General Dental Terminology
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.
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a wearing away of the tooth’s outer covering and caused by forces other than chewing. Toothpicks, improper brushing and dental retainers are common causes of abrasion.
an infection caused by severe tooth decay, trauma or gum disease. Bacteria enters the tooth through openings in the tooth enamel and infects the pulp. It is important to catch the infection before it enters the root and bones supporting the tooth.
a safe, affordable and durable material that is used to restore (fill) a tooth that has been impacted by decay.
local anesthesia- numbs the teeth and gums to prevent you from feeling discomfort during dental treatment.
a drug used by your doctor to eliminate a patient’s localized pain during certain dental procedures.
- Anterior Teeth
the teeth in the front of your mouth. Often referring to the incisors and canine teeth.
an agent that can be applied to living tissues to destroy germs. In most dental practices, antiseptics are topical agents used to inhibit the growth and development of microorganisms.
the very tip of the root of the tooth.
a premolar tooth; a tooth with two cusps in the back between the cuspids (canines) and molars.
- Bleaching agent
a gel used to whiten and brighten teeth.
refers to how a filling or orthodontic appliances are attached to teeth.
the clenching or grinding of teeth, most commonly while sleeping.
the hardened plaque that can form on neglected or prone teeth, commonly known as tartar.
the pointy teeth just behind the laterals.
another name for cavities or decay.
defect or hole in tooth caused by decay.
- Central Incisor
the two upper or 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.
an artificial tooth or cover made of zirconia, composite or metal.
the pointy teeth just behind the laterals, also known as canines.
pathological cavity, usually lined with epithelium, containing fluid or soft matter.
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.
- Dental Sealants for Kids
find an in-depth look at sealant information on our Frequently Asked Questions page here.
the part of the tooth that is beneath the enamel and cementum.
the hard surface of the tooth above the gum line.
a dentist who specializes in root canals and the treatment of diseases and infections of the dental pulp (inner tooth).
wearing down the tooth structure, caused by chemicals (acids).
when a tooth emerges or pushes through the gums.
the removal of a tooth or teeth.
a metal or composite material used to fill a tooth cavity.
- Fixed Appliance
orthodontic devices, commonly known as braces, that are bonded to the teeth to produce different tooth movements to help reposition teeth for orthodontic therapy.
a compound that contains fluorine, a natural element. Inhibits loss of minerals from tooth enamel and encourages re-mineralization (strengthening areas that are weakened or beginning to develop cavities).
the breaking of a part, especially of the bony structure; breaking of a tooth.
soft tissues overlaying the crowns of unerupted teeth and encircling the necks of teeth that have erupted.
inflammation of gums around the roots of the teeth.
a piece of tissue or alloplastic material placed in contact with tissue to repair a defect or supplement a deficiency.
the firm tissue 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.
one of the flat, sharp-edged teeth in the front of the mouth.
- Lateral Incisor
these are the teeth adjacent to the central incisors.
an injury or wound; area of diseased tissue.
pertaining to or around the tongue; surface of the tooth directly toward the tongue: opposite of facial.
improper alignment of upper and lower teeth.
the upper jaw.
teeth posterior to the premolars (bicuspids) on either side of the jaw; they have large crowns and broad chewing surfaces.
- Mouth guard
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.
- Nitrous Oxide
along with oxygen is a blend of gases that provide safe effective sedative agent to calm children’s fear of the dental visit.
any contact between biting and 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 and esthetic aspects of the oral and maxillofacial regions.
a dental specialist whose practice is limited to the interception and treatment of malocclusion of the teeth and their surrounding structures.
also known as a pediatric dentist, a dentist that specializes in the treatment of infants, children and teens.
a dental specialist whose practice is limited to the placement of dental implants, cosmetic oral plastic surgery and reconstructive and regenerative therapy.
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.
a dentist specializing in the restoration and replacement of missing teeth or severely damaged teeth.
connective tissue that contains blood vessels and nerve tissues which occupies the pulp cavity of the tooth.
removal of a portion of the pulp with the aim of maintaining vitality of the remaining portion by means of an adequate dressing.
an image produce by projecting radiation, as x-rays. Commonly called an x-ray.
an appliance to stabilize teeth following orthodontic treatment.
the portion of the tooth below the gum line.
- Root Canal
cleaning out and filling the inside nerve of the tooth.
removal of plaque, calculus and stain from teeth.
plastic coating applied to molars (back teeth) to prevent decay.
- Secondary Teeth
the permanent teeth.
- Sedation Dentistry
sedation is the use of medication to make your child very calm for a procedure, but not sound asleep. Our pediatric dentist may recommend sedation dentistry for long or multiple procedures, for children with a high fear of dental care, those who have special needs, or children who find it difficult to sit still.
- 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.
stitch used to repair an incision or wound.
- Tooth Whitening
a process designed to whiten and brighten teeth.
- Twelve-Year Molar
commonly known as “the second permanent molar”.
tooth/teeth that have not penetrated into the oral cavity.
a plastic, porcelain or composite material used to improve the attractiveness of a stained or damaged tooth.