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Dental Terms

We know some dental terms can be confusing and we want our patients to be knowledgeable and educated! We are here to make your next dental experience as comfortable as possible. While we always take the time to explain every treatment option in person, sometimes patients prefer to read about their treatments online as well. Our dental team has put together this extensive list of many dental terms and what they mean.

Abrasion

Loss of tooth structure caused by a hard toothbrush, poor brushing technique or bruxism (grinding or clenching the teeth).

Abscess

An infection of a tooth, soft tissue or bone.

Abutment

A tooth or teeth that supports a fixed or removable bridge.

Adhesive Dentistry

Contemporary term for dental restorations that involve 'bonding' of composite resin or porcelain fillings to natural teeth.

Air Abrasion

Removal of tooth structure by blasting a tooth with air and abrasive, a relatively new technology that may avoid the need for anesthetic.

All On Four®

The term All-on-4® refers to "all" teeth being supported "on four" dental implants, a surgical and technique prosthodontics procedure for total rehabilitation of badly broken down teeth, decayed teeth or compromised teeth due to gum disease. The All-on-4® treatment concept is the best solution for full-arch treatment using tilted implants. The All-on-4® treatment concept is a cost-efficient, graftless solution that provides patients with a fixed full-arch prosthesis on the day of surgery.

Allergy

Unfavorable systemic response to a foreign substance or drug.

Alveolar Bone

The jaw bone that anchors the roots of teeth.

Amalgam

A most common filling material, also known as silver fillings, containing mercury (approximately 50%), silver, tin, copper and zinc.

Analgesia

A state of pain relief or an agent that lessens pain.

Anesthesia

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

Anterior Teeth

The six upper or six lower front teeth.

Antibiotic

A drug that stops or slows the growth of bacteria.

ANUG

An acronym for Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis, commonly known as trench mouth or Vincent's disease, which can be aggravated by stress and/or smoking.

Apex

The tip of the root of a tooth.

Apicoectomy

Surgical removal of the root tip to treat a dead tooth.

Arch

Describes the alignment of the upper or lower teeth.

Attrition

Loss of structure due to natural wear.

Base

Cement placed under a dental restoration to insulate the pulp (nerve chamber).

Bicuspid or Pre-molar

Transitional teeth behind the cuspids.

Bite

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

Bite Wings

Caries (decay) detection devices used during X-rays.

Bleaching

Chemical or laser treatment of natural teeth for whitening effect.

Bonding

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

Bruxism

Grinding or gnashing of the teeth, most commonly while the patient is asleep.

Calcium

Chemical element needed for healthy teeth, bones and nerves.

Calculus

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

Canine Teeth

The slightly pointed teeth that sit on each side of the incisor teeth at the front of the mouth.

Canker Sore

Mouth sore that appears whitish and often has a red halo. A canker sore usually has a 10-14 day duration.

Cantilever Bridge

Fixed bridge that attaches to adjacent teeth only on one end.

Cap

Common term for dental crown.

Cast/Model

Reproduction of structures made by pouring plaster or stone into a mold.

Cavitron

Dental tool that uses high frequency ultrasonic waves to clean teeth.

Clasp

Device that retains a removable partial denture to stationary teeth.

Crossbite

Reverse biting relationship of upper and lower teeth also known as underbite, as in Class III malocclusuion (prognathic jaw).

DDS

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

DMD

Doctor of Medical Dentistry, equivalent to D.D.S.

Decay

Destruction of tooth structure caused by toxins produced by bacteria.

Dentin

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

Diastema

A space between teeth.

Enamel

Hard tissue covering the portion of tooth above the gum line.

Endodontist

A specialist who treats injuries, diseases and infections of the tooth pulp (nerve chamber).

Extraction

Removal of a tooth.

Facing

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

FAGD

Fellowship Academy of General Dentistry.

Filling

Restoration of lost tooth structure with metal, porcelain or resin materials. We are proud that we use only the latest technologies for fillings. Your smile will remain unflawed if you should need a filling. Let us take care of your cavities with our expert filling processes.

Flap Surgery

The lifting of gum tissue to expose and clean underlying tooth and bone structures.

Full Denture

A removable dental prosthesis (appliance) that replaces all upper or lower teeth.

Full Mouth Reconstruction

Extensive restorations of natural teeth with crowns and/or fixed bridges to manage bite problems.

Gingivectomy

The surgical removal of gum tissue.

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.

Hygienist

A dental professional who specializes in education and prevention of oral disease. A hygienist partners with the dentist to assess the oral environment for signs and symptoms of periodontal disease, and is educated to provide therapeutic care in the treatment of bacterial infections within the oral environment. In some states, a dental hygienist may establish a dental hygiene diagnosis and treatment plan, administer local anesthesia and nitrous oxide/oxygen analgesia, and restore teeth with fillings.

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.

Incisors

The four upper and lower front teeth, excluding the cuspids (canine teeth).

Interproximal

The surfaces of adjoining teeth.

Laughing Gas

Nitrous oxide, an odorless inhalation agent that produces relative analgesic (sedation), and reduces anxiety and creates a state of relaxation.

Mandible

The lower jaw.

Maryland Bridge

A bridge that is bonded to the back of the adjacent teeth and requires minimum tooth reduction.

Molars

The three back teeth in each dental quadrant used for grinding food.

Night Guard

An acrylic appliance used to prevent wear and damage to the temporomandibular joint caused by the grinding or gnashing of teeth during sleep.

NSAID

A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, often used as a dental analgesic.

Occlusion

The relationship of the upper and lower teeth upon closure.

Onlay

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

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

Surgical procedures on the mouth including extractions, removal of cysts or tumors, and repair of fractured jaws. Unfortunately, not all teeth can be saved. If you are in need of an extraction, we will explain the full procedure and make sure it is as comfortable as possible. We can help with all your oral surgery needs.

Overbite

A vertical overlap of the front teeth.

Palate

Hard and soft tissue forming the roof of the mouth.

Partial Denture

A removable dental prosthesis (appliance) that replaces one or more natural teeth.

Plaque

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

Porcelain Crown

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

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. A post provides retention for a 'coping' which replaces lost tooth structure and retains crowns.

Root Canal

Unfortunately not all teeth are perfectly healthy. We can save a damaged tooth by performing a root canal - which removes decay on the interior space of the root. We will discuss this and other options with you before determining what works best for you.

Splint

The connection of two or more teeth so that they function as a stronger single structure.

Topical Anesthetic

An ointment that produces mild anesthesia when applied to the tissue surface.

Unerupted Tooth

A tooth that has not pushed through the gum and assumed its correct position in the dental arch.

Veneer

A plastic or porcelain facing bonded directly to a tooth to improve its appearance.

Wisdom Teeth

The third (last) molars that usually erupt between the age of 18-25.