Glossary of Common Dental Terms - 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

Abscess: An infection caused by severe decay, trauma, or gum disease.

Amalgam: Typical silver colored restoration (filling) that is placed in the tooth once the decay is removed. It is made of a mix of silver, tin, mercury, and some other trace elements like copper.

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Bleaching: Whitening of the teeth with a combination of solutions (weak acids and hydrogen peroxide). This procedure can be done at home (home bleaching) or in the office (power bleaching).

Bonding: The covering of a tooth surface to correct stained or damaged teeth by painting a layer of composite filling material on the tooth.

Bridge: One or more artificial teeth (pontics) attached, usually on both sides, by crowns to adjacent teeth (abutments). It is used to replace the missing tooth or teeth and to maintain space. The bridge may be made of metal (gold or non-precious metal), a combination of metal and porcelain, or pressed acrylic and is cemented or bonded into place.

Bruxism: Tooth clenching or grinding, often caused by stress, and most frequently done at night while sleeping. It may interrupt sleep patterns, cause headaches, neck aches, jaw pain, or wearing down of the teeth.

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Calculus: Plaque that has mineralized, forming a tough, crusty deposit than can be removed by your dentist or hygienist.

Composite: Tooth colored resin filling materials that is placed in the tooth once the decay is removed. It also may be used for tooth bonding or to replace a missing part of a tooth.

Crown: A cap or cover for a decayed or damaged tooth. It can be made of metal (gold or non-precious metal), porcelain, metal/porcelain, or pressed acrylic.

Crown Lengthening: Removal of a portion of the gingival tissue around a tooth to give additional tooth height that will provide greater retention when prepared for a crown.

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Denture: A removable appliance replacing missing upper or lower teeth. The full denture replaces all the teeth in an arch. The partial denture can replace one or more teeth in an arch.

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Extraction: The removal of a tooth. It may be simple or surgical.

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Fistula: Also known as a fistulas tract that is formed from drainage from an abscessed tooth and may present itself as a bump or boil on the gum tissue.

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Gingivitis: Inflammation of the gingival tissue caused by plaque and/or calculus (tartar) build-up. Gingivitis may lead to periodontitis if not treated.

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Impacted tooth: It is a tooth that is submerged under the gum tissue. It may be malpositioned, partially erupted, or completed submerged. It may never erupt. It is most often associated with wisdom teeth.

Implant: A titanium fixture or screw placed in the bone to replace a lost tooth or teeth or to act as an anchor for a fixed or removable span of artificial teeth.

Inlay: A gold, porcelain, or composite restoration made in a dental lab or by the dentist and cemented or bonded into the tooth. If it covers the cusps of the teeth or otherwise supports the cusps, it is called an onlay.

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Night guard: An acrylic mouthpiece worn to prevent damage from grinding teeth at night.

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Overdenture: A full or partial denture made over one or more retained tooth roots to help with the retention and stability of the denture. The retained roots normally would have had previous root canals.

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Periodontitis: Gingival and bone disease caused by advanced gingivitis which causes bone loss and may result in tooth loss if untreated.

Plaque: A clear, sticky deposit of bacteria and food debris that adheres to the surface of the teeth and gingival tissue. It only can be removed by the dentist or hygienist.

Pontic: The false tooth that replaces the missing tooth or teeth that exist between one or more abutment teeth (the teeth on either side of a missing tooth or teeth).

Porcelain laminate veneer: A thin porcelain shell bonded to the front and top of a tooth to correct imperfections in shape and color or to close tooth space.

Prophylaxis: Cleaning of teeth by the hygienist or dentist. Root canal therapy: The removal of inflamed or infected nerve tissue that lies within the crown and root of the tooth.

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Root planing: The removal of calculus and the smoothing of the root surface with scalers and curettes to reduce pocket depth and promote the reattachment of the gums to the tooth.

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Sealant: A hard acrylic coating applied to grooves of teeth to seal the grooves and prevent decay.

Splint: An appliance, usually made out of hard acrylic, which is used to treat TMD and/or orofacial pain.

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Temporomandibular disorder (TMD): A collective term that defines a number of problems that involve the chewing muscles and associated structures, the joint in front of the ear that facilitates opening and closing of the jaw (TMJ), or both.

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