Dental Glossary

Do you see a term on a dental website and then search it in Google to find what it means? Or when your dental team gives you instructions, you find it hard to understand? Don’t worry! We are here to help you. You can use this glossary of dental terms to save you time and effort.

The use of dental terms is many times subjective. It is always advisable to talk to your dentist to get detailed information about the specific dental words.


A B C D E F G H I J L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Z

A

Abutment- An abutment is a connector that is fixed into a dental implant. Its main function is to support a dental crown.

Abutment teeth- The teeth adjacent to the space formed by missing tooth are called as abutment teeth. These teeth provide support to a dental bridge.

Aesthetic dentistry (cosmetic dentistry)- Aesthetic dentistry or cosmetic dentistry refers to dental treatments done to improve the way the teeth, gums, and the facial profile looks. It includes procedures like teeth whitening, veneers, smile makeover, orthodontics, frenectomy, gingival surgery, etc.

Allograft- The bone graft taken from a donor of the same species is an allograft. In dentistry, allografts may be used in implant surgery, sinus lift procedures, etc.

Alveolar bone- It is the jaw bone that forms the tooth socket and holds the tooth in position along with the periodontal ligament.

Alveoloplasty- The surgery done to shape bony spicules and make them smooth is known as alveoloplasty. Bony spicules are sharp projections of bone that commonly occur after tooth extraction.

Anesthesia (local or infiltration)- It is the application of chemicals to numb the teeth and surrounding tissues to eliminate the sensation of pain.

Anterior tooth- The front teeth are the anterior teeth. These teeth are usually visible during smiling.

B

Bicuspids- These are the fourth and fifth teeth from the midline of the mouth. Bicuspids are also called as premolars.

Biopsy- It is a diagnostic process that involves removal of a part or entire tissue for microscopic evaluation.

Bite- It is also called as occlusion. It is the way your teeth meet when you close your mouth.

Bitewing X-ray- It is the X-ray view that is commonly advised for detection of proximal caries. A bite-wing X-ray shows upper as well as lower teeth in a single film.

Bone resorption- Bone loss occurs in bone resorption. This process is commonly seen in oral cancers, periodontal infections, etc.

Braces- Braces are used during an orthodontic treatment to straighten your teeth or for correcting other orthodontic problems.

Bruxism- It is excessive clenching of teeth that commonly occurs in sleep.

Buccal- This term is used while referring a surface facing the cheeks or mouth. For example, the tooth surface facing the cheeks is the buccal surface.

C

Calculus (tartar)- The yellowish mineralized deposits on teeth and surrounding tissues is dental calculus. It occurs due to the hardening of dental plaque and cannot be removed by tooth brushing. Your dentist or dental hygienist will remove dental calculus through the process of scaling.

Canine- The third tooth from the midline is the cuspid or canine tooth.

Cantilever bridge- A cantilever bridge is made when abutment teeth are absent on one side of the empty space formed by missing teeth. It has retainer crowns only on one side of the pontic.

Cementum- It is a mineralized layer of tissue that covers the tooth roots. It is a component of periodontium that attaches a tooth to the jaw bone.

Clasp- Dental clasps are the metal extensions in a removable partial denture or dental bridge. They help in anchoring the prosthetic device to the adjacent teeth or dental implants. The dental clasps can also be made from resin material.

Cleft lip and cleft palate- In this developmental disorder, there is a gap that separates the lip, palate or both into two parts. This condition usually mandates a surgical intervention.

Composite- It is a tooth-colored, resin material used in dental fillings. It is also commonly used in cosmetic enhancement procedures.

Cyst- It is a cavity filled with fluid, gases or other infectious materials. It may appear as a swelling and needs immediate treatment by a dentist.

D

Deciduous teeth (milk teeth or baby teeth)- Deciduous teeth form the primary dentition. It is the set of teeth that erupt first in mouth.

Dental abrasion- The loss of tooth enamel due to excessive forces like during tooth brushing, clenching of teeth, etc. is called as tooth abrasion.

Dental abscess- It is the infection of tooth, gums or the jaw bone. It usually manifests as a swelling in the gums near the decayed tooth.

Dental amalgam- The mixture of mercury and silver alloy is called as dental amalgam. It is a restorative material used in dental fillings.

Dental bonding (tooth bonding, direct composite restorations)- It is the application of composite for achieving cosmetic corrections. Tooth bonding is an alternative to porcelain veneers. It is commonly used for treatment of tooth discoloration, gap between teeth, chipped or broken teeth, etc.

Dental bridge (fixed partial denture)- It is a prosthetic device that covers the gap formed by missing teeth by taking support from the adjacent teeth. Usually, it is an assembly of three dental crowns.

Dental caries- Dental caries is a microbiologic process that affects the mineralized and non-mineralized tissues of a tooth. It usually results in a dental cavity or hole that is caused by the loss of tooth structure.

Dental crown- It is a dental cap that covers a tooth. It is fabricated in a laboratory and is cemented on a natural tooth or dental implant.

Dental filling- It is the restoration of a decayed, chipped, broken or fractured tooth with artificial materials. Usually, materials like dental amalgam, composite, cements, etc. are usually used in dental filling.

Dental implant- It is a titanium screw that substitutes the tooth root and is surgically fixed within the jaw bone. It is supported by a dental crown, dental bridge or a denture.

Dental prophylaxis (scaling)- It is also known as cleaning. In this process, a dentist or dental hygienist removes dental plaque, calculus, food debris, etc. attached to a tooth surface. This process is essential for maintaining the health of gums and periodontium.

Dentin- It is the second layer present between enamel and pulp. It is composed of tiny tubules, like a bunch of funnels extending from enamel to pulp.

Dentition- The arrangement or condition of teeth in an individual.

Diastema- Diastema is the gap present between two teeth. It commonly occurs as midline diastema, that is the gap between right and left central incisors.

E

Edentulous- The absence of teeth in mouth is edentulism. If some of the teeth are absent, it is called as partial edentulism and the total absence of teeth is complete edentulism.

Enamel- It is the outer, mineralized covering of a tooth.

Eruption- The process through which a tooth exfoliates the gums and comes out in mouth is tooth eruption.

Extraction- The removal of tooth or tooth root from the jaw bone is called as dental extraction.

Extraoral- In dental terms, anything that is present outside the mouth is extraoral. For example, an extraoral swelling.

F

Floss- Dental floss is a thin thread that is used to remove food debris and plaque from the spaces between teeth.

Fluorosis- Fluorosis is a disease caused due to the excess levels of fluoride in body. Fluorosis manifests as chalky-white or brownish-black pigmentation on teeth. The enamel is weak in dental fluorosis, and so there are increased chances of tooth fracture.

G

Gingiva- It is the synonym for gums. Gingiva is a part of periodontium that supports the teeth.

Gingivitis- The inflammation of gums is called as gingivitis. The main signs include reddish gums, bleeding from gums, bad breath, etc.

Gutta percha- It is an artificial, rubber-like material that is sealed in the root canals during a root canal therapy.

H

Halitosis- Halitosis or bad breath is the sign of foul odor from mouth. It commonly occurs due to poor maintenance of oral hygiene, gum diseases, tooth decay, etc.

I

Immediate dentures- The dentures that are placed immediately after tooth extraction are immediate dentures. Unlike the conventional dentures, the impression making and all laboratory steps are done before the tooth extraction.

Impaction- The tooth that fails to erupt in mouth is an impacted tooth.

Impression- The registration of the tooth shape, form and the contour of surrounding tissues is called as impression making. A dental impression is used to make a cast that is a replica of natural tissues.

Incisor- The front teeth are also called as incisors.

Inlay and onlay- These are the indirect restorations that are fabricated in a dental laboratory. They are made from gold, ceramic or composite resin. An inlay restores tooth structure except a tooth cusp. An onlay replaces a damaged or weakened dental cusp.

Intraoral- In dental terms, anything that is present within the mouth is intraoral. For example, intraoral image.

J

Jaw- A common name for either the maxilla or the mandible.

L

Labial- This term is used while referring a surface facing the lips. For example, the surface of a tooth that faces the lips is labial surface.

Lingual- This term is used while referring a surface that faces the tongue. For example, the surface of a tooth facing the tongue is lingual surface.

M

Malocclusion- The improper alignment of teeth when the jaws are closed is malocclusion. This condition usually requires orthodontic treatment.

Mandible- The lower jaw is also called as mandible.

Maxilla- The upper jaw is also called as maxilla.

Mesial- The surface of tooth that faces the midline is the mesial surface.

Mixed dentition- It is the phase of transition from primary dentition to permanent dentition. This dentition has milk teeth as well as permanent teeth.

Molars- The teeth located in the posterior part of mouth are molars. These teeth help in grinding food and facilitate the chewing process.

N

Nightguard- It is a mouth guard worn during night. It protects enamel from the wear and tear that may occur in bruxers.

O

Obturator- It is a prosthesis that is used to seal the gap that is formed due to removal of natural tissues by surgery. It is used after procedures like cleft lip and cleft palate surgery. It helps in performing normal oral functions like speaking, eating, etc.

Occlusal- The chewing surface or the surface of tooth that helps in grinding food is called as occlusal surface.

Overdenture- The denture that takes support from natural teeth or dental implants is overdenture. It offers a better fit as compared to the conventional dentures.

P

Palatal- This term is used while referring a surface that faces the palate. For example, the surface of tooth facing the palate is palatal surface.

Periapical X-ray- It is the X-ray that shows the crown and root portion of a tooth. Moreover, it specifically highlights the periapical region or region of tooth near the tooth apex.

Periodontium- It is the tissue that both surround and support the teeth.

Periodontal disease- The inflammation and infection of periodontium is called as periodontal disease. Periodontium includes gingiva, cementum, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone.

Permanent teeth- The teeth that appear in mouth after the baby teeth are permanent teeth. The permanent teeth form permanent dentition. Human permanent dentition has 32 teeth.

Plaque- It is a sticky bio-film that gets deposited on tooth surfaces and adjacent tissues. It is an important cause of gum diseases.

Pontic- It is the dummy tooth that replaces a missing tooth. It is attached to retainer crowns in a dental bridge.

Post and core- It is a type of dental restoration that supports a dental crown. It is indicated to reinforce the strength of a weak tooth.

Pulp- The third layer in tooth structure after dental enamel and dentin is pulp. This tissue contains blood vessels and nerve fibers.

Q

Quadrant- One of the four equal sections into which the dental arches can be divided. It begins at the midline of the arch and extends to the last tooth.

R

Removable denture- A prosthesis that replaces teeth and surrounding tissues and is not permanently fixed in the mouth is a removable denture. It can be a complete or a partial denture depending upon the number of missing teeth.

Retainers- These devices contain clear plastic and metal wires and are mostly used to maintain teeth in position after an orthodontic therapy.

Root canals- Dental pulp has two parts: pulp chamber and root canals. The portion of dental pulp present in the tooth roots is root canal.

Root canal treatment- The treatment of inflamed or infected pulp is root canal treatment.

Rubber dam- It is a rubber sheet that is placed in mouth for isolation of tooth during various dental procedures.

S

Sealant- These are the flowable resins that are applied in deep grooves, pits, and fissures of teeth. This process helps in prevention of dental caries.

Space maintainer- These devices are usually placed in children to prevent the closure of space caused by missing teeth. They facilitate the eruption of permanent tooth in its correct position.

Supernumerary teeth- The human permanent dentition has 32 teeth. The presence of extra teeth is called hyperdontia. The extra teeth are called as supernumerary teeth.

Suture- The stitches used in dental surgery to hold the tissues together are sutures.

T

Temporary crown- The dental crown that is given between appointments and is replaced by a permanent crown at later stages is a temporary crown. Similarly, your dentist may also place a temporary filling or temporary veneers.

Temporomandibular joint- It is the jaw joint or the joint between the upper and lower jaw.

Tooth apex- The root tip is also known as the tooth apex.

Tooth attrition- It is the wear of tooth that usually occurs due to the forces during chewing.

Tooth erosion- The loss of tooth structure that occurs due to chemical compounds like acidic drinks, lime juice, etc. is tooth erosion.

Tooth whitening (tooth bleaching)- The method of improving the shade of teeth and removing dental stains is tooth whitening. It can be done at a dental clinic or at home.

U

Unerupted tooth– A tooth that has formed but not emerged into the mouth.

V

Veneer- Veneers (laminates, porcelain veneers) - veneers are small shells or coatings of materials like ceramic and composite. They are usually placed on the front surface of a tooth to achieve cosmetic results. Veneers include direct and indirect veneers. Direct veneers are the bonded restorations. Indirect veneers are porcelain veneers that are fabricated in a dental laboratory.

W

Wisdom teeth- The third molars are also called as wisdom teeth. They usually erupt between 18-25 years. They are commonly impacted and require surgical extraction.

X

Xerostomia- Decreased salivary secretion that produces a dry and sometimes burning sensation. Also called dry mouth.

Z

Zygomatic bone- Quadrangular bone on either side of the face that forms the cheek prominence.