containing the pulp

Restoration: The replacement of a portion of a damaged tooth

Retained Root: The partial root structure remaining in the jaw after extraction or fracture of a natural tooth

Root Canal Therapy: The process of removing the pulp of a tooth and filling it with an inert material

Rubber Dam: A soft, expandable, plastic sheet used to isolate one or more teeth from contamination by oral fluids and to keep materials from falling to the back of the throat

Scaling and Root Planing (SRP): The meticulous removal of plaque and calculus from tooth surfaces

Sealants: Thin resin material bonded in the pits and fissures of back teeth for the prevention of decay

Tartar: A common term for dental calculus, a hard deposit that adheres to teeth and produces a rough surface that attracts plaque

TMD (or TMJ Disorder): Temperomandibular disorder, the term given to the condition characterized by facial pain and a restricted ability to open or move the jaw

TMJ: The temporomandibular joint where the lower jaw attaches to the skull

Tooth Whitening: A chemical or laser process to lighten the color of teeth

Topical Anesthetic: An ointment that produces mild anesthesia when applied to the tissue surface

Veneer: A plastic or porcelain facing bonded directly to a tooth to improve its appearance; See laminate

Wisdom Teeth: The third (last) molars that usually erupt between the age of 18 to 25

Xerostomia: Dry mouth or decrease in the production of saliva