Here is a list of dental glossary terms. We will be expanding this section soon by adding more details and pictures to each of the dental terms listed in this dental glossary.
AACD: American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
AAE: American Association of Endodontists.
AAO: American Association of Orthodontists.
AAP: American Academy of Periodontology.
ABPD: American Board of Pediatric Dentistry.
Abscess: A dental abscess is a condition characterized by a buildup of pus resulting from the infection of a tooth or the gum tissue.
Abutment: Method of support for a fixed or removable dental bridge used to replace a missing tooth. The abutment typically uses one or both teeth on either side of the missing tooth.
ACD: American College of Dentists.
ACP: American College of Prosthodontists.
ADA: American Dental Association.
AGD: Academy of General Dentistry.
Alveolar bone: The part of the jaw bone that surrounds and anchors tooth roots.
Amalgam fillings: Amalgam fillings were commonly used for dental fillings in the past. Amalgam is typically produced from a combination of nickel, silver and mercury, and is used to fill hollow areas of a tooth after the decay from a dental cavity had been removed. Recently, composite fillings have become more common than amalgam fillings, though they do not have same longevity.
Apicoectomy: A type of endodontic procedure that involves the removal of the apex (tip) of a tooth root. Also referred to as root resectioning.
Bicuspid: The bicuspid teeth are the “two-pointed” (two cusps) teeth located between the incisors/canines and molars. Bicuspids are used for crushing food.
Bleaching: Dental bleaching is a type of teeth whitening treatment used to lighten or whiten teeth.
Bonding: Dental bonding is a technique used to bind an artificial material with the surface of a tooth for restorative purposes (e.g. binding a dental filling with a tooth).
Braces: A tool of orthodontics, dental braces are designed to correct the misalignment of teeth for functional or cosmetic purposes.
Bridge: A dental bridge is a type of prosthetic appliance that is usually fixed within a patient’s mouth for the purpose of replacing a missing tooth or teeth.
Bruxism: Defined as the habitual (often unconscious) clenching or grinding of the teeth at night.
Bruxomania: A nervous condition in which a person involuntarily grinds their teeth while awake.
CAD/CAM: Computer-aided design / computer-aided manufacturing. CAD/CAM technology allows for the computerized design and manufacture of a product. CAD/CAM is used in dentistry to design dental crowns and other restorative devices.
Calculus: Also referred to as tartar, calculus is hardened minerlized plaque that adheres to the crowns and roots of the teeth. Calculus buildup can lead to tooth decay and periodontal disease.
Canker Sore: A type of open sore (ulceration) affecting the lips or lining of the mouth. One of the most common oral health problems faced by Americans, canker sores typically last between 10 to 14 days.
Canines: Also referred to as “cuspids,” canines are located between the incisors and premolars.
Cantilever Bridge: One of three types of dental bridges used to replace a missing tooth or teeth, a cantilever bridge is attached to abutment (adjacent) teeth on one side only. Cantilevers are only used when the bridge does not have two adjacent teeth, and there is only one tooth to support the bridge
Cap: Oftentimes used as a common term for a crown, “cap” specifically refers to a crown covering one of the frontal teeth (canines or incisors).
Caries: The technical term for the progressive decay of a tooth or teeth. Caries are caused by excessive acid production generated by the bacterial digestion of sugars.
Calculus: A type of hard mineralized deposit that attaches itself to the crown or the root of a tooth. Calculus is often composed of a mixture of hardened plaque and saliva.
Cementum: A fibrous connective tissue that envelopes the root of a tooth.
Clenching: The act of forcibly closing the jaws and teeth together, potentially causing structural damage to the teeth and/or bite.
Composite Fillings: Composite resin fillings are bonded to a tooth to repair minimal tooth fractures, tooth decay or otherwise damaged teeth.
Composite Veneers: The less-expensive of the two types of dental veneers (porcelain veneers being more expensive), composite veneers typically last between five and seven years.
Cosmetic Dentistry: A specialized field of dentistry that focuses on purely aesthetic treatments designed to improve the appearance of the teeth.
Crown: A dental crown is a type of restorative prosthetic appliance that is used to replace all or part of a missing tooth. In the past, dental crowns have been manufactured by lab technicians, though more recently, they have been manufactured by CAD/CAM technology.
Cuspid: Also referred to as “canine teeth,” cuspids are located in between the incisors and premolars.
DDM: Doctor of Dental Medicine.
DDS: Doctor of Dental Surgery.
Decay: Tooth decay (dental caries) refers to the gradual degradation of a tooth as a result of acid production generated by the bacterial digestion of sugars. Tooth decay is indicative of poor oral hygiene.
Deciduous Teeth: Commonly called the “baby teeth,” deciduous teeth are the primary teeth that are eventually replaced by the permanent teeth, commonly called the “adult teeth.”
Dental Braces: A tool of orthodontics, dental braces are designed to correct the misalignment of teeth for functional or cosmetic purposes.
Dental Floss: Nylon string (waxed or unwaxed) used to clean the spaces between the teeth as part of regular dental hygiene.
Dental Implant: A dental implant is a type of prosthetic device that is inserted into the upper or lower jawbone, onto which an artificial tooth, crown or bridge can be anchored. Dental implants are typically constructed from titanium.
Dental Plaque: Like tartar, dental plaque is a sticky buildup of saliva, food and bacteria that becomes attached to the teeth. Dental plaque can negatively affect a tooth both above and below the gum line.
Dentures: Artificial teeth that are intended for the partial or complete replacement of missing teeth. Dentures differ from other replacements, such as a dental bridge or implant, in that they are removable.
Diastema: Refers to the space between the front two incisors on the upper jaw.
Dry Mouth Syndrome: Also referred to as xerostomia, dry mouth syndrome is a condition that is caused by the body’s inability to produce adequate levels of saliva in the mouth. Although often associated with the elderly and a reduction in saliva flow, dry mouth syndrome can also be caused by various other factors such as certain medications.
Enamel: Tooth enamel is one of four tissues that makeup the tooth. Enamel is the hard white substance on the outside of the tooth and it is one of the most mineralized substances in the body.
Endodontics: A specialized field of dentistry that is focused on root canal therapy.
Exodontia: A branch of dentistry that specializes in the simple or surgical extraction of teeth.
Extraction: A dental extraction is the simple or surgical removal of a tooth or teeth.
FAACD: Fellow of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
FAGD: Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry
Family Dentistry: Often referred to as “general dentistry,” family dentistry is the term given to the field of dentistry that focuses on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of conditions, disorders and diseases affecting the teeth, gums and the maxillofacial (associated with the jaw and face) region of the body.
Filling: A dental filling is a type of substance that is inserted into a hollow part of the tooth to restore the tooth shape or gradation. Fillings are typically used to refill the tooth area that has been removed due to tooth decay. Dental fillings are composed of metal, porcelain, alloy or resin.
Fixed Bridge: A fixed bridge is a pontic, or porcelain ceramic tooth replica, that is bonded to two adjacent porcelain-crowned teeth without the ability to remove it.
Floss: Nylon string (either waxed or unwaxed) used to clean the spaces between the teeth as part of regular oral hygiene practice.
Fluoride: Used in the dental industry as a type of topical gel / liquid for the purpose of warding off tooth decay. Water fluoridation has been supported by such groups as the American Dental Association (ADA) and World Health Organization (WHO) to aid in avoiding the development of dental cavities.
General Dentistry: General dentistry is the term given to the field of dentistry that focuses on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of conditions, disorders and diseases affecting the teeth, gums and the maxillofacial (associated with the jaw and face) region of the body.
Gingiva: The technical term for gum tissue, the gingiva surrounds the roots of the teeth and jawbone.
Gingivitis: A disease of the gum tissue that can cause inflammation and bleeding. Gingivitis is typically the result of plaque buildup and generally poor oral hygiene.
Gum Disease: A dental condition that causes inflammation of the gum tissue. A serious case of gum disease could lead to the development of periodontitis.
Gummy Smile: A condition in which a high lip line (hypermobile lip) exposes an abnormal level of gum tissue. Gummy smile can be corrected through surgery.
Halitosis: The technical term for bad breath. Halitosis can result from gum disease, tooth decay, gastrointestinal problems or systematic abnormalities.
Implants: A dental implant is a type of prosthetic device that is inserted into the upper or lower jawbone, onto which an artificial tooth, crown or bridge can be anchored. Implants are typically constructed from titanium.
Incisors: The front teeth located in between the canines.
Indirect Fillings: If a tooth is damaged past the point in which a traditional dental filling can serve as treatment, while at the same time not being damaged enough to warrant a dental crown, an indirect filling may be used. An indirect filling comes in two forms (inlay or onlay) and is manufactured by a dental laboratory using CAD/CAM technology.
Inlays: Dental inlays are restorative devices that can be used in place of dental fillings to treat tooth decay / damage. As opposed to being molded into place within the mouth (as with dental fillings), dental inlays are fabricated in a dental laboratory using CAD / CAM technology. While onlays are placed on the tooth, inlays are set within a hole in the tooth.
Laser Dentistry: Field of dentistry that incorporates the use of high-tech lasers in performing dental procedures. Laser dentistry may boast a higher rate of precision, minimal-to-no patient discomfort and faster healing time than more traditional alternatives.
Local Anesthesia: A local anesthetic is a type of medication that is administered to numb the pain in a specific (localized) area of the body.
Malocclusion: Refers to the misalignment of the lower (mandibular) and upper (maxillary) teeth.
Mandibular Teeth: The lower portion of the jaw.
Maxillary Teeth: The upper portion of the jaw.
Molars: Back teeth that are used for grinding / chewing food. The molars located furthest in the back of the mouth are also called the “wisdom teeth.”
Narrow Implants: A narrower type of dental implant developed specifically for people whose teeth prevent the use of traditional implants. Narrower implants may be used for small teeth and insizers. A narrower implant may best serve patients that require stabilization of lower jaw dentures, pre-molar teeth should a bone graft fail or a missing tooth that is located in a narrow area.
Night Guard: A type of plastic dental appliance, night guards are used to inhibit the grinding or clenching of teeth at night (bruxism).
Nitrous Oxide: Also referred to as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide (N2O) is a commonly used dental anesthetic. When used conjunction with local anesthetics, nitrous oxide can significantly numb a dental patient’s sensitivity to pain.
Novocain: The brand name for an older type of local anesthetic that was most commonly used throughout the dental industry.
Occlusion: The technical term for a person’s “bite,” an occlusion refers to the way in which the mandibular (lower) and maxillary (upper) teeth align when the jaw is closed. Misalignment is referred to as a malocclusion.
Onlays: Dental onlays are restorative devices that can be used in place of dental fillings to treat tooth decay / damage. As opposed to being molded into place within the mouth (as with dental fillings), dental onlays are fabricated in a dental laboratory using CAD / CAM technology. While inlays are set within a hole in the tooth, onlays are placed on the surface of the tooth.
Oral Cancer: Malignancy affecting the oral cavity.
Oral Sedation: Sedation modality in which a patient takes an oral sedative prior to an appointment to induce relaxation. Also referred to as oral conscious sedation.
Oral Surgery: A type of surgery pertaining to the jaws or mouth.
Oral Thrush: A fungal infection of the mouth presenting with open sores or lesions. Thrush is common among denture wearers, infants and people who are immunocompromised.
Orthodontics: A highly-specialized field of dentistry that revolves around treating malocclusions, orthodontics is commonly associated with the use of dental braces, retainers and headgear for the purpose of straightening the teeth and correcting any related growth abnormalities. Orthodontics can straighten teeth and greatly improve the smile and a person’s self confidence.
Pediatric Dentistry: A specialized field of dentistry focused on the treatment of children’s dental problems.
Periodontitis: A serious progression of gum disease that can result in the loss of teeth if not properly treated. Periodontitis most often is the result of poor oral hygiene.
Periodontal Surgery: A type of surgical procedure that provides treatment to structurally damaged gum or connective tissue.
Periodontics: A specialized field of dentistry that revolves around the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the gum and supportive tissues of the oral cavity.
Permanent Teeth: Consisting of 32 teeth, the permanent or adult teeth follow the loss of the deciduous teeth.
Plaque: Like tartar, plaque is a sticky buildup of saliva, food and bacteria that becomes attached to the teeth. Plaque can negatively affect a tooth both above the gum line and below.
Pontic: A type of artificial tooth mounted on a fixed dental bridge and used to replace a missing natural tooth.
Porcelain Veneers: The more-expensive of the two types of dental veneers (composite veneers being the less expensive), porcelain veneers typically last between 10 and 15 years.
Premolars: Term reserved for the teeth that are located in between the cuspids and molars.
Prenatal Dentistry: Dentistry pertaining to pregnant women.
Prosthodontics: A specialized field of dentistry that revolves around the replacement of missing teeth with artificial alternatives. Some of the procedures commonly employed by prosthodontists include dental implants, dental crowns, dental bridges and dentures.
Pulp: Dental pulp is a soft tissue located in the centermost part of a tooth. The primary function of dental pulp is the production of dentin, a hard tissue (similar to bone tissue) that makes up the majority of the tooth structure.
Receding Gums: Commonly associated with poor oral hygiene, infection or old age, receding gums refers to the loss of gum tissue.
Resin Bonded Bridge: A resin bonded bridge is often used to replace missing front teeth, providing that the adjoining teeth do not have extensive dental fillings or unhealthy gums. Resin bonded bridges are generally less expensive than traditional dental bridges.
Retainer: A dental retainer is a type of orthodontic appliance that helps to maintain the alignment of teeth following corrective orthodontic treatment. Retainers are often used following removal of dental braces.
Root: The root of a tooth is the section that is embedded in the jawbone, anchoring it in place.
Root Canal: The hollow area located at the center of a tooth.
Root Canal Therapy: A dental procedure through which damaged/diseased soft tissue is removed from the interior of a tooth, replaced with a permanent filling and capped with a dental crown.
Scaling: Dental scaling refers to the removal of plaque and other such staining from the surface of a tooth.
Sealant: A type of composite material that is used as a bond to seal teeth and prevent tooth decay.
Secondary Teeth: Also referred to as the permanent teeth, the secondary teeth are those that develop after the baby, or primary, teeth.
Sedation Dentist: Dental professional who specializes in the practice of sedation dentistry.
Sedation Dentistry: Also referred to as sleep dentistry, sedation dentistry is a specialized dental service designed for people suffering from the extremes of dental phobia. Sedatives are used to reduce patient anxiety and fear.
Sleep Apnea: A type of sleep disorder during which sufferers experience temporary cessation of breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea is often caused by abnormal positioning of the jaw or tongue and can be treated by certain dental professionals.
Sleep Dentistry: Sedation dentistry is often referred to as “sleep dentistry;” however, this term is somewhat misleading as patients do not actually sleep while sedated.
Sjögren’s Syndrome: Named after Swedish ophthalmologist Henrik Sjögren, this autoimmune disorder attacks the exocrine glands, resulting in the cessation of tear and saliva production. Sjögren’s syndrome can cause significant damage to vital organs, is currently incurable and typically affects older women.
Stomatitis: An oral health condition causing the temporary inflammation of the mucosal membranes inside the mouth.
Stomatology: A branch of medicine that invovles the study of diseases and disorders of the mouth.
Tartar: Like plaque, tartar is a sticky buildup of saliva, food and bacteria that becomes attached to the teeth. Tartar can affect a tooth both above the gum line and below.
Teeth Whitening: Refers to the common practice of “whitening” teeth through a variety of methods, notably laser teeth whitening and bleaching.
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ): The temporomandibular joint links the jawbone to the base of the skull.
TMJ Syndrome: Also referred to as temporomandibular disorder (TMD), TMJ syndrome is a serious condition that affects the temporomandibular joint, limiting a person’s ability to open and close his or her jaw.
Toothache: An ache or pain that is localized around a specific tooth or teeth. Toothaches may be caused by trauma or a more serious dental condition such as decay, disease or crack.
Veneers: A type of thin material that is used for restorative or aesthetic purposes, veneers are manufactured from porcelain or composite materials.
Waterlase Dental Laser: A type of dental laser developed by BIOLASE Technology that utilizes hydrokinetic energy to remove enamel and soft tissue with extreme precision and virtually no heat or discomfort.
Whitening: Refers to the common practice of “whitening” teeth through a variety of methods, notably laser teeth whitening and bleaching.
Wisdom Teeth: Commonly referred to as the “back teeth” or “back molars,” wisdom teeth sprout at a mature stage (hence their name) usually when a person is between 17 and 25 years of age. Wisdom teeth are often removed if their growth begins to affect surrounding teeth.
Xerostomia: Technical classification of dry mouth syndrome.
Zoom Whitening: Zoom whitening is an in-office teeth whitening system developed by Discus Dental.