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Dental Dictionary


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

Abrasion
A wearing away of tooth structure that compromises the enamel layer and can even expose the root of the tooth.

Abscess
A collection of pus, generally due to infection.

Abutment
A tooth structure or tooth, which is anchoring a bridge or a denture.

ADA Seal of Acceptance
The American Dental Association’s seal is a standard that ensures the quality of dentalproducts.

Amalgam
A type of silver alloy filling material commonly used for crowns and fillings.

Anesthesia
An agent causes temporary numbing to a specific area while the rest of the body is left unaffected, allowing the dentist to communicate with the patient while treating the area.  (Two types: local anesthesia and general anesthesia).

Anterior
The teeth located near the front of the Mouth, which include teeth numbered11 and 22 through 27.

Apex
The end of the root.

Aseptic
No interference of micro-organisms.

Attrition
The wearing away of tooth structure (grinding and clicking) due to abrasion from the opposing teeth.

Avulsed
An injury that causes a tooth to be completely knocked out of its socket.

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Bite
Term used to describe the way the teeth meet when biting, also known as occlusion.  Common bite problems include under bite and overbite.

Bitewing
A type of dental x-ray used to detect cavities in between  the teeth and height of bone support.

Bleaching
A method of whitening using gels and heat applied to the teeth to correct discoloration and remove staining.

Bridge
A prosthesis inserted to replace missing teeth or tooth fragments, helping to restore tooth structure.

Bruxism
Grinding or clenching of teeth, causing tooth attrition. Commonly brought on by stress and fatigue.

Canine
The third tooth from the middle on the jaw. There are four canine teeth, the longest ones in humans.

Canker Sore
An ulceration/infection possibly caused by trauma or herpes simplex virus and typically located in the tissue that lines the mouth.

Cary
Tooth decay.

Cariogenic
Decay-causing process.

Cavity
A hole on the tooth.

Cast
A model of teeth.

Cellulitis
An infection typically occurring in the gums due to an untreated tooth infection.  The infection causes swelling and can rapidly expand if not immediately treated.

Cementation
The process of “gluing” the prosthesis/appliance.

Chlorhexidine
A prescription-strength anti-bacterial mouth wash available in gels and rinses, effective for controlling gum diseases.

Clasp
A metal arm extended from a removable partial denture.   It provides anchorage for the denture.

Composite
A white tooth-colored material available in Many shades and forms used to fill teeth or to Change the size, color, and shape of teeth.

Composite Resin
A tooth-colored silicon filling that bonds with tooth to support structure, deter breakage, and insulate against temperature change. Advantage over traditional silver or amalgam fillings is that resins allow dentist to keep more of the natural tooth.

Cosmetic (Aesthetic) Dentistry
A speciality of dentistry focusing on the visual appearance of teeth and involves procedures such as whitening and proper alignment of the teeth.

Cross-bite
An abnormal bite relationship of the lower and upper jaw. The lower teeth align toward the lip/cheek side more than the upper teeth.

Crown (porecelain/metal/plastic)
A crown like a “cap” partially or totally covers the tooth above the gum to restore its function and improve future oral health.

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DDS
Doctor of Dental Surgery, equivalent to DMD.

DMD
Doctor of Dental Medicine, equivalent to DDS.

Decay
The process of deterioration—the “rotten” part in the tooth—due to bacterial and acidic activity. Can be prevent with regular maintenance and dental visits.

Dental Implant
Material grafted directly into the existing tooth structure. An implant may be inserted into the core of a tooth, bridge the connection between one or more teeth, or be bonded to the surface of a tooth.

Decidious (Primary/Baby Teeth)
The first set of teeth is as important as adult permanent teeth and typically appear between 6 months to one year. These teeth help the child to chew and speak. They hold space in the jaws for the permanent teeth that are forming in the gums.

Dentition
The type, number, and position of teeth in the upper and lower jaw.

Denture
(immediate/temporary/partial/complete)
There are many types of denture—replacement artificial teeth—inserted to satisfy different treatment requirements and patient preferences.

Diagnosis
The analysis of dental disease and oral health.

Distal
A direction point, indicating the direction away from the middle of the jaw.

Enamel
The hard coating of calcium that encases each tooth, protecting them from abrasions and damage.  A weak coating of enamel makes the tooth prone to cavities and bacterial infection.

Endodontics
A field of dentistry involving diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental pulp (involving the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth).

Extruded
When a tooth is pushed partially out of its socket.

FAGD, Fellow of Academy of General Dentists
A title bestowed on a dental physician who is recognized by peers as a knowledgeable practitioner, having fulfilled extensive training in continuing education and serving as a mentor to others in the field.

Filling (porcelain/metal/plastic)
A restoration placed on a tooth to restore its function and appearance.

Fixed Bridge
A solution to fix a sequence of multiple lost teeth. The bridge connects to neighboring teeth, permanently closing the gap.

Flipper
A temporary denture to replace missing teeth while waiting for long term treatment.

Floss
A thread or filament used to clean between the teeth.

Fluoride
A compound of fluorine, commonly occurring in water. Presented in different forms such gels and rinses to strengthen teeth and prevent decay.

Fracture
When a cusp of a tooth becomes weakened, a fracture or crack may result. It is possible for the crack to extend further into the root and therein, damage the pulp.

Full Mouth Reconstruction
A procedure used by a cosmetic dentist to completely rework and correct any aesthetic problems in the teeth, bones, and muscles around the mouth. The procedure corrects problems such decaying teeth, overbite, and misaligned teeth.

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General Anesthesia
A procedure that renders a dental patient completely unconscious and unaware of pain.  Typically used during extensive dental surgery like wisdom tooth removal or root canal surgery.

General Dentist
The primary care provider for patients in all age groups who takes responsibility for the diagnosis, treatment, management, and overall services to meet patients’ oral health needs (fillings, crowns, veneers, gum care, preventative education).

Gingivitis
The mildest form of inflammation of gum. The earliest sign is bleeding gum and therein emerging gum disease.

Gum Recession
A condition resulting in a pulling back of the gum line, exposing the roots of the teeth. commonly caused by improper tooth care, regular use of tobacco products, and eating disorders.

Hemorrhage
Bleeding.

Homeostasis
The act to stop bleeding.

Hypersensitvity
Tooth pain caused by an exposed nerve in the tooth.  The intensity of pain varies from person to person but this condition can be quickly treated to prevent further damage.

Impaction
A condition wherein a tooth does not emerge normally or is stuck underneath another tooth or bone.

Implant
A device (screw-like) integrated with existing tooth material and the jaw bone to support a denture, false tooth, or bone. Implants are made from a resin that is similar in composition and texture to natural teeth.

Impression
A procedure to create an exact mold of the teeth. Taken with a jelly-like material loaded on a tray, the dentist can achieve an accurate impression to replace a tooth or to make a corrective appliance.

Incisal
The cutting edge of front teeth.

Incisors
The four upper and four lower front teeth; two centrals and two laterals in each set. Incisors are used for cutting food and aiding speech and appearance.

Inlay (gold/composite/ceramic)
A restoration fabricated in a lab that strengthens a tooth like adding the important piece to the puzzle. It helps to restore the normal function and health of the tooth.

Interproximal
The space between two adjacent teeth.

Intraoral Camera
A camera designed specifically to take images of the interior of the mouth.

Laminate Veneer
An appliance, typically made of porcelain, permanently attached to the surface of a tooth, and used to correct a structural defect and/or to create a whiter smile and enhanced appearance.

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Lingual
The side of the tooth close to tongue.

Local Anesthesia
A procedure to numb only the area around a region indicated for dental surgery.  This is less invasive than general anesthesia and allows the patient to be awake during the entire procedure.   Typically no pain is felt by the patient even though he or she is awake.

Mandible
The lower jaw, which does most of the moving during chewing and talking.  It is controlled by the powerful jaw muscle.

Malocclusion
Misalignment of the teeth and/or jaw.

Maxilla
The upper jaw, connected to the skull. The teeth attached to the maxilla are the primary visible teeth and often, the main concern of cosmetic dentists.

Mesial
The side of the tooth located at the middle of the jaw.

Molar
The back three upper and lower teeth on both sides of the jaw, having a flatter surface for grinding food.

Night Guard
A mouthguard worn during sleep time to prevent injury to teeth and/or jaw from bruxing/grinding.

Occlusal
The biting surface of the back teeth.

Occlusion
The configuration of the upper and lower teeth when closed.

Onlay
Similar to an inlay, an onlay is inserted into the tooth to fill a cavity. The primary difference is that the onlay extends over the edge of the tooth to improve the structural integrity of the tooth.

Open Bite
The condition wherein the upper teeth cannot contact (align with) the opposing lower teeth.

Oral Appliances
Special designed devices that help prevent the collapse of the tongue and soft tissue in the back of the throat, keeping the airway open during sleep and promoting adequate air intake.

Orthodontics
A field in dentistry that involves diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of bite abnormalities or facial irregularities.

Overbite
The upper teeth overlap the lower teeth when closed together.

Overdenture
A denture that fits over dental implants or roots.

Overhang
A portion of the restoration (filling) that extends beyond the tooth border where floss might get caught or it become a “placque-trap.”

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Palate
The roof of the mouth.

Panoramic Radiograph
An x-ray film helpful to obtain a wide view of the upper and lower jaw and associated structures.

Partial Denture
Removable appliance used as a replacement for one or more of the teeth in either the lower or upper jaw.

Periapical
The surface around the bottom of the root of a tooth (peri = around; apex = end of root).

Perforation
An opening (hole) on a tooth or other oral structure.

Periodontics
A field of dentistry involving diagnosis, prevention and treatment of gum and tissue (periodontal ) disease.

Permanent Teeth
Adult teeth. The first permanent tooth usually emerges at about 5- 6 years old and by 12-13 years most primary teeth have been replaced by 32 permanent ones.

Pin
A “nail-like” structure used for better retention of a filling.

Plaque
A bacterial by-product of acid and saliva. It manifests itself as a sticky film that constantly forms on the surfaces of teeth. Plaque buildup along the gumline and between the teeth is the primary cause of gum diseases. (Often confused with but not the same as tartar.)

Polish
A process to help the tooth or denture feel smooth and appear glossy.

Pontic
The false tooth in a bridge or denture that replaces the missing tooth.

Porcelain
Ceramic material fused at high temperatures to form an enamel-like substance that is rigid, durable, and colored to match surrounding teeth.

Post (metal or carbon)
A pin functioning to support a large buildup in a tooth.

Posterior
Located at the back of the jaw.

Premolar
The two teeth located in front of the molar.

Prophy/Prophylaxis
Cleaning of teeth to prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease.

Prosthesis
An artificial replacement of missing teeth and their associated structures.

Prosthodontics
A field of dentistry involving, diagnosis, treatment, and fabrication of artificial parts to replace missing teeth and their associated structures.

Pulp
The innermost part of a tooth composed of nerves, blood vessels, and soft tissue.

Pulpotomy
The removal of the top part of the pulp inside a tooth.

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Radiograph
An x-ray photograph.

Restoration
The process to restore normal function of a tooth or area of the mouth with a filling, a crown, a bridge, etc.

Restorative Dentist
The dental caregiver concerned with the diagnosis and integrated management of existing teeth and their supporting structures defective due to disease, trauma, or abnormal development. The intent is to attain the teeth’s normal function, quality oral health, and improved appearance.

Retainer
A removable orthodontic device used to maintain the position of teeth in the jaw.

Root
The bottom part of the tooth which serves to anchor the tooth to its supporting units.

Root Canal
A procedure necessary when the pulp within a tooth is infected or dies. The pulp is composed of the tooth’s nerve and blood supply as well as soft tissue. Infections in the root canal will not heal on their own. If untreated, the infection will entirely destroy the pulp.

Root Canal Therapy
The process to remove the pulp of a tooth and then to fill it with an inert material.

Root Planing (“plane-ing”)
The meticulous process to deep clean the root area of teeth.

Rubber Dam
A small rubber sheet that fits around/ over the teeth to isolate a treatment area from the rest of the oral cavity.

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Saliva
The clear lubricating fluid found in the mouth, which contains water, enzymes, bacteria, viruses, blood cells, mucus, and undigested food particles.

Salivary Glands
Salvia-producing glands located under the tongue and cheeks.

Scaling (Root Planing)
Meticulous removal of tartar (calculus) placque from tooth surfaces.

Sealant
Thin, clear or white resin material covering the groves and pits on a tooth to prevent decay.

Sedation Dentistry
Use of pharmacological agents to calm and relax a patient prior to and during a dental appointment.

Sleep Apnea
An interruption or delay in one’s breathing during sleep.

Sleep Appliance
A specially designed plastic device that fits in the mouth during sleep. Front-line treatment for snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.

Space Maintainer
An appliance inserted to maintain correct space between teeth.

Splint
A material or appliance used to prevent movement of a mobile part.

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Tartar
(Also called calculus.)  Placque not removed through regular brushing and flossing can harden into tartar.  It is a crusty deposit that can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist.

TMD, Temperomandibular Disorder
A condition characterized by facial pain and the restricted ability to open or move one’s jaw.

TMJ, Temperomandibular Joint
The TMJ is the point where the lower jawbone attaches to the skull (i.e. the point that links the two parts of the jaw).

Torus
An outgrowth of bone that usually develops on the roof of the mouth or around the premolar area on the lower jaw.

Transplant
Placement of a natural tooth in the empty socket of a missing tooth.

Veneer (porcelain, composite, ceramics)
A thin layer of tooth-colored material bonded to the front of a natural tooth.  The purpose is to replace lost tooth structure, close spaces and/or change the color and shape of the tooth.

Whitening
A chemical procedure to lighten the color of teeth and restore vibrancy.

Wisdom Teeth
The third molars, also the last teeth, that erupt typically between the ages of 18 to 25 years.

Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)
Results from reduced or absent saliva flow. It is not a disease but may be a symptom of various conditions or side effect of medications.  It is a common complaint affecting 20 percent of the elderly.

X-Rays In dentistry there are four types of X-rays: bite-wing, occlusal, panoramic, and periapical.  They are taken by the use of high frequency light that penetrates different substances with different absorption and rates.

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