DENTAL DICTIONARY

The world of dentistry is filled with jargon used by dental staff to describe specific conditions, tools, or parts of your mouth. This list will help you with knowing what a lot of the most common terms mean.

Abscess

Typically the result of an infection, this is a pocket of pus located within the mouth. If not drained, it can cause pressure related pain.

Abutment

Teeth that are responsible for anchoring a bridge or denture or adjacent to a missing tooth gap. These teeth are often filed down to mount the structure for bridges and dentures.

Alveolus

In your jaw bone, this is the gap or opening where the tooth attaches to the jaw itself.

Amalgam

When a filling is made from a mixture of gold or silver along with other metals, it is called an amalgam.

Anatomy

The arrangement of muscles, bones, and organs in your body. It’s sort of the “road map” of your body that we refer to in order to get to specific parts.

Antiseptic

A chemical compound that can be applied to tissue or teeth in order to kill germs and prevent infections.

Anesthetic

Whether topical, gas, or IV, an anesthetic helps reduce or eliminate sensation, allowing us to work on your teeth and gums without causing great discomfort.

Anterior

This term simply refers to a front view or the front part of your mouth.

Anterior Teeth

Your centrals, laterals, and cuspids are your anterior teeth, as these are located in the front part of your mouth.

Apex

The very tip of a tooth’s root is known as the apex of the tooth.

Arch

The arch of your teeth can either be the entire array of teeth or the basal bone of your jaw which holds them in place.

Articulator

This device holds a model of your teeth in the same arrangement as in your mouth, allowing us to easily examine your bite without needing to probe around.

Asepsis

Actively using various techniques to prevent contact with microorganisms, particularly pathogenic (harmful) microorganisms.

Aspirator

Your mouth is constantly producing saliva, and it can get in the way of dental work. This small vacuum hose sucks up all the moisture in your mouth.

Aspiration

The act of removing moisture from your mouth by using an aspirator.

Attrition

When you bite, chew, or drink anything, it causes some amount of wear on your teeth. This wearing of the teeth is called attrition.

Avulsed

Teeth that have been avulsed have been completely knocked out of your mouth, often due to a sudden impact.

Bitewing

A type of x-ray that examines the entire arch of either your upper or lower teeth. It’s used to detect signs of cavities between teeth as well as the height of bone support.

Bleaching

When teeth are whitened, it is called bleaching.

Bridge

A bridge is a dental implant that replaces a lost tooth by connecting a false tooth to one or two adjacent teeth, known as an abutment.

Bruxism

Bruxism is a medical condition where a person clenches or grinds their teeth, often in their sleep. This can damage teeth quickly, and can be prevented with mouth guards.

Buccal

Usually referring to the back teeth, the buccal is the side of teeth close to the cheeks.

Calculus

If plaque isn’t cleared regularly, it hardens and turns into calculus. It is also known as tartar.

Canine

Designed for tearing food apart, canines are the longest teeth in the human mouth, and are the third tooth from the middle of the jaw. There are two in each jawbone (upper and lower).

Canker Sore

Small, sometimes painful sores inside the mouth that appear yellow around the base with a red border. They may be caused by dental trauma or a herpes simplex virus.

Caries

This is the more scientific term for cavities. They are essentially small holes in the outer portion of the teeth caused by tooth decay.

Cavity

The more common term for small holes in the enamel of teeth. These are caused by tooth decay and can be prevented with regular brushing and cleanings.

Cast

A cast of your teeth makes a full size model which dentists use to examine how your teeth fit together, particularly for braces, bridges, and dentures.

Cementation

By using a special dental cement, cementing is the process for securing crowns and fixing teeth.

Central

The teeth in the very center of your mouth, two on the top and two on the bottom.

Chlorhexidine

This antimicrobial agent protects gums from gum disease and can be used in many forms, including gels and liquid rinses.

Clasp

On removable dentures, this is metal arm that connects to natural teeth in order to anchor it in place.

Cold Sore

A small, often painful ulcer found around the mouth. They are a form of the herpes simplex virus.

Composite

Composites are a white filler that mimics the look of natural teeth when used in restorative dentistry.

Cross-Bite

When the lower teeth align more toward cheeks and lips, rather than the upper teeth, it is called a cross bite.

Crown

Crowns are a covering placed over an existing tooth that has been filed down to fit the crown. They are used to restore function or strengthen damaged teeth.

Curettage

This is the term for a dental procedure where the gums are scraped in order to remove bacterial buildup.

Cuspal

The part of certain teeth (cuspids, bicuspids, and molars) that is designed to chew or tear food.

Cuspid

Also known as canines, these are the longest teeth in your mouth, located third from the center in both the upper and lower jaw.

Decay

Teeth become soft and damaged as a result of decay, which is caused by bacteria demineralizing the teeth.

Decalcification

When teeth lose calcium, they are more prone to decay and damage. Decalcification is the loss of calcium in your teeth over time.

Deciduous Teeth

Also known as primary or baby teeth, these are the teeth that first come in, usually around 4-7 months old.

Dentistry

Dentistry encompasses the entire medical branch dedicated to the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of teeth gums, and other oral structures.

Dentin

Below the enamel (outer shell) of a tooth is the dentin, which is made from calcium and houses the pulp chamber and root canals.

Dentition

This is the total count of all the teeth in both the upper and lower jaw, as well as the position and types of teeth.

Denture

A dental implant that comprises an artificial structure used to replace several or all missing teeth. Dentures vary based on need for every patient.

Denturist

A person who specializes in constructing dentures. They usually are not qualified to diagnose or treat any dental issues, outside of constructing the dentures.

Desensitization

This is the term used to describe the loss of feeling in the mouth, often as a result of anesthetics.

Diagnosis

This is the term for identifying dental diseases and conditions.

Diastema

Diastema is the space found between two adjacent teeth. It is also known as interproximal space.

Distal

Describing the direction away from the center of the jaw. For example, molars are distal from the centrals (they are further back in the mouth, away from the center).

Edentulous

When a person is lacking all of their teeth, they are said to be edentulous.

Enamel

The hard outer portion of your teeth. It is similar to ceramic, and must be taken care of to prevent decay.

Endodontics

A specific part of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of issues related to the dental pulp located inside your teeth.

Erupt, Eruption

An eruption is the appearance of a tooth inside the mouth. A tooth erupts from the gums when it breaks through the surface of the gums.

Excision

The process of physically removing something by cutting it off.

Exfoliate

When your deciduous or primary teeth fall out naturally, it is said that they exfoliate.

Extraoral

Anything dental related pertaining to the outside of your mouth is considered extraoral.

Extruded

An extruded tooth is one that has been partially pushed out of its socket.

Filling

Fillings are made from different materials and are placed inside of a damaged tooth to restore functionality and appearance of the tooth.

First Bicuspid

The teeth that are just after the cuspids, or canines, heading away from the center of the jaw. Cuspids have two cuspals, or tearing points.

First Molar

The teeth just beyond the second bicuspid, heading away from the center of the jaw. These teeth have a level surface with four cuspals, or tearing points.

Flipper

While waiting for a permanent treatment for missing teeth, a flipper may be used as a temporary replacement for missing teeth, often until dentures or a bridge can be constructed.

Floss

A thin roll of plastic thread used to clean the areas between teeth. Floss is more effective for cleaning between teeth than regular brushing.

Fluoride Treatment

A treatment used to remineralize teeth. The treatment uses a fluoride gel or rinse to coat teeth and protect them from tooth decay.

Fracture

If the cusp of a tooth becomes weakened, it can crack or fracture. This fracture may even reach deep into the tooth and damage the pulp.

Framework

Removable partial dentures need a metal framework to maintain their shape and placement when inside your mouth. The framework holds all false teeth and attachments.

Frenum

This is a small connective tissue that connects your tongue, cheeks, and lips to your mouth. It is usually pink colored and can easily be seen when lifting your tongue up.

Gingivae

This is the more scientific term for your gums.

Gingival Hypertrophy

Caused by poor oral hygiene, this is a medical condition where the gums become abnormally large or inflamed in the mouth.

Gingivitis

The first sign of periodontal (gum) disease, the main symptoms are inflamed or bleeding gums. This is caused by poor oral hygiene.

Gums

Your gums are the pink mounds in which your teeth sit. Under normal conditions, they will feel firm, but slippery.

Hemorrhage

A hemorrhage is the scientific term for bleeding.

Hemostasis

Hemostasis is the active procedure to cease bleeding.

Impacted Tooth

An impacted tooth has become stuck inside the gums and never fully erupted through the gum line. It may be due to trauma or a result of misaligned teeth.

Implant

An implant is a permanent false tooth that has been added to your jaw to replace a lost or severely damaged tooth. It is secured using a screw-like fastener.

Impression

A jelly-like substance in a tray that you bite down on to make an imprint of your teeth. From this, a mold can be created to make a cast of your teeth.

Incisal

This is the cutting edge of your front teeth.

Incisor

Encompassing both your centrals and laterals, the incisors are the four centermost teeth in both the upper and lower jaw.

Inlay

A tooth restoration that is made from gold, composite, or ceramic, inlays are cemented onto a tooth to restore the natural function and look of a damaged tooth.

Interproximal

Also called diastema, this is the space located between two adjacent teeth.

Intraoral

Anything dental related that pertains to the inside of your mouth is considered intraoral. This includes braces, bridges, rubber dams, and the like.

Irrigation

This is a technique using liquids or gels in a solution to flush out debris from inside the mouth, often in hard to reach places.

Labial

In reference to the front teeth, this is the side of teeth that faces your lips.

Lateral

The second tooth from the center of your jaw. These teeth lie between your centrals and canines and are part of your incisors.

Lingual

In reference to all of your teeth, this is the side of teeth that faces into your mouth, toward your tongue.

Mandible

This is the term for your lower jaw.

Mandibular

Anything that has to do with your lower jaw is considered mandibular.

Maxilla

This is the term for your upper jaw.

Maxillary

Anything that has to do with your upper jaw is considered maxillary.

Mesial

This is the side of teeth that faces toward the center of your jaw.

Mixed Dentition

When there are both primary or deciduous teeth mixed with permanent adult teeth, it is called mixed dentition.

Molar

These are the last three teeth in your mouth from the center in both the upper and lower jaw. They are primarily for grinding food.

Mouthguard

This is a protective device, often used to protect the teeth, cheeks, and tongue from injury while playing sports.

Nightguard

A special mouthguard that is designed for use while the wearer is asleep. It protects the wearer’s teeth from damage from bruxism or night grinding.

Numerical Notation for Teeth

A numbering system for teeth, designating centrals as #1, laterals as #2, cuspids as #3, first bicuspids as #4, and so on.

Occlusal

This is the chewing and grinding surface of bicuspids and molars.

Occlusal Plane

This is an imaginary surface or line where the upper and lower and teeth meet.

Occlusal Radiograph

A type of x-ray where the patient bites down on a large piece of x-ray film while the x-ray machine takes a photo from above your nose or under your chin.

Occlusion

The way your upper and lower teeth fit together inside your mouth is called occlusion.

Onlay

An onlay is a restorative covering for the entire biting surface of a tooth.

Open Bite

When the upper and lower teeth are unable to touch when your mouth is closed as far as it can go, it is called an open bite.

Oral

Anything that has to do with the mouth.

Orthodontics

A specific branch of dentistry that covers the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of bite or facial abnormalities.

Osteoblasts

Osteoblasts are cells which help the growth and development of teeth and bones.

Osteoclasts

Osteoclasts are cells which form the sockets in bones. These sockets hold the teeth in place within your jaw.

Overbite

When your upper teeth protrude beyond your lower teeth while your mouth is closed, it is an overbite.

Overhang

A portion of a filling that extends beyond the border of a cavity is an overhang.

Palate

This is the roof of your mouth.

Panoramic Radiograph

A type of x-ray that shows the entire mouth at once, specifically to show the structures in the upper and lower jaw.

Perforation

Whenever there is an unnatural opening in a tooth or other oral structure, like a fracture or tear, it is considered a perforation.

Periapical

This is the area surrounding the bottom of the root on a tooth.

Periodontal

Anything that pertains specifically to your gums is considered periodontal.

Periodontics

A specific branch of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of gum-related diseases and conditions.

Permanent Teeth

Also called secondary or adult teeth, these teeth usually start coming in around the age of 6, and will replace primary teeth that have fallen out.

Pin

A piece of metal that is used to securely fasten a filling, keeping it in place more effectively.

Plaque

When you don’t brush and floss often/well enough, this sticky film builds up on your teeth. The film contains bacteria which causes tooth decay.

Polish

A process used to make a tooth, filling, or denture appear smooth and glossy.

Pontic

The false tooth at the center of a bridge or a denture that replaces a tooth that had been knocked out or removed.

Post

Similar to a pin, but a bit larger, this piece of metal or carbon is used to support a large structure on a single tooth.

Posterior

This term refers to a rear view or the back part of your mouth.

Posterior Teeth

The teeth in the back of your mouth, specifically the bicuspids and molars are your posterior teeth.

Pre-Authorization

An approval, often by an insurance company, to carry out a treatment on a patient.

Pre-Medication

Any medication taken before a treatment, usually aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen, that will aid with discomfort after the treatment.

Premolar

Also called bicuspids, these are the two teeth located before the molars, closer to the center of the jaw.

Prescription

A written statement from a doctor or dentist to a pharmacist authorizing the use of a specific type, dosage, and direction of usage of medication.

Primary Teeth

Also known as baby teeth or deciduous teeth, these teeth appear within the age of 4-7 months old.

Prophylaxis / Prophy

The action or procedure of cleaning and polishing teeth. This actively prevents the onset of many oral diseases.

Prosthesis

An artificial construct used to replace missing teeth and restore function and looks.

Prosthodontics

A branch of dentistry dedicated to the diagnosis, planning, and construction of artificial teeth and associated structures.

Proximal

While interproximal space is the space between adjacent teeth, a proximal is the point where two adjacent teeth touch.

Pulp

The soft filling of a tooth. This area houses the nerves, roots, and blood vessels of a tooth.

Pulp Canal

Another term for the pulp chamber. This area is the very center of a tooth, containing blood vessels and nerves.

Pulp Chamber

This chamber is the core of a tooth. It contains the the blood vessels and nerves for each tooth.

Pulpectomy

This is a procedure by which the entire pulp chamber of a tooth is cleaned out, removing all of the pulp, including blood vessels and nerves.

Pulpotomy

This procedure removes a portion of the pulp inside a tooth. It is only used if the tooth is not too severely damaged from decay.

Quadrants

The four major areas inside your mouth; the upper left, lower left, upper right, and lower right.

Radiograph

This is the official term for an x-ray photograph.

Recall

Commonly called a checkup, this is an appointment where your teeth are inspected and cleaned.

Recementation

When a prosthesis like a false tooth, denture, or other piece of dental hardware becomes damaged or loosened, and is re-glued into place.

Restoration

This term encompasses several forms of treatment, primarily a filling, crown, bridge, or other piece of hardware that is designed to restore looks and function to the teeth.

Retainer

During an orthodontic treatment, the retainer keeps all of the teeth in a set position within the jaw so they don’t move around.

Retreatment

If a root canal treatment is not entirely successful, the retreatment would be a second attempt to ensure none of the damaged root remains.

Root

This is the very bottom bot a tooth. The small hook-like end(s) secure the tooth to the jaw.

Root Canal

This small channel inside the tooth carries the nerves and blood vessels for the tooth. It runs from the root of the tooth up to the pulp chamber.

Root Canal Treatment

The treatment for a root canal where the pulp is removed from the pulp chamber and all root channels, then filled with an amalgam or composite.

Root Planing

This is a cleaning of the roots of teeth.

Rubber Dam

This small rubber sheet slips over a tooth or a few teeth, and separates them from the rest of the oral cavity, making them easier to work on.

Scaling

This is a specialized cleaning for teeth below the gumline. This is a difficult spot to clean, and should be done regularly to reduce tartar buildup.

Sealant

Often applied to the tops of molars, this thin gel fills in the grooves and pits of the tooth to help prevent cavities.

Second Bicuspid

The fifth tooth from the center, this tooth is used for tearing, just like the first bicuspid. It has two cuspals for tearing through food.

Second Molar

The seventh tooth from the center, these teeth are designed to grind food with four cuspals on a more flat plane than the other teeth.

Secondary Teeth

Also known as adult teeth, these are the teeth that start coming in around age 6 and will replace any primary teeth that have fallen out.

Sedation

Through the use of gas or IV lines, sedation helps calm a patient to easy fears and keep them relaxed during a procedure.

Space Maintainer

This is a dental appliance consisting of a metal wire and is used to keep a gap between two teeth from closing. They are often used if a primary tooth is removed early.

Splint

A firm, rigid implement used to prevent a movable part, like the jaw, in order to prevent damage or the movable part getting in the way during a procedure.

Supernumerary Teeth

In some rare cases, people are born with extra teeth. These extra teeth are known as supernumerary teeth.

Tartar

If plaque is not cleaned thoroughly and often, it can harden into tartar, also known as calculus.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

This joint is the location where your lower jaw (mandible) connects to your upper jaw (maxilla). It’s also the hinge where your lower jaw pivots to open.

Third Molar

The last tooth from the center of your mouth, this tooth is also called a “wisdom tooth” as they sometimes don’t come in until well after all your other teeth have.

Torus

This is an outgrowth of bone that is usually found in the roof of the mouth or near the premolars on the lower jaw.

Treatment Card

This card tracks when your treatments have been performed, often tracking the progress of particularly long treatments that last several sessions.

Universal Numerical Notation for Teeth

The most prominent method for numbering teeth, it begins with the upper right third molar as Tooth #1, continues in order across the upper jaw, then down and across the lower jaw.

Veneer

This is a layer of tooth colored material like porcelain, composite, or ceramics, and attaches to the front of the tooth to improve its appearance.

Wisdom Tooth

Officially known as the third molar, this tooth sometimes comes in well after your other teeth, hence being when you are wiser.

Xerostomia

The official term for having a dry mouth.

6 Year Molar

Another term for your first molar.

12 Year Molar

Another term for your second molar.
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