Glossary Of Dental Terms
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.


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 mouth.

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.


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 fluid.

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 surface.

Cuspids – Front teeth that typically have a protruding edge.


Dentin – The tooth layer underneath the enamel.

Denture – A removable set of teeth.


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


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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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 teeth.

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.


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.


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


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.


Veneer – A laminate applied or bonded to the tooth.


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.