Here you can find out any information about terms used in dentistry.
ADA– Australian Dental Association or American Dental
Abutment – The teeth on either side of a missing tooth. Abutments are the part of the
bridge used to support the replacement of the missing teeth (pontics).
Alloy – mix of substances including at least two different
Amalgam – Silver-coloured material made from a mixture of mercury
and an alloy of silver, tin and copper. Mercury makes up about 45-50 percent of the
compound. Mercury is used to bind the metals together and to provide a strong, hard
durable filling. Mercury has been found to be the only element that will bind these
metals together in the best possible way to manipulate the material into a tooth
cavity. Amalgams are usually placed on the back teeth (posterior teeth).
Anaesthesia – Relieves the sensation of pain.
Anterior teeth – The front teeth (incisors and cuspids).
Baby bottle tooth decay – caused by exposing your child’s teeth to
liquids containing sugars, usually by putting the baby to bed with a bottle of milk or
juice. Primary teeth, also called “baby teeth,” are important because they are
essential in the development and placement of permanent teeth. Primary teeth maintain
the spaces where permanent teeth will erupt and help develop proper speech patterns.
Take care of your child’s primary teeth. Even though primary teeth last only a few
years, decay, cavities and infection can take its toll, and may require extensive
Bands – metal rings placed on teeth to hold parts of
Bicuspids – The first and second bicuspids, those are the fourth
and fifth teeth from the center of the mouth to the back of the mouth. These are the
back teeth that are used for chewing, they only have two points (cusps).
Bite – Dental term related to the alignment of upper and
Bitewings – used to help diagnose cavities between the teeth.
Bonding (adhesion) – Adhering tooth-coloured resin materials to
restore a tooth surface.
Bonding (composite resin) – Process by which enamel-like resin is
bonded to a tooth’s surface, sculpted to an ideal shape, hardened, and polished.
Braces – orthodontic devices used to correct teeth
Brackets – Plastic or metal devices cemented to teeth to hold
Bridge – Fixed or removable dental appliance that replaces lost
Bruxism – Clenching or grinding of the teeth.
Burning tongue syndrome – Painful tongue that occurs due to
reduced saliva flow.
Calculus – The sticky film on your teeth (plaque) that has hardened.
Also known as tartar.
Canines – See cuspids.
Caries (cavities) – Correct technical term for decay.
Ceramic – non-metal substance hardened by heat.
Chemotherapy – the use of drugs to treat cancer.
Cold sore – Also called a fever blister and is caused by the
“herpes simplex” virus, is composed of groups of painful, fluid-filled blisters that
often erupt around the lips and sometime under the nose or under the chin. Cold sores
are usually caused by herpes virus type I and are very contagious.
Composite filling – Tooth coloured filling. Composites are also
known as resin fillings.
Composite resin – Tooth-coloured filling material made of resin
reinforced with silica or porcelain particles.
Cosmetic contouring – Reshaping the natural teeth to make them
straighter or more youthful in appearance.
Cosmetic dentistry – The field of dentistry dedicated to the art
and science of enhancing a person’s smile, overall appearance, and oral health.
Crown – A cap or cover, which covers the entire tooth, preventing
it from further breakdown. (This procedure can also correct general bite with
individual teeth or replace missing teeth.)
Cusps – The high points on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth
Cuspids – The third tooth from the center of the mouth to the back
of the mouth. These are the front teeth that have one rounded or pointed edge used for
biting. Also known as canines.
Deciduous teeth – See primary teeth.
Dental floss – A fine nylon string used to clean between
Dental tape – Nylon (waxed or unwaxed) used top clean between
teeth. Wider than dental floss.
Dentin – The layer of tooth structure under the enamel.
Denture – A removable appliance (prosthesis) that replaces all of
the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.
Diastema – The space between two teeth.
Endodontics (endo) – The treatment of diseases or injuries that affect
the root tip or nerve of the tooth.
Enamel – The hard, white outer layer of the tooth that covers and
protects the dentin.
Ergonomics – Science that studies the workers’
relationship to their environment and seeks to improve comfort.
Fluoride – a compound of the element fluorine, which is prevalent
throughout nature in water, soil, air, and in most foods. Fluoride is absorbed easily
into your teeth’s enamel. “Systemic” fluoride is ingested when added to potable water
supplies, soft drinks and teas, and is available in dietary supplements. Once systemic
fluoride is absorbed through the body’s gastrointestinal tract, the blood supply
distributes it throughout the entire body. Most fluoride not excreted is deposited in
bones and hard tissues like teeth.
Fluorosis – a harmless cosmetic discolouring of the enamel, and
visible by chalky white specks and lines or pitted and brown stained enamel on
Fixed bridge – A fixed dental appliance (used to replace a missing
tooth/teeth) cemented or bonded to adjacent teeth which have been prepared to provide
Full mouth X-rays – X-rays showing all the teeth. Includes 14
periapicals and 2 or 4 bitewings. Also known as a complete series.
General anaesthesia – Relieves the sensation of pain on the whole
body. General anaesthesia renders you unconscious.
Gingiva – Gum tissue.
Gingivitis – Gingivitis is caused by the bacteria found in plaque
that attack the gums. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen gums and possible
bleeding when you brush. When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to
“periodontitis” (which means “inflammation around the tooth.”) In periodontitis, gums
pull away from the teeth and form “pockets” that are infected. The body’s immune system
fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Bacterial
toxins and the body’s enzymes fighting the infection actually start to break down the
bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums,
and connective tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. The teeth may eventually
become loose and have to be removed.
Gum disease – also called periodontal disease, is an infection of the
tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth, and a major cause of tooth loss in
adults. It most often is caused by bacteria. If left along the gum line, these bacteria
can irritate the gums and cause inflammation. The gums begin to bleed and swell, which
allow the bacteria even more opportunity to go deeper under the gum line. In the early
stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, the gums can become red, swollen and easily
bleed. At this stage, the disease is still treatable and can usually be arrested by
daily brushing and flossing.
High lip line – Where the widest smile meets the gum tissue above the
Impaction – An unerupted or partially erupted tooth that will not
fully erupt because it is obstructed by another tooth, bone, or soft tissue.
Implant – A fixed dental appliance used to replace missing teeth. A
post that is implanted in the bone. A crown, bridge or denture is then placed over the
Incisor – The central or lateral front teeth with cutting edges (4
upper and 4 lower).
Inlay – A porcelain, resin, or gold filling (made to fit a prepared
cavity) cemented or bonded in place to help restore a decayed or broken tooth.
Invisalign – Plastic devices used to straighten teeth.
Laminate veneer – A thin porcelain resin shell that is bonded to the
enamel of front teeth.
Laminating – The process of applying a thin porcelain or composite
resin veneer to a tooth.
Laser – An intensely powerful beam of light used as a
Lingual braces – Braces fixed to the inside of teeth, out of
Local anaesthesia – Relieves the sensation of pain in a localized
Low lipline – Where the widest smile barely reveals the bottom edges
of the upper front teeth.
Malocclusion – A bad bite caused by incorrect positions of the upper
or lower teeth.Mandible – The lower jaw.
Maxilla – The upper jaw.
Midline – An imaginary vertical line that divides the face into
Molars – The first, second and third molars, those are the sixth,
seventh and eighth teeth from the center of the mouth to the back of the mouth. The
back teeth with the large chewing surface on top. They have 4 points (cusps).
Nightguard – A removable acrylic appliance to minimize the effects of
grinding the teeth (bruxism) or joint problems (T.M.J.). Usually worn at night to
prevent the grinding of teeth or relieve joint pain. Also known as an occlusal
Occlusal – The chewing surfaces of the back teeth.
Onlay – A porcelain, resin, or gold filling that protects a tooth
by covering the chewing surface. Replaces one or more of the highest points of the
Oral surgery – Surgery of the mouth.
Orthodontics – a special discipline of dentistry concerned with
aligning the teeth and jaws to improve your smile and oral health.
Overdenture – a removable denture that fits over a small number of
remaining natural teeth or implants. The natural teeth must be prepared to provide
stability and support for the denture.
Palate – Roof of the mouth.
Panoramic X-ray – X-rays which are a panoramic photograph that
allows the dentist to see a broad view of the entire structure of your mouth, including
your jaw, in a single image. Within one large film, panoramic X-rays reveal all of your
upper and lower teeth and parts of your jaw. Panoramic X-rays are a very useful
screening tool used for extracting wisdom teeth, and can reveal abnormal growths or
cysts in the jaw bone.
Panorex – An X-ray taken outside of the mouth that shows all the
teeth on one film.
Partial denture (bridge) – A removable appliance (prosthesis) that replaces some of the
teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.
Periapical X-rays – X-rays that show the entire tooth, including
the root and surrounding bone. These are useful in diagnosing an abscess, impacted
tooth or bone loss from periodontal disease.
Pedodontics – The treatment of children’s teeth.
Perio pocket – The pocket that forms when the gums detach from the
side of the tooth.
Periodontal disease (gum disease) – Three out of four adults over
age 35 are affected by some sort of gum disease. In gum disease, the infection becomes
severe. Your gums begin to recede, pulling back from the teeth. In the worst cases,
bacteria form pockets between the teeth and gums, weakening the bone. All this can lead
to tooth loss if untreated, especially in patients with osteoporosis.
Periodontal maintenance – Cleaning of the teeth following periodontal treatment. Also
known as a perio prophy or perio recall.
Periodontist – specialist in treating gum diseases.
(Prosthodontists are dental specialists in the restoration and replacement of teeth.
Extensive training and experience provide prosthodontists with a special understanding
of the dynamics of a smile, the preservation of a healthy mouth and the creation of
tooth replacements. Serving as the “architect” of a dental treatment plan,
prosthodontists collaborates with general dentists, specialists and other health
professionals to develop solutions to your dental and oral health concerns).
Permanent first and second molars – The adult first and second
molars, they are the sixth and seventh teeth from the center of the mouth to the back
of the mouth. Does not include the third molar (wisdom tooth).
Permanent molars – The adult first, second and third molars.
Permanent teeth – The adult teeth. Also known as the permanent
Plaque – a film of bacteria that forms on your teeth and gums after eating foods that
produce acids. These foods may include carbohydrates (starches and sugars), such as
candy and cookies, and starchy foods such as bread, crackers, and cereal. Plaque can
lead to gum irritation, soreness, and redness. Sometimes, your gums may begin to bleed
as a result of plaque. This gradual degeneration can often cause gums to pull away from
teeth. This condition is called receding gums.
Porcelain – A ceramic, tooth-coloured material that fuses at high temperatures to form
a hard, enamel-like substance.
Posterior teeth – The back teeth (bicuspids and molars).
Precision attachments – Interlocking mechanical devices that
fix teeth to a bridge or denture.
Primary teeth – The baby teeth. Also known as the primary dentition. The baby
teeth are replaced by the adult teeth (permanent teeth).
Prophylaxis – Cleaning the teeth. Also known as a prophy.
Prosthetics – A fixed or removable appliance to replace missing
teeth. Example: bridges, dentures and partials. Sometimes single crowns are considered
Prosthodontics – branch of dentistry concerned with the
construction of artificial appliances designed to restore and maintain oral function by
replacing missing teeth and sometimes other oral structures or parts of the face.
Prosthodontics is one of the nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental
Pulp – contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue and
lies within the tooth and extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the root in
the bone of the jaws.
Receding gums – A condition caused by build-up of plaque, or aging,
or poor brushing habits, which can lead to gum irritation, soreness, and redness.
Sometimes, your gums may begin to bleed as a result of plaque. This gradual
degeneration can often cause gums to pull away from teeth.
Reline – Adding new material to the underside of a denture to
Resin-bonded bridge – A thin metal or glass fiber-reinforced bridge
which requires slight or no reduction of anchor teeth.
Resin filling – See composite filling.
Restorative – Procedures performed to restore the missing part of
the teeth. Some insurance companies only consider the fillings to be restorative;
others consider the fillings, crowns, bridges and dentures to be restorative.
Root canal – The narrow chamber inside the root of the tooth that contains the
nerve and blood vessels.
Root canal therapy – The nerve of the tooth is removed from the
canal inside the root and replaced with a sterilized filling material.
Root planing – Deep cleaning of the teeth to remove calculus below
the gumline. This is not a prophylaxis. This is a periodontal procedure and is usually
performed one quadrant at a time.
Rubber dam – A thin rubber sheet applied to teeth to isolate them and
control moisture during dental procedures.
Saliva – Fluid secreted into mouth by salivary glands.
Sealants – A special material applied to the tooth surface and acts
as a barrier to prevent bacteria and food from collecting and sitting on the grooves
and pits of teeth. Sealants are best suited for permanent first molars, which erupt
around the age of 6, and second molars, which erupt around the age of 12.
Sedatives – Depressant drug that acts on the central nervous
Sjogren’s Syndrome – An autoimmune disease that causes the body to
attack its own moisture producing glands. Approximately 2-4 million Americans have this
condition. The major symptom is dry mouth.
TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder – The TMJ is a joint that
slides and rotates just in front of your ear. TMJ disorders are general class of health
problems associated with the jaw. TMJ may occur when the jaw twists during opening,
closing or side-motion movements. These movements affect the jaw joint and the muscles
that control chewing.
Tarter – The sticky film on your teeth (plaque) that has
Tongue scraping – the practice of removing bacteria from the
tongue using a small, plastic device with a serrated edge.
Veneers (porcelain or composite) – Ultra-thin, custom-made laminates
bonded to teeth, especially effective for repairing chipped, cracked, or worn teeth, or
Walking bleach – A method used to lighten a tooth that has darkened
after root canal treatment.
Water fluoridation – The practice of adding fluoride to water
supplies to reduce instances of tooth decay.
Whitening – The process of brightening stained, discoloured, or
dull teeth with in-office power bleaching method or dentist-supervised, at-home
Wisdom tooth – The third molar, this is the eighth tooth from the
center of mouth to the back of the mouth. Wisdom teeth are often impacted (obstructed
from erupting) and have to be extracted.
Xerostomia – Dry mouth caused by medication, radiation, or
malfunctioning salivary glands.