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Dental Health Terms

Definitions

WordDefinition
Abscess abscess: an infection of a tooth, soft tissue, or bone.
Abutment abutment: tooth or teeth on either side of a missing tooth that support a fixed or removable bridge.
Acrylic resin acrylic resin: the plastic widely used in dentistry.
ADA Seal of Acceptance ADA Seal of Acceptance: a designation awarded to products that have met American Dental Association's criteria for safety and effectiveness and whose packaging and advertising claims are scientifically supported.
Adjustment adjustment: a modification made upon a dental prosthesis after it has been completed and inserted into the mouth.
Air abrasion/micro abrasion AA/MA: drill-free technique that blasts the tooth surface with air and an abrasive. May avoid the need for an anesthetic and can be used to remove tooth decay, old composite restorations, discolorations and prepare a tooth surface for bonding or sealants.
Alveolar bone alveolar bone: the bone surrounding the root of the tooth, anchoring it in place; loss of this bone is typically associated with severe periodontal (gum) disease.
Amalgam amalgam: a common filling material used to repair cavities. The material, also known as "silver fillings," contains mercury in combination with silver, tin, copper, and sometimes zinc.
Anaerobic bacteria anaerobic bacteria: bacteria that do not need oxygen to grow; they are generally associated with periodontal disease
Analgesia analgesia: a state of pain relief; an agent for lessening pain.
Anesthesia anesthesia: a type of medication that results in partial or complete elimination of pain sensation; numbing a tooth is an example of local anesthesia; general anesthesia produces partial or complete unconsciousness.
Antibiotic antibiotic: a drug that stops or slows the growth of bacteria.
Antiseptic antiseptic: a chemical agent that can be applied to living tissues to destroy germs.
Apex apex: the tip of the root of a tooth.
Appliance appliance: any removable dental restoration or orthodontic device.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay baby bottle tooth decay: decay in infants and children, most often affecting the upper front teeth, caused by sweetened liquids given and left clinging to the teeth for long periods (for example, in feeding bottles or pacifiers). Also called early childho
Bicuspid bicuspid: 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). Adults have eight bicuspids (also called premolars), two in front of each gr
Biofeedback biofeedback: a relaxation technique that involves learning how to better cope with pain and stress by altering behavior, thoughts, and feelings.
Biopsy biopsy: removal of a small piece of tissue for diagnostic examination.
Bite bite: relationship of the upper and lower teeth upon closure (occlusion).
Bite-Wing bite-wing: a single X-ray that shows upper and lower teeth teeth (from crown to about the level of the supporting bone) in a select area on the same film.
Bleaching bleaching: chemical or laser treatment of natural teeth that uses peroxide to produce the whitening effect.
Bonding bonding: the covering of a tooth surface with a tooth-colored composite to repair and/or change the color or shape of a tooth, for instance, due to stain or damage.
Bone bone resorption: decrease in the amount of bone supporting the roots of teeth; a common result of periodontal (gum) disease.
Braces braces: devices (bands, wires, ceramic appliances) put in place by orthodontists to gradually reposition teeth to a more favorable alignment.
Bridge bridge: stationary dental prosthesis (appliance) fixed to teeth adjacent to a space; replaces one or more missing teeth, cemented or bonded to supporting teeth or implants adjacent to the space. Also called a fixed partial denture.
Bruxism bruxism: grinding or gnashing of the teeth, most commonly during sleep.
Calcium calcium: an element needed for the development of healthy teeth, bones, and nerves.
Calculus calculus: hard, calcium-like deposits that form on teeth due to inadequate plaque control, often stained yellow or brown. Also called "tartar."
Canker Sore canker sore: sores or small shallow ulcers that appear in the mouth and often make eating and talking uncomfortable; they typically appear in people between the ages of 10 and 20 and last about a week in duration before disappearing.
Cap cap: common term for a dental crown.
Caries caries: tooth decay or "cavities." A dental infection caused by toxins produced by bacteria.
Clasp clasp: device that holds a removable partial denture to stationary teeth.
Cleaning cleaning: removal of plaque and calculus (tarter) from teeth, generally above the gum line.
Cleft Lip cleft lip: a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip that appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip. This separation often extends beyond the base of the nose and includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or uppe
Cleft Palate cleft palate: a split or opening in the roof of the mouth.
Composite Resin Filling composite resin filling: tooth-colored restorative material composed of plastic with small glass or ceramic particles; usually "cured" or hardened with filtered light or chemical catalyst. An alternative to silver amalgam fillings.
Conventional Denture conventional denture: a denture that is ready for placement in the mouth about eight to 12 weeks after the teeth have been removed.
Cosmetic (Aesthetic) Dentistry cosmetic (aesthetic) dentistry: a branch of dentistry under which treatments are performed to enhance the color and shape of teeth.
Crown crown: (1) the portion of a tooth above the gum line that is covered by enamel; (2) dental restoration covering all or most of the natural tooth; the artificial cap can be made of porcelain, composite, or metal and is cemented on top of the damaged tooth.
Cuspids 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.
Cusps cusps: the high points on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth.
Cyst cyst: an abnormal sac containing gas, fluid, or a semisolid material.
DDS DDS: Doctor of Dental Surgery -- equivalent to DMD, Doctor of Dental Medicine.
Decay decay: destruction of tooth structure caused by toxins produced by bacteria.
Deciduous Teeth deciduous teeth: commonly called "baby teeth" or primary teeth; the first set of (usually) 20 teeth.
Demineralization demineralization: loss of mineral from tooth enamel just below the surface in a carious lesion; usually appears as a white area on the tooth surface.
Dentin dentin: inner layer of tooth structure, immediately under the surface enamel
Denture denture: a removable replacement of artificial teeth for missing natural teeth and surrounding tissues. Two types of dentures are available -- complete and partial. Complete dentures are used when all the teeth are missing, while partial dentures are used
DMD DMD: Doctor of Medical Dentistry; equivalent to DDS, Doctor of Dental Surgery.
Dry Mouth dry mouth: a condition in which the flow of saliva is reduced and there is not enough saliva to keep the mouth moist. Dry mouth can be the result of certain medications (such as antihistamines and decongestants), certain diseases (such as Sjögren's syndro
Dry Socket dry socket: a common complication that occurs when either a blood clot has failed to form in an extracted tooth socket or else the blood clot that did form has been dislodged.
Edentulous edentulous: having no teeth.
Enamel enamel: the hard, mineralized material that covers the outside portion of the tooth that lies above the gum line (the crown).
Endodontics endodontics: a field of dentistry concerned with the biology and pathology of the dental pulp and root tissues of the tooth and with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases and injuries of these tissues. A root canal is a commonly performed e
Endodontist endodontist: a dental specialist concerned with the causes, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and injuries of the human dental pulp or the nerve of the tooth.
Eruption eruption: the emergence of the tooth from its position in the jaw.
Extraction extraction: removal of a tooth.
Filling filling: restoration of lost tooth structure with metal, porcelain, or resin materials.
Fistula fistula: channel emanating pus from an infection site; a gum boil.
Flap Surgery flap surgery: lifting of gum tissue to expose and clean underlying tooth and bone structures.
Flossing flossing: a thread-like material used to clean between the contact areas of teeth; part of a good daily oral hygiene plan.
Fluoride fluoride: a mineral that helps strengthen teeth enamel making teeth less susceptible to decay. Fluoride is ingested through food or water, is available in most toothpastes, or can be applied as a gel or liquid to the surface of teeth by a dentist.
Fluorosis fluorosis: discoloration of the enamel due to too much fluoride ingestion (greater than one part per million) into the bloodstream, also called enamel mottling.
General Dentist general dentist: the primary care dental provider. This dentist diagnoses, treats, and manages overall oral health care needs, including gum care, root canals, fillings, crowns, veneers, bridges, and preventive education.
Gingiva gingiva: the soft tissue that surrounds the base of the teeth; the pink tissue around the teeth.
Gingivectomy gingivectomy: surgical removal of gum tissue.
Gingivitis gingivitis: inflamed, swollen, and reddish gum tissue that may bleed easily when touched or brushed. It is the first step in a series of events that begins with plaque build up in the mouth and may end -- if not properly treated -- with periodontitis and
Gingivoplasty gingivoplasty: a procedure performed by periodontists to reshape the gum tissue.
Gold Fillings gold fillings: an alternative to silver amalgam fillings.
Gum Recession gum recession: exposure of dental roots due to shrinkage of the gums as a result of abrasion, periodontal disease, or surgery.
Gutta Percha gutta percha: material used in the filling of root canals.
Halitosis halitosis: bad breath of oral or gastrointestinal origin.
Handpiece handpiece: the instrument used to hold and revolve burs in dental operations.
Hard Palate hard palate: the bony front portion of the roof of the mouth.
Hygienist hygienist: a licensed, auxiliary dental professional who is both an oral health educator and clinician who uses preventive, therapeutic, and educational methods to control oral disease.
Hypersensitivity hypersensitivity: a sharp, sudden painful reaction in teeth when exposed to hot, cold, sweet, sour, salty, chemical, or mechanical stimuli.
Immediate Denture immediate denture: a complete or partial denture that is made in advance and can be positioned as soon as the natural teeth are removed.
Impacted Tooth impacted tooth: a tooth that is partially or completely blocked from erupting through the surface of the gum. An impacted tooth may push other teeth together or damage the bony structures supporting the adjacent tooth. Often times, impacted teeth must be
Implant implant: a metal rod (usually made of titanium) that is surgically placed into the upper or lower jawbone where a tooth is missing; it serves as the tooth root and anchor for the crown, bridge, or denture that is placed over it.
Impression impression: mold made of the teeth and soft tissues.
Incision and Drainage incision and drainage: surgical incision of an abscess to drain pus.
Incisors incisors: four upper and four lower front teeth, excluding the cuspids (canine teeth). These teeth are used primarily for biting and cutting.
Inlay inlay: similar to a filling but the entire work lies within the cusps (bumps) on the chewing surface of the tooth.
Jawbone jawbone: The hard bone that supports the face and includes alveolar bone, which anchors the teeth.
Leukoplakia leukoplakia: a white or gray patch that develops on the tongue or the inside of the cheek. It is the mouth's reaction to chronic irritation of the mucous membranes of the mouth.
Malocclusion malocclusion: "bad bite" or misalignment of the teeth or jaws.
Mandible mandible: the lower jaw.
Maxilla maxilla: the upper jaw.
Mercury mercury: a metal component of amalgam fillings.
Molars molars: three back teeth in each dental quadrant used for grinding food.
Mouth Guard mouth guard: a soft-fitted device that is inserted into the mouth and worn over the teeth to protect them against impact or injury.
Muscle Relaxant muscle relaxant: a type of medication often prescribed to reduce stress.
Nerve nerve: tissue that conveys sensation, temperature, and position information to the brain.
Nerve (root) Canal nerve (root) canal: dental pulp; the internal chamber of a tooth where the nerves and blood vessels pass.
Night Guard night guard: a removable acrylic appliance that fits over the upper and lower teeth used to prevent wear and temporomandibular damage caused by grinding or gnashing of the teeth during sleep.
Nitrous Oxide nitrous oxide: a gas (also called laughing gas) used to reduce patient anxiety.
NSAID NSAID: a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, often used as a dental analgesic.
Occlusal X-Rays occlusal X-rays: an X-ray showing full tooth development and placement. Each X-ray reveals the entire arch of teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.
Occlusion occlusion: the relationship of the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed.
Onlay onlay: a type of restoration (filling) made of metal, porcelain, or acrylic that is more extensive than an inlay in that it covers one or more cusps. Onlays are sometimes called partial crowns.
Oral Cavity oral cavity: the mouth.
Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist oral and maxillofacial radiologist: the oral health care provider who specializes in the production and interpretation of all types of X-ray images and data that are used in the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders, and conditions of the oral a
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery oral and maxillofacial surgery: surgical procedures on the mouth including extractions, removal of cysts or tumors, and repair of fractured jaws.
Oral Hygiene oral hygiene: process of maintaining cleanliness of the teeth and related structures.
Oral Medicine oral medicine: the specialty of dentistry that provides for the care of the medically complex patient through the integration of medicine and oral health care.
Oral Pathologist oral pathologist: the oral health care provider who studies the causes of diseases that alter or affect the oral structures (teeth, lips, cheeks, jaws) as well as parts of the face and neck.
Oral Surgeon oral surgeon: the oral health care provider who performs many types of surgical procedures in and around the entire face, mouth, and jaw area.
Orthodontics orthodontics: dental specialty that using braces, retainers, and other dental devices to treat misalignment of teeth, restoring them to proper functioning.
Orthodontist orthodontist: the oral health provider who specializes in diagnosis, prevention, interception, and treatment of malocclusions, or "bad bites," of the teeth and surrounding structures. This is the specialist whose responsibility it is to straighten teeth b
Overbite overbite: an excessive protrusion of the upper jaw resulting in a vertical overlap of the front teeth.
Overjet overjet: an excessive protrusion of the upper jaw resulting in a horizontal overlap of the front teeth.
Overdenture overdenture: denture that fits over residual roots or dental implants.
Palate palate: hard and soft tissue forming the roof of the mouth.
Panoramic X-Ray panoramic X-ray: a type of X-ray that shows a complete two dimensional representation of all the teeth in the mouth. This X-ray also shows the relationship of the teeth to the jaws and the jaws to the head.
Partial Denture partial denture: a removable appliance that replaces some of the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.
Pathology pathology: study of disease.
Pedodontics or Pediatric Dentistry pedodontics or pediatric dentistry: dental specialty focusing on treatment of infants, children, and young adults.
Pedodontist/Pediatric Dentist pedodontist/pediatric dentist: the oral health care provider who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of the dental problems of children from infancy to young adulthood. This provider also usually cares for special needs patients.
Periapical periapical: region at the end of the roots of teeth.
Periapical X-rays periapical X-rays: X-rays providing complete side views from the roots to the crowns of the teeth.
Periodontal Ligament periodontal ligament: The connective tissue that surrounds the tooth (specifically covering the cementum) and connects the tooth to the jawbone, holding it in place
Periodontist periodontist: the dental specialist who specializes in diagnosing, treating, and preventing diseases of the soft tissues of the mouth (the gums) and the supporting structures (bones) of the teeth (both natural and man-made teeth).
Periodontitis periodontitis: a more advanced stage of periodontal disease in which the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth and form pockets and alveolar bone is destroyed.
Peridontium periodontium: The tissue that lines the socket into which the root of the tooth fits.
Plaque plaque: a colorless, sticky film composed of undigested food particles mixed with saliva and bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. Plaque left alone eventually turns in to tartar or calculus and is the main factor in causing dental caries and perio
Permanent Teeth permanent teeth: the teeth that replace the deciduous or primary teeth -- also called baby teeth. There are (usually) 32 adult teeth in a complete dentition.
Plaque plaque: a colorless, sticky film composed of undigested food particles mixed with saliva and bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. Plaque left alone eventually turns in to tartar or calculus and is the main factor in causing dental caries and perio
Pontic pontic: a replacement tooth mounted on a fixed or removal appliance.
Porcelain porcelain: a tooth-colored, sand-like material; much like enamel in appearance.
Porcelain Crown porcelain crown: all porcelain restoration covering the coronal portion of tooth (above the gum line).
Porcelain Fused to Metal (PFM) Crown porcelain fused to metal (PFM) crown: restoration with metal caping (for strength) covered by porcelain (for appearance).
Porcelain Inlay or Onlay porcelain inlay or onlay: tooth-colored restoration made of porcelain, cemented or bonded in place.
Post post: thin metal rod inserted into the root of a tooth after root canal therapy; provides retention for a capping that replaces lost tooth structure.
Pregnancy gingivitis pregnancy gingivitis: gingivitis that develops during pregnancy. The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy -- especially the increased level of progesterone -- may make it easier for certain gingivitis-causing bacteria to grow as well as make gum t
Pregnacy Tumors pregnancy tumors: an extreme inflammatory reaction to a local irritation (such as food particles or plaque) that occurs in up to 10% of pregnant women and often in women who also have pregnancy gingivitis. Pregnancy tumors appear on inflamed gum tissue as
Primary Teeth primary teeth: the first set of 20 temporary teeth. Also called baby teeth, the primary dentition, or deciduous teeth, normally fall out one by one between 6 and 12 years of age.
Prophylaxis prophylaxis: the cleaning of the teeth for the prevention of periodontal disease and tooth decay.
Prosthetics prosthetics: a fixed or removable appliance used to replace missing teeth (for example, bridges, partials, and dentures).
Prosthodontist prosthodontist: a dental specialist who is skilled in restoring or replacing teeth with fixed or removable prostheses (appliances), maintaining proper occlusion; treats facial deformities with artificial prostheses such as eyes, ears, and noses.
Pulp pulp: the living part of the tooth, located inside the dentin. Pulp contains the nerve tissue and blood vessels that supply nutrients to the tooth.
Radiographic radiographic: refers to X-rays.
Radio Wave Therapy radio wave therapy: a therapy involving the use of low level electrical stimulation to increase blood flow and provide pain relief. In dentistry, this is one type of therapy that can be applied to the joint of individuals with temporomandibular disorder.
Recontouring recontouring: a procedure in which small amounts of tooth enamel are removed to change a tooth's length, shape, or surface. Also called odontoplasty, enameloplasty, stripping, or slenderizing.
Remineralization remineralization: redeposition or replacement of the tooth's minerals into a demineralized (previously decayed) lesion. This reverses the decay process, and is enhanced by the presence of topical fluoride.
Restorations restorations: any replacement for lost tooth structure or teeth; for example, bridges, dentures, fillings, crowns, and implants.
Retainer retainer: a removable appliance used to maintain teeth in a given position (usually worn at night).
Root root: tooth structure that connects the tooth to the jaw.
Root Canal Therapy root canal therapy: procedure used to save an abscessed tooth in which the pulp chamber is cleaned out, disinfected, and filled with a permanent filling.
Rubber Dam rubber dam: soft latex or vinyl sheet used to establish isolation of one or more teeth from contamination by oral fluids and to keep materials from falling to the back of the throat.
Saliva saliva: clear lubricating fluid in the mouth containing water, enzymes, bacteria, mucus, viruses, blood cells and undigested food particles.
Salivary Glands salivary glands: glands located under tongue and in cheeks that produce saliva.
Scaling and Root Planing scaling and root planing: a deep-cleaning, nonsurgical procedure whereby plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line are scraped away (scaling) and rough spots on the tooth root are made smooth (planing).
Sealants sealants: a thin, clear or white resin substance that is applied to the biting surfaces of teeth to prevent decay.
Sedative sedative: a type of medication used to reduce pain and anxiety, and create a state of relaxation.
Soft Palate soft palate: the back one-third of the roof of the mouth composed of soft tissue.
Space Maintainer space maintainer: dental device that holds the space lost through premature loss of baby teeth.
Stains stains: can be either extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic stain is located on the outside of the tooth surface originating from external substances such as tobacco, coffee, tea, or food; usually removed by polishing the teeth with an abrasive prophylaxis pa
Stomatitis stomatitis: an inflammation of the tissue underlying a denture. Ill-fitting dentures, poor dental hygiene, or a buildup of the fungus Candida albicans can cause the condition.
Supernumerary Tooth supernumerary tooth: an extra tooth.
Tarter tartar: common term for dental calculus, a hard deposit that adheres to teeth; produces rough surface that attracts plaque.
Teething teething: baby teeth pushing through the gums.
Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)/temporomandibular joint (TMJ) temporomandibular disorder (TMD)/temporomandibular joint (TMJ): the term given to a problem that concerns the muscles and joint that connect the lower jaw with the skull. The condition is characterized by facial pain and restricted ability to open or move
Thrush thrush: an infection in the mouth caused by the fungus Candida.
Tooth Whitening tooth whitening: a chemical or laser process to lighten the color of teeth.
Topical Anesthetic topical anesthetic: ointment that produces mild anesthesia when applied to a soft tissue surface.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): a therapy that uses low-level electrical currents to provide pain relief. In dentistry, TENS is one type of therapy that can be used to relax the jaw joint and facial muscles.
Transplant transplant: placing a natural tooth in the empty socket of another tooth.
Trauma trauma: injury caused by external force, chemical, temperature extremes, or poor tooth alignment.
Trigger-point Injections trigger-point injections: a method of relieving pain whereby pain medication or anesthesia is injected into tender muscles called "trigger points." In dentistry, this can be used in individuals with temporomandibular disorders.
Ultrasound ultrasound: a treatment in which deep heat is applied to an affected area to relieve soreness or improve mobility. In dentistry, ultrasound can be used to treat temporomandibular disorders.
Underbite underbite: when the lower jaw protrudes forward causing the lower jaw and teeth to extend out beyond the upper teeth.
Unerupted Tooth unerupted tooth: a tooth that has not pushed through the gum and assumed its correct position in the dental arch.
Veneer veneer: a thin, custom-made shell of tooth-colored plastic or porcelain that is bonded directly to the front side of natural teeth to improve their appearance -- for example, to replace lost tooth structure, close spaces, straighten teeth, or change color
Wisdom Teeth wisdom teeth: third (last) molars that usually erupt at age 18-25.
Xerostomia xerostomia: dry mouth or decrease in the production of saliva.
X-rays X-rays: high frequency light (or radiation) that penetrates different substances with different rates and absorption. In dentistry, there are typically four types of X-rays: periapical, bite-wing, occlusal, and panoramic.
Created by: Shayshayjo90