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  • Glossary of Dental Terms


    Abscess – a dental infection/symptom that is evidenced by inflammation of the gums and considerable accumulation of pus surrounding the tooth.

    Amalgam – a combination of mercury with silver that forms a material used for filling in cavities.

    Bicuspid – also called a premolar. A bicuspid is a tooth with two points, located between the incisors and the molars, and is primarily used to tear and grind food.

    Bonding – also called “adhesive dentistry”, is the process of bonding veneers or similar material to the surface of the tooth, by way of composite adhesive material.

    Bridge – a fixed partial denture that is used to replace missing tooth by attaching it to an adjacent tooth/teeth (depends on the kind of bridge).

    Bruxism – involuntary grinding and clenching of teeth, which ultimately leads to chipped/dislocated teeth. Bruxism can also be experienced during sleep.

    Calculus – or commonly known as “tartar”. Calculus is the hardened deposit of plaque that causes both tooth and gum diseases when not treated.

    Caries – also known as “tooth decay”, caries is the gradual, progressive destruction of the tooth.

    Cavity – is a depressed and dying area of the tooth caused by tooth decay.

    Composites – are synthetic resins used as restorative materials (i.e. creating dental fillings). Dental composites are made up of nontoxic material such as glass particles and silicon dioxide. They are the most preferred filling material used by dentists today because of their nontoxicity and their chemical properties that mimic the color of the tooth.

    Crown (“cap”) –a dental restoration procedure that “caps” (or covers) a tooth or a false tooth by using dental cement. A crown is used to replace a missing a portion of tooth.

    Cuspid – or the canine, is a tooth with a single, protruding cusp, primarily used for tearing down food.

    Dentin – is the calcareous material surrounding the pulp of the tooth and basically makes up the majority of the tooth.

    Dry socket – or “alveolitis”, is the inflammation of the socket of the tooth, which usually occurs when blood clots fail to form after an extraction of a molar or a wisdom tooth. Acute pain is usually felt for a few days but can be averted by drinking pain killers. Antibiotics have no effect in reducing the pain since a dry socket is not an infection.

    Enamel – is the hard white coating, made up of calcified tissue that encapsulates the crown of the tooth.

    Endodontist – a dentist who specializes in treating dental pulp and nerve infections/diseases related to the. Endodontists usually perform root canal surgery (endodontics).

    Fluoride – a substance found in toothpastes that is effective in preventing tooth decay. Rich amounts of fluoride are also found in drinking water.

    Gingivitis – swelling and soreness of the gums (gingival tissue) that, without proper treatment, can cause periodontal disease. Late onset of gingivitis is sometimes accompanied by bleeding gums.

    Gum disease – or “periodontitis” in dental terms, is a set of illnesses/infections that inflame and subsequently destroy the gum tissue if left untreated.

    Halitosis – also called “bad breath”, is an unpleasant odor spewing out of the mouth that is commonly caused by a variety of factors, both medical and dental: gingivitis, tooth decay or periodontitis.

    Impacted tooth – a condition/disorder in which a tooth cannot erupt normally because of another tooth blocking the way of its eruption.

    Incisor – a chisel-shaped tooth located at the front of the mouth. Incisors are used primarily in cutting down/gnawing food to several pieces.

    Malocclusion – or a “bad bite relationship” is a dental condition that is evidenced by the misalignment or protrusion of a tooth/set of teeth.

    Molars – are the rearmost teeth in the human body. They are primarily used to grind down food so food can be easily digested by the stomach.

    Mucin – is a nitrogenous substance found in the saliva that, when mixed with sugars, form bacterial plaque.

    Orthodontist – a dentist specializing in the treatment of malocclusions and other irregularities of the teeth (orthodontics).

    Pedodontist – a dentist who specializes in the treatment of children’s teeth (pedodontics).

    Periodontist – a dentist specializing in the treatment of gum diseases, periodontal diseases and, at times, TMJ symptoms.

    Periodontal Disease – a disease that attacks the gum and usually begins with gingivitis and progresses to aggressive forms of diseases that affect the gum. Periodontal diseases can come from either negligent oral hygiene or from medical conditions such as diabetes and cancer.

    Plaque – is the sticky thin film made up of bacteria and other microorganisms that latch onto the surface of the tooth. When left untreated, plaque leads to tartar, dental cavities and periodontitis.

    Prosthodontist – a dentist who specializes in creating prosthetic teeth and other dental appliances for patients who have missing teeth (prosthodontics).

    Pulp – is the central part of the tooth that is made up of living tissue, blood vessels, nerves and tooth cells called odontoblasts.

    Pulpitis – is an infection of a nerve inside of the tooth wherein the dental pulp becomes inflamed because of trauma from an accident. Pulpitis is usually signaled by acute toothaches.

    Radiographs – are X-ray pictures of the teeth, mouth and jaw usually used when locating an impacted tooth or finding the extent of the root of the teeth before applying dental appliances like braces, dentures, etc.

    Root Canal (or Root Canal Therapy) – is the process of removing the pulp of a tooth and cleaning, shaping and finally filling the inside of the pulp chamber. A root canal therapy is used to the salvage the damaged tooth, to be later covered by a jacket or a crown.

    Wisdom teeth – or the “third molar teeth” are the final set of teeth that usually erupt from ages 15-25. The eruption of these teeth may pose some serious problems, especially if there is another tooth blocking the wisdom teeth’s opening. The average adult has four wisdom teeth: a pair in both the upper and lower jaws. Removal of an impacted wisdom tooth often results in a dry socket.

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