Dental Dictionary - Click on the letter to scroll to the corresponding section.

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


air abrasion:

removal of tooth structure by blasting a tooth with air and abrasive, also a relatively new technology in dentistry that often avoids the need for anesthetic


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


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


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


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


dentition:

your teeth and how they are arranged in your mouth


denture:

a removable set of artificial teeth


denturism:

the production and sale of dentures by non-dentists


diastema:

the space between front teeth

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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.

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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


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

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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

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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 & surgical treatment of diseases, injuries, and deformities of the mouth and supporting structures. Generally requires four additional years of training after dental school


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


placebo:

a treatment that works because of the patient's belief in it, not because of the actual physical change it produces


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)


restoration:

the replacement part or portion restored on a damaged tooth


retainedroot:

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 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:

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