Dental Dictionary


abrasion: Loss of tooth structure caused by a hard toothbrush, poor brushing technique, or grinding or clenching the teeth 
abscess: an infection of a tooth, soft tissue or bone 
abutment: tooth or teeth that support a bridge 
adhesive dentistry: contemporary term for dental restorations involving "bonding" of composite resin or porcelain fillings to natural teeth 
air abrasion: removal of tooth structure by blasting a tooth with air and abrasive particles 
alveolar bone: the portion of the jaw bone that anchors the roots of teeth 
alveoplasty: a surgical procedure to reshape the bone that anchors teeth 
amalgam: common filling material, also known as "silver fillings" containing mercury (50%), silver, tin, copper and zinc 
analgesic: a state of pain relief 
anesthesia: partial or complete elimination of pain sensation; freezing a tooth is an example of local anesthesia; general anesthesia produces partial or complete unconsciousness 
anterior: refers to the area located at the front of the mouth 
anterior teeth: the six front teeth in the upper or lower jaw
antibiotic: a drug that stops or slows the growth of bacteria
antibiotic prophylaxis: using antibiotics on patients who are at a high risk for bacterial endocarditis to help kill any bacteria that enter the bloodstream 
ANUG: an acronym for Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis, commonly known as trench mouth or Vincent's disease 
apex: the tip of the root of a tooth 
apicoectomy: surgical removal of the root tip 
attrition: loss of tooth structure due to natural wear


base: compounds placed under a dental restoration to insulate the nerve 
bicuspid or pre-molar: fourth and fifth teeth from the front, ahead of the molars 
bifurcation (trifurcation): juncture of two (three) roots in posterior teeth 
biopsy: removal of a small piece of tissue for microscopic examination to determine its level of health 
bite: relationship of the upper and lower teeth when closed (occlusion) 
bitewing: decay detecting x-rays that show only the crown portion of the teeth 
bleaching: chemical or laser treatment of natural teeth for whitening effect 
bonding: adhesive dental restoration technique; a tooth-colored composite resin to repair and/or change the color or shape of a tooth 
braces: devices attached to teeth used by orthodontists to gradually reposition teeth to a more favorable alignment 
bridge: a dental prosthesis (appliance) fixed to remaining teeth replacing one or more missing teeth 
bruxism: grinding or clenching of the teeth, most commonly while the patient is asleep


calcium: chemical element needed for healthy teeth and bones 
calculus: hard buildup, commonly known as "tartar," that forms on teeth due to inadequate plaque control 
canker: mouth sore appearing as a small ulcer, often whitish usually lasting ten to fourteen days 
cantilever bridge: fixed bridge that attaches to only one tooth adjacent to the missing tooth 
cap: common term for a dental crown 
caries: tooth decay or cavities 
cavitron: dental tool that uses high frequency ultrasonic waves to clean teeth 
cellulitis: soft tissue infection causing extensive, hard swelling 
cementum: hard outer covering on the roots of teeth 
clasp: the portion of a removable partial denture that "clips" onto teeth 
cleaning: removal of plaque and calculus (tartar) from teeth 
composite: tooth colored filling material usually hardened with a high intensity light or chemical catalyst 
cosmetic dentistry: dental treatments performed to enhance appearance 
cross bite: reverse biting relationship of upper and lower teeth; for example an "under bite" 
crown: (1) the portion of a tooth above the gum line; (2) dental restoration covering all or most of the natural tooth 
curettage: removal of diseased tissue from a periodontal pocket 
cusp: a point or bump on the chewing surface of a posterior tooth 
cusp id: an "eye tooth", third tooth from the front 
cyst: a soft or hard tissue sac filled with fluid


DDS: Doctor of Dental Surgery - equivalent to DMD 
DMD: Doctor of Medical Dentistry - equivalent to DDS 
deciduous teeth: commonly called "baby teeth," the first set of teeth (usually twenty, five in each quadrant) 
dentin: inner layer of tooth structure, immediately under the surface enamel 
dental Implant: titanium screw surgically placed in the bone to provide support for a dental restoration or appliance 
denture: removable (partial or complete) set of artificial teeth 
denturism: the production of dentures dispensed directly by laboratory technicians 
diastema: a space between teeth


enamel: hard tissue covering the portion of tooth above the gum line, the hardest substance in the human body 
endodontist: specialist who treats injuries, diseases and infections of the tooth pulp (nerve chamber) 
eruption: process of teeth protruding through the gums 
exfoliation: process of losing deciduous (baby) teeth 
exodontia: practice of dental extractions 
explorer: sharp instrument used to detect decay on the surface of teeth 
extraction: removal of a tooth 
eye tooth: the upper and lower canine (cuspid) teeth, third from the front 
eimplantation: insertion and temporary fixation of tooth that has been partially or completely knocked out, resulting from traumatic injury


filling: restoration of lost tooth structure with metal, porcelain or resin materials 
fistula: a gum boil; pus coming to the surface from an underlying infection site 
flap surgery: lifting of gum tissue to allow exposure and cleaning of underlying tooth and bone structures 
freeway space: distance between the upper and lower teeth with the lower jaw in rest position 
forceps: instrument used for removal of teeth 
forensic dentistry: practice of gathering legal evidence for body identification or judicial issues 
full denture: removable dental prosthesis (appliance) replacing all upper or lower teeth 
full mouth reconstruction: extensive restorations of natural teeth with crowns and or fixed bridges to manage bite problems 
frenectomy: removal or reshaping of thin muscle tissue that attaches the upper or lower lips to the gum, or the tongue to the floor of the mouth


general anesthesia: controlled state of unconsciousness 
geographic tongue: changes in the usual colour and texture of tongue; does not require treatment 
gingiva: gum tissue 
gingivectomy: surgical removal of gum tissue 
gingivitis: inflammation of gum tissue 
graft: surgical removal of healthy gum tissue from one area of the mouth (donor site) and placement in another unhealthy area (recipient site) 
gum boil: see fistula. 
gum recession: exposure of dental roots due to shrinkage of the gums as a result of abrasion, periodontal disease or surgery


halitosis: bad breath of oral or gastrointestinal origin 
heamatoma: swelling and bruising due to blood seepage beneath surface tissues from a ruptured blood vessel 
HMO or DMO: health (dental) maintenance organization which specifies a health care (dental) provider a patient may see. 
hydrogen peroxide: disinfecting solution used in dental irrigation procedures or as mouth rinse 
hygienist: dental auxiliary who cleans teeth, administers local anesthetic and performs periodontal scaling, root planing and polishing 
hyperemia: increased blood flow and pressure in a tooth nerve; may cause sensitivity to temperature and sweets; may precede an abscess


impaction: partial or completely unexposed tooth that is wedged against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue, keeping it from erupting 
implant: artificial device placed in bone to replace a K; may anchor an artificial tooth, bridge, or denture, - see dental implant 
impression: mold made of the teeth and soft tissues 
incision and drainage: surgical cutting of an abscess to drain pus 
incisors: four upper and lower front teeth first and second from front 
infiltration: placement of local anesthetic under the gum, allowing it to seep into bone 
inlay: filling made by a dental laboratory that is cemented or bonded into place 
interproximal: surfaces of adjacent teeth 
interocclusal: space between upper and lower teeth 
intraoral camera: a small video camera used to view and magnify oral structures and conditions


jacket: crown for a front tooth, usually made entirely of porcelain


laminate: thin plastic or porcelain shell produced in a dental laboratory and then bonded to a tooth 
laughing gas: nitrous oxide; odorless gas that produces slight sedation; reduces anxiety and creates a state of relaxation 
lesion: injury of bodily tissue due to infection, trauma or neoplasm 
local anesthesia: partial or complete elimination of pain sensation, in the immediate vicinity of its application or injection


malocclusion: "bad bite" or misalignment of the upper and lower teeth 
mandible: the lower jaw 
margin: edge between a restoration and tooth structure 
maryland bridge: a bridge that is bonded to the back of the adjacent teeth requiring removal of a minimum of tooth structure 
mastication: process of chewing food 
maxilla: the upper jaw 
meniscus: "disc" or hard cushion between temporomandibluar joint and skull bone 
milk teeth: deciduous (baby) teeth 
molars: three back teeth in each dental quadrant used for grinding food. 
moniliasis (thrush): fungus infection commonly occurring after administration of antibiotic


NSAID: non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, often used as a dental analgesic 
nerve chamber
(root canal): the internal chamber of a tooth containing the dental pulp 
night guard: acrylic appliance used to prevent wear and temporomandibular damage caused by grinding or gnashing of the teeth during sleep 
nitrous oxide: a gas used to reduce patient anxiety 
novocain: older brand name for a local anesthetic, currently replaced by safer, more effective agents


occlusion: relationship of the upper and lower teeth upon closure 
onlay: laboratory produced restoration covering one or more cusps of a tooth 
oral and maxillofacial
surgeon: a dental specialist who manages the diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases, injuries, and deformities of the mouth and supporting structures 
oral cavity: the mouth 
oral hygiene: process of maintaining cleanliness of the teeth and related structures 
oral and maxillofacial
oral pathologist: dentist specializing in the study of oral diseases 
orthodontics: dental specialty that treats misalignment of teeth (braces) 
osseous: pertaining to the bones 
overbite: vertical overlap of the front teeth 
overdenture: denture that fits over residual roots or dental implants 
overjet: horizontal overlap of the front teeth


palate: hard and soft tissue forming the roof of the mouth 
palliative treatment: non-invasive relief of irritating conditions 
parasthesia: a partial loss of sensation; may be temporary or permanent 
partial denture: removable dental prosthesis (appliance) replacing one or more teeth 
pathology: study of disease 
periapical (PA): (1) region at the end of the roots of teeth; (2) an x-ray taken to see the ends of the roots of teeth 
periodontal surgery: reshaping gum and supporting tissue due to disease or for aesthetic reasons 
periodontist: dental specialist treating the gums and hard tissues supporting natural teeth 
pedodontics or pediatric
dentistry: dental specialty focusing on treatment of children 
periodontal chart: record measuring the depth of gum pockets around the teeth 
permanent teeth: adult teeth (usually thirty-two) 
pit: a small defect in the tooth enamel 
plaque: soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth; composed of bacteria and food debris which accumulates on teeth due to inadequate dental hygiene 
pontic: false replacement tooth mounted on a fixed or removal appliance 
porcelain crown: all porcelain restoration covering the crown portion of tooth (above the gum line) porcelain fused to metal
crown (PFM): restoration with metal understructure (for strength) covered by porcelain (for appearance) 
porcelain inlay or onlay: tooth-colored restoration cemented or bonded in place 
porcelain veneers: a thin layer of porcelain, fabricated by a laboratory, bonded to a natural tooth to replace lost tooth structure, close spaces, straighten teeth or change colour and/or shape 
post: thin metal rod cemented into the root of a tooth after root canal therapy (like reinforcing bar in concrete) 
post-core: post and buildup material replacing lost tooth structure to retain a crown 
post-crown: single unit that combines post-core and crown as one piece 
prognosis: the anticipated outcome of treatment 
prophylaxis: cleaning of the teeth for the prevention of periodontal disease and tooth decay 
prosthesis: an artificial appliance for the replacement for one or more teeth 
prosthodontist: dental specialist skilled in restoring or replacing teeth with fixed or removable prostheses (appliances) 
pulp: the nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue inside a tooth 
pulp cap: a medicated covering over a small area of exposed pulp tissue 
pulp chamber: the center or innermost portion of the tooth containing the pulp 
pulpectomy: complete removal of the pulp (commonly done in children's teeth) 
pulpitis: inflammation of the pulp; common cause of toothache 
pulpotomy: partial removal of the majority of the pulp tissue 
pyorrhea: older term for periodontal (gum) disease


quadrant: One of the four equal sections of the mouth. The upper right, upper left, lower right or the lower left.


reline: replacement of acrylic portion of a denture base to compensate for bone loss; direct: done at in the office; indirect: in conjunction with a dental laboratory 
restoration: replacement of a portion of tooth structure 
root: portion of the tooth that connects it to the jaw bone 
retained root: piece of a root remaining in jaw after extraction or fracture of a natural tooth 
root canal: (1) common term for root canal treatment; (2) the interior space in the root of the tooth which houses the nerve 
root canal therapy: process of removing pulp of a tooth and filling it with an inert material 
root resection: removal of a portion of diseased root structure, allowing the remainder of the natural tooth to survive 
rubber dam: latex sheet used to isolate one or more teeth from contamination by oral fluids and to keep materials from falling to the back of the throat during dental procedures


saliva: clear fluid in the mouth containing water, enzymes, mucus and indigested food particles 
saliva ejector: suction tube placed in the mouth to remove saliva 
salivary glands: located under tongue and in cheeks, produce saliva 
scaling and root planing: removal of plaque and calculus from tooth surfaces above and below the gum line 
sealants: thin resin material bonded in the pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of back teeth for the prevention of food entrapment and decay 
secondary dentin: reparative tooth structure produced by the pulp in response to trauma 
sequestrum: piece of bone loosened in an extraction site 
sinusitis: inflammation of the sinus that may mimic dental pain 
sleep apnea: the periodic interruption or delay in breathing during sleep 
space maintainer: dental device that holds the space following premature loss of a baby tooth 
splint: connecting of two or more teeth together so they function as a stronger single structure 
supernumerary tooth: extra tooth 
suppuration: bacterial pus 
surgery: surgical procedures on the mouth including extractions, removal of cysts or tumors, and repair of fractured jaws


tartar: common term for dental calculus, a hard deposit that adheres to teeth 
TMD (or tmj disorder): temperomandibular disorder; term given to condition with symptoms of facial pain and restricted ability to open or move the jaw 
TMJ: the temporomandibular joint, the point where the lower jaw attaches to the skull 
third-party provider: insurance company, union, government agency that pays all or a part of cost of dental treatment 
tooth whitening: a chemical process to lighten the colour of teeth 
topical anesthetic: gel that produces mild anesthesia when applied to tissue surface 
torus: boney "bump" on the palate or lower jaw 
transplant: placing a natural tooth in the empty socket of another tooth 
trauma: injury caused by decay, external force, chemical, temperature extremes, or poor tooth alignment 
trench mouth: gum disease characterized by severe mouth sores and loss of tissue. See ANUG.


unerupted tooth: a tooth that has not pushed through the gum and assumed its correct position in the dental arch


veneer: porcelain facing bonded directly to a tooth to improve its appearance. See laminate. 
vertical dimension: space between upper and lower jaws upon closure; may decrease over time due to wear, shifting or damage to the teeth


wisdom teeth: third (last) molars that usually erupt at age 18-25


xerostomia: dry mouth or decrease in the production of saliva