Dental Glossary

A working knowledge of dental terms can be helpful not only for you, but also for ensuring your child understands his or her dental care. We’ve selected several common terms and defined them. Of course, we’re happy to answer any question you have. Just give us a call.


Abscess - infection caused by severe tooth decay, trauma or gum disease.

Abrasion- tooth wear caused by forces other than chewing such as holding objects between the teeth or improper brusing.

Amalgam - a silver material that can be used for fillings.


General Anesthesia- controlled state of unconsciousness, accompanied by a partial or complete loss of protective reflexes, including loss of ability to independently maintain airway and respond purposefully to physical stimulation or verbal command, produced by a pharmacologic or non-pharmacologic method or combination.

Local Anesthesia- the loss of pain sensation over a specific area of the anatomy without loss of consciousness.

Non-Intravenous Conscious Sedation- medically controlled state of depressed consciousness while maintaining the patient’s airway, protective reflexes and the ability to respond to stimulation or verbal commands. It includes administration of sedative and/or analgesic agent(s) by a route other than IV

Regional Anesthesia-term used for local anesthesia.

Anterior Teeth-the teeth in the front of your mouth.

Antiseptic - an agent that can be applied to living tissues to destroy germs.

Apex - the very tip of the root of a tooth.

Aspirator - a suction devise your dentist uses to remove saliva from your mouth.


Bicuspid- a premolar tooth; a tooth with two cusps in the back between the cuspids and molars.

Bleaching Agent - a gel used to whiten and brighten teeth.

Bonding - refers to how a filling, orthodontic appliance or some fixed partial dentures are attached to teeth.

Bridge - one or more artificial teeth attached to your adjacent teeth.

Bruxism - the clenching or grinding of teeth, most commonly while sleeping.


Calculus - the hardened plaque that can form on neglected or prone teeth, commonly known as tartar.

Canine - the pointy teeth just behind the laterals.

Caries - another name for cavities or decay.

Cavity - a tiny hole in the tooth caused by decay.

Central - the two upper and two lower teeth in the center of the mouth.

Cleft Lip- birth defect in which one or more fissures form in the upper lip, which takes place while the fetus is growing.

Cleft Palate- congenital deformity resulting in lack of fusion of the soft and/or hard palate, either partial or complete.

Crown - an artificial tooth or cover made of porcelain or metal.

Cuspid - the pointy teeth just behind the laterals, also known as canines.

Cyst- pathological cavity, usually lined with epithelium, containing fluid or soft matter.


Decalcification - the loss of calcium from the teeth.

Deciduous Teeth - also called "baby teeth."

Dental Implants - an implant permanently attached to the jawbone that replaces a missing permanent tooth or teeth.

Dentin- the part of the tooth that is beneath enamel and cementum.

Denture - a removable set of artificial teeth.


Enamel - the hard surface of the tooth above the gum line.

Endodontist - a dentist who specializes in root canals and the treatment of diseases and infections of the dental pulp (inner tooth).

Erosion- wearing down of tooth structure, caused by chemicals (acids)

Eruption-when a tooth emerges or pushes through the gums.

Excision- surgical removal of bone or tissue.

Extraction - the removal of a tooth or teeth.


Filling - a plug made of metal or composite material used to fill a tooth cavity.

Fixed Appliances- orthodontic devices, commonly known as braces, that are bonded to the teeth to produce different tooth movements to help reposition teeth for orthodontic therapy.

Fluoride - a chemical solution used to harden teeth and prevent decay.

Fracture- the breaking of a part, especially of bony structure; breaking of a tooth.

Full-Mouth X-Rays- a combination of fourteen or more periapical and four bitewing films of the back teeth. The number of films depends on the patients age and dentition. These images reveal all the teeth (their crowns and roots) and the alveolar bone around them.


Gingiva- soft tissues overlying the crowns of unerupted teeth and encircling the necks of teeth that have erupted.

Gingivitis - inflammation of gums around the roots of the teeth.

Graft- a piece of tissue or alloplastic material placed in contact with tissue to repair a defect or supplement a deficiency.

Gums - the firm flesh that surrounds the roots of the teeth.


Impacted Tooth - often occurring with wisdom teeth, it is a tooth that sits sideways below the gum line, often requiring extraction.

Incisor - one of the flat, sharp-edged teeth in the front of the mouth.


Lateral - these are the teeth adjacent to the centrals

Lesion- and injury or wound; area of diseased tissue.

Lingual- pertaining to or around the tongue; surface of the tooth directed toward the tongue: opposite of facial.


Malocclusion- improper alignment of biting or chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth.

Maxilla- the upper jaw.

Molar- teeth posterior to the premolars (bicuspids) on either side of the jaw: they have large crowns and broad chewing surfaces.

Mouthgaurd- a device that fits over the teeth to prevent injury to the teeth, mouth or lips. May also refer to a device that prevents tooth grinding or treats temporomandibular disorders.


Night Guard - a plastic mouthpiece worn at night to prevent grinding of the permanent teeth. Often used to treat TMJ.


Occlusion- any contact between biting or chewing surfaces of maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) teeth.

Oral And Maxillofacial Surgeon- a dental specialist whose practice is limited to the diagnosis, surgical and adjunctive treatment of diseases, injuries, deformities, defects and esthetic aspects of the oral and maxillofacial regions.

Orthodontist- a dental specialist whose practice is limited to the interception and treatment of malocclusion of the teeth and their surrounding structures.


Pedodontist - also known as a pediatric dentist, a dentist that specializes in the treatment of children's teeth.

Periodontist - a dentist specializing in the treatment of gum disease.

Plaque - a sticky buildup of acids and bacteria that causes tooth decay.

Posterior Teeth - the teeth in the back of the mouth.

Primary Teeth - also known as "baby teeth" or deciduous teeth.

Prosthodontist - a dentist specializing in the restoration and replacement of missing teeth or severely damaged teeth.

Pulp- connective tissue that contains blood vessels and nerve tissue which occupies the pulp cavity of the tooth.

Pulpotomy- surgical removal of a portion of the pulp with the aim of maintaining the vitality of the remaining portion by means of an adequate dressing.


Radiograph- an image produced by projecting radiation, as x-rays, on photographic film. Commonly called x-ray.

Ranula- a cyst that can develop under the tongue on the floor of the mouth.

Resorb- to dissolve.

Retainer- an appliance to stabilize teeth following orthodontic treatment.

Root - the portion of the tooth below your gum line.

Root Canal - cleaning out and filling the inside nerve of a tooth.


Scaling- removal of plaque, calculus, and stain from teeth.

Sealant - plastic coating applied to teeth to prevent decay. Used most commonly for children.

Secondary Teeth - the permanent teeth.

Six-Year Molar - commonly known as "the first permanent molar."

Sleep Apnea - a potentially serious disorder in which a sleeping person may stop breathing for 10 seconds or more, often continuously throughout the night.

Suture- stitch used to repair incision or wound.


Tartar - see calculus.

TMJ Syndrome - a disorder associated with the joint of the jaw. Often caused by a misalignment of or a disparity in upper and lower jaw sizes.

Tooth whitening - a process designed to whiten and brighten teeth.

Twelve-year molar - commonly known as "the second permanent molar."


Unerupted- tooth/teeth that have not penetrated into the oral cavity.


Veneer - a plastic, porcelain or composite material used to improve the attractiveness of a stained or damaged tooth.