Glossary of Dental Terms

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Amalgam – Material made from mercury and other alloy mixtures
used to restore a drilled portion of a tooth.

Anesthesia – Medications used to relieve pain.

Anterior teeth – Front teeth. Also called incisors and cuspids.

Arch – The upper or lower jaw.

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Baby bottle tooth decay – Caused by sugary substances in breast
milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby’s

Bicuspids -Back teeth used for chewing.

Bitewings – X-rays that help a dentist diagnose cavities.

Bonding – Application of tooth-colored resin materials to the
surface of the teeth.

Bridge – A fixed or removable appliance that replaces lost teeth.

Bruxism – Teeth grinding.

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Calculus – A sticky substance (also called tartar) that has hardened.

Canal – The narrow chamber inside the tooth’s root.

Canines – Also called cuspids.

Canker sore – One that occurs on the delicate tissues inside
your mouth. A canker sore is usually light-colored at its base and can have a
red exterior border.

Caries – Another term for decay, which causes cavities.

Cold sore – Usually occurs on the outside of the mouth, usually
on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious because it is caused by
the herpes simplex virus, and it is usually painful and filled with

Composite filling – Tooth colored restorations, also known as
resin fillings.

Composite resin – A tooth-colored resin combined with silica
or porcelain and used as a restoration material.

Contouring – The process of reshaping teeth.

Crown – An artificial cover that is placed on the top of a tooth
following restoration.

Cusps – The pointed parts on top of the back teeth’s chewing

Cuspids – Front teeth that typically have a protruding edge.

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Dentin – The tooth layer underneath the enamel.

Denture – A removable set of teeth.

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Endodontics – A form of dentistry that addresses problems affecting
the tooth’s root or nerve.

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Fluoride – A naturally occurring substance added to water,
toothpastes and some rinses and used for strengthening the tooth’s enamel.

Fluorosis – A harmless over-exposure to fluoride and resulting
sometimes in tooth discoloration.

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Gingiva – Another word for gum tissue.

Gingivitis – A minor disease of the gums caused by plaque.

Gum disease – An infection of the gum tissues. Also called
periodontal disease.

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Impacted teeth – A condition in which a tooth fails to
erupt or only partially erupts.

Implant – A permanent appliance used to replace a missing

Incisor – Front teeth with cutting edges; located in the
center or on the sides near the front.

Inlay – An artificial filling made of various materials,
including porcelain, resin, or gold.

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Laminate veneer – A shell that is bonded to the enamel
of a front tooth. The shell is usually thin and made from porcelain resin.

Laser – Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. A single wavelength beam of highly concentrated energy.

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Malocclusion – Bad bite relationship.

Mandible – The lower jaw.

Maxilla – The upper jaw.

Molar – Usually the largest teeth, near the rear of the
mouth. Molars have large chewing surfaces.

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Neuromuscular Dentistry – are more than the aches and pains felt in around the neck and head that are associated with your teeth and jaw.

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Onlay – A filling designed to protect the chewing surface
of a tooth.

Orthodontics – A field of dentistry that deals with tooth
and jaw alignment.

Overdenture – A non-fixed dental appliance applied to a
small number of natural teeth or implants.

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Palate – Roof of the mouth.

Partial denture – A removable appliance that replaces teeth.
Also called a bridge.

Pedodontics – A field of dentistry that deals with children’s

Perio pocket – An opening formed by receding gums.

Periodontal disease – Infection of the gum tissues. Also
called gum disease.

Periodontist – A dentist who treats diseases of the gums.

Permanent teeth – The teeth that erupt after primary teeth.
Also called adult teeth.

Plaque – A sticky, colorless substance that covers the
teeth after sleep or periods between brushing.

Posterior teeth – The bicuspids and molars. Also called
the back teeth.

Primary teeth – A person’s first set of teeth. Also
called baby teeth or temporary teeth.

Prophylaxis – The act of cleaning the teeth.

Prosthodontics – The field of dentistry that deals with
artificial dental appliances.

Pulp – The inner tissues of the tooth containing blood,
nerves and connective tissue.

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Receding gum – A condition in which the gums separate from
the tooth, allowing bacteria and other substances to attack the tooth’s
enamel and surrounding bone.

Resin filling – An artificial filling used to restore teeth.
Also called a composite filling.

Root canal – A procedure in which a tooth’s nerve
is removed and an inner canal cleansed and later filled.

Root planing – Scraping or cleansing of teeth to remove
heavy buildup of tartar below the gum line.

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Sealant – A synthetic material placed on the tooth’s
surface that protects the enamel and chewing surfaces.

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TMJ – Temporomandibular joint disorder. Health problems
related to the jaw joint just in front of the ear.

Tarter – A hardened substance (also called calculus) that
sticks to the tooth’s surface.

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Veneer – A laminate applied or bonded to the tooth.

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Whitening – A process that employs special bleaching agents
for restoring the color of teeth.

Wisdom tooth – Third set of molars that erupt last in adolescence.

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For more dental terms, visit the ADA’s Dictionary of Dental Terms.