dental glossary

Acetaminophen: This medicine relieves pain. You can buy this without getting a
prescription from your doctor. Anacin and Tylenol are examples of acetaminophen.
Acute: An illness that comes on suddenly, lasts a short time and may require immediate
Adult-onset diabetes: A health condition that develops in adults in which they are unable to
control the level of sugar in the blood.
Aesthetic: Having to do with appearance and beauty, like a smile. Also spelled esthetic. The
aesthetic zone is the area showing your teeth and gums when you smile.
Antibiotic prophylaxis: This is the use of antibiotics before exposure to bacteria to prevent
an infection. Also called premedication.
Antibiotics: Medicines that kill those bacteria that can make you sick.
Anticoagulant medications: Medicines that are used to keep blood clots from forming in
the blood. They are taken to reduce the risk of a stroke or heart attack.
Antiviral medications: Medicines used to fight viruses, which can make you sick.
Bacterial endocarditis: A serious, but rare, infection involving the heart.
Biocompatibility: The quality of being tolerated in a specific living environment, in spite of
some adverse or unwanted side effects.
Bisphosphonate: A medicine that strengthens bones.
Bleaching: The process of lightening the teeth to remove stains. The process usually
involves a chemical oxidizing agent and sometimes uses heat.
Bone augmentation: Building up the bone around dental implants (artificial tooth roots).
Biopsy: The process of removing tissue for histologic, or microscopic, evaluation.
Bone loss: A decrease in the amount of bone that supports a tooth or implant.
Caries: Commonly used term for tooth decay.
Cavity: Missing tooth structure. A cavity may be due to decay, erosion or abrasion. If caused
by caries; also referred to as a carious lesion.
Clinical trial: Research studies of the preventative or therapeutic effectiveness and/or
safety of a treatment or medicine. Usually evaluated by intra-group or inter-person
comparison. If no current treatment or drug exists it may be tested against a placebo group.
Codeine: This medicine relieves pain. In the United States, you need a prescription from a
doctor to buy codeine. It can have many side effects, including sleepiness, dizziness,
breathing problems, and physical or mental dependence.
Cosmetic/cosmetic dentistry: Any services provided by dentists solely for the purpose of
improving your appearance, not your health.
Crown: A crown is a single, artificial tooth that fits over a real tooth that has been specially
shaped. It can also fit over a dental implant.
Decay: Term for cavities; the decomposition of tooth structure.
Deciduous teeth: These are the first teeth a child gets. They are also called primary teeth
or baby teeth.
Deductible: The amount of dental expense for which the beneficiary is responsible before a
third party will assume payment of benefits.
Dental arch: The dental arch is the way your teeth are lined up in a curved shape inside
your mouth.
Dental bridge: This is an appliance that fills the space left by missing teeth with artificial
ones, held in place by attaching to natural teeth or implants. It can be removable or fixed in
Dental erosion: Dental erosion is the thinning or wearing away of the hard coating of a tooth
(the enamel).
Dentifrice: An old-fashioned word for toothpaste.
Dentures: A set of artificial teeth. They can replace all of one's teeth (complete dentures) or
a section of teeth (partial dentures).
Denture adherents/adhesives/ creams/ powders: Used as a temporary way to hold
dentures firmly in place. The adherent is applied to clean dentures that are then position in
the mouth and held in place for a few moments.
Denture cleansers: Creams, pastes, gels and solutions that are made to clean both full
dentures and removable partial dentures.
Dry mouth: Also called xerostomia; a condition that results from an inadequate flow of
Efficacy: The ability of a product to perform the function for which it was designed.
Enamel: The hard calcified tissue covering the dentin of the crown of the tooth.
Esthetic: Having to do with appearance and beauty, like a smile.
Extract: To pull or remove a tooth.
First molars: These are the molars (big teeth that you chew with) that are closest to the
front of your mouth.
Floss: Thick string used to remove food trapped between your teeth and remove bacteria
that cannot be reached by brushing alone. It is usually made from nylon filaments or plastic
monofilaments and may be treated with flavoring agents to make flossing more pleasant.
Fluoride: A mineral that helps prevent tooth decay (cavities).
Fluoride varnish: A liquid, containing fluoride, that is painted onto the teeth and hardens.
Gingival: Things having to do with your gums.
Gingivitis: Inflammation of gum tissue without loss of connective tissue.
Gum disease: A disease that may cause gums to be red, swollen and bleed easily. If it is
not treated, gum disease can get worse and damage the tissues that hold your teeth in
place. It is also called gingivitis or periodontal disease, depending on the severity.
Hepatitis C: An infection of the liver.
Ibuprofen: This medicine relieves pain. You can buy it without getting a prescription from a
doctor. Advil and Motrin are both ibuprofen.
Implant: An artificial tooth root that dentists put in the jaw bone. The dentist can put an
artificial tooth (or crown) on the implant, or you can use implants to hold bridges or dentures
in place.
Interdental cleaner: A device used to clean between the teeth, such as floss.
Intraoral: Inside the mouth.
Jaw: A common name for either the maxilla or the mandible.
Keratin: A protein present in all cuticular structures of the body such as hair, epidermis and
Loading: Term to describe when a dentist attaches the artificial tooth or dentures onto an
Malocclusion: This term is used to describe teeth that don't line up correctly in the mouth.
They may be too far apart, crooked or may not come together right when you bite down.
Molars: The large teeth in the back of your mouth. We use our molars to chew food.
Mouthrinse: An oral rinse that can be used to freshen breath, help prevent or control tooth
decay, reduce plaque, prevent or reduce gingivitis, reduce the formation of tartar, or a
combination of these effects. Usually available without a prescription.
NSAIDs: An abbreviation for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which are a group of
medicines that relieve pain. You can buy any of these without getting a prescription from
your doctor.
Opioids: This medicine relieves pain. You need a prescription from a doctor to buy opioids.
Opioids may make you sleepy or dizzy. They also can cause breathing problems, and you
can become dependent on them, where you feel hooked and don't want to stop taking them.
Oral: Pertaining to the mouth.
Oral hygiene: Activities you do to keep your mouth clean. These include brushing your
teeth, cheeks, tongue and dentures. They also can include using mouthwash or dental floss,
or having a dentist or hygienist clean your teeth.
Oral lichen planus: This condition may appear as white patches; red, swollen tissues; or
open sores in the mouth. Oral lichen planus may cause discomfort like burning or pain.
Orthodontic treatment: Orthodontic treatment is used to make teeth line up correctly. Also
see malocclusion. Braces are a kind of orthodontic treatment.
Osteonecrosis of the jaws: Severe loss of the jaw bone. Sometimes referred to as ONJ.
Osteoporosis: A disease that causes bones to become thin and brittle.
Over-the-counter: Medicines available for sale that you can get without a prescription from
a doctor. Also referred to as OTC.
Peri-implantitis : This is an infection that develops around an implant. It can cause bone
Periodontal disease: More commonly known as gum disease, it is caused by plaque. When
the plaque is not removed it can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth. Your gums
may also become inflamed and bleed easily.
Periodontitis: A severe form of gum disease which can lead to tooth loss.
Plaque: A soft, sticky, thin layer of bacteria that forms on your teeth all the time.
Primary teeth: This is the first set of teeth that you get when you are a child. These are
sometimes called baby teeth.
Prophylaxis: Removal of plaque, calculus and stains from the tooth structures. Usually
called a prophy or teeth cleaning, this procedure is performed in dental offices.
Pulp: The blood supply and nerves for the tooth.
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.
Radiograph: A picture of the bones or teeth inside the body. It also is called an X-ray.
Recede: This describes when the gums pull away from the teeth. It also can be called
Root canal treatment: A dental treatment for a tooth infection. During a root canal, the
blood supply and nerves of the tooth are removed. After that, the tooth is usually filled with a
material and sealed, or is specially shaped and covered with an artificial tooth (a crown).
Sealant: A thin plastic coating that can be put on the tops of molars and premolars (the big
teeth in the back of your mouth). Sealants get hard and keep food from getting packed in the
surfaces of these teeth. They help prevent cavities.
Sinuses: The spaces in the bones of your face, located in the forehead and on either side of
the nose.
Sjögren Syndrome: An illness in which the immune system attacks the body's own cells by
mistake. It mainly causes dry mouth and dry eyes, but can affect other areas of the body like
the joints.
Staining: Discoloration of tooth surfaces. Can happen as the result of injury, genetics,
smoking, certain medications, drinking of coffee or tea but is ultimately a part of aging.
Stomatitis: An irritation of any of the soft tissues of the mouth: lips, gums, cheeks, tongue,
floor or roof of the mouth.
Temporomandibular joint disorders: These are problems in your jaw joints that can cause
pain. Also called TMD.
Therapeutic: Of or pertaining to therapy or treatment; beneficial. Therapy has as its goal the
elimination or control of a disease or another abnormal state.
Tooth decay: A hole in the tooth caused by the acid in plaque. The more common name is
Tooth extraction: The removal of a tooth from the bone socket and surrounding gums.
Topical: Refers to medications that are applied to the surface of the body, externally.
Unerupted: A tooth that has not pushed through the gumline.
Veneer: Thin, custom-made shells crafted of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the
front side of teeth.
Whitening: Any process that will make teeth appear whiter. It can be achieved with a
bleaching or non-bleaching product. Whitening options range from in-office procedures to
whitening toothpastes.
Wisdom teeth: The last teeth to come in during young adulthood. Also called third molars.
Xerostomia: Decreased salivary secretion that produces a dry and sometimes burning
sensation. Also called dry mouth.
X-ray: See radiograph.
Zinc: A nutrient that is found in cells throughout the body that helps the immune system fight
off invading bacteria and viruses.
Zygomatic bone: Quadrangular bone on either side of the face that forms the cheek
Glossary of Dental Terms
A local infection resulting in the collection of pus under pressure. A dental abscess
may be caused by severe decay, trauma, or gum disease and will be characterised
by swelling and pain. If an abscess ruptures, it will be accompanied by sudden
relief from pain and a foul taste in the mouth.
The teeth on either side of a missing toothAbutments are the part of the bridge
used to support the replacement of the missing teeth (pontics).
Silver filling. Amalgams are usually placed on the back teeth (posterior teeth).
Relieves the sensation of pain
X-ray that shows the upper and lower teeth's biting surfaces on the same film. This
x-ray shows the portion of the teeth above the gumline.
A fixed appliance (prosthesis) that replaces missing teeth. A bridge is a series of
crowns (abutments and pontics).
Clenching or grinding of the teeth
The sticky film on your teeth (plaque) that has hardened (calcified). Also known as
The narrow chamber inside the root of the tooth that contains the nerve and blood
The third tooth from the centre of the mouth to the back of the mouth. Also known
as the 'eye tooth'; These are the front teeth that have one rounded or pointed edge
used for biting.
Caries (dental)
The clinical name for dental decay.
Composite (resin) Restoration
The technical name for a 'white filling'. Although used primarily at the front of the
mouth, these fillings are increasingly being placed in molar teeth because of
advances in material technology.
A porcelain, or gold cover for a decayed, damaged, brittle, or discolored tooth that
has a strong base and roots.
Surgical scraping of bacteria from the soft tissue.
The high points on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (posterior teeth).
Deciduous Teeth
The baby teeth. Also known as the 'milk teeth'. There are twenty deciduous teeth.
A removable appliance (prosthesis) that replaces all of the missing teeth in either
the upper or lower jaw. Usually made of plastic or metal.
Dental Treatment Benefit Scheme also known as the PRSI scheme managed by the Department
of Protection. Under this Scheme PRSI payers are entitled to receive one free annual oral
Dental Treatment Services Scheme. The HSE manages this Scheme which offers medical card
holders free routine dental care from contracting private dental practitioners .
All the teeth are missing in either the upper and / or lower jaw.
The hard, outer shiny layer of the tooth. Certain conditions including grinding
habits, a very acidic diet and brushing too hard can wear the enamel away leading
to sensitive teeth.
Extraction (exodontia)
The removal of teeth that are severely decayed, broken, lose, or causing crowding.
The treatment of diseases or injuries that affect the root tip or nerve of the tooth. The most
common procedure is a root canal treatment.
Full Mouth Radiographs
X-rays showing all the teeth. Includes 14 periapicals and 2 or 4 bitewings. Also known as a
complete series.
General Anaesthesia
Relieves the sensation of pain on the whole body. General anesthesia renders you unconscious.
The clinical term used to describe the gums.
Inflammation of the gums characterised by redness, bleeding and swelling. In
certain instances, the condition may also cause pain (e.g. ANUG).
An unerupted or partially erupted tooth that will not fully erupt because it is
obstructed by another tooth, bone, or soft tissue.
A post that is implanted in the jaw bone. A crown, bridge or denture may then be
retained by the implant.
The central and lateral incisor, those are the first and second teeth from the centre
of the mouth to the back of the mouth. These are the front teeth with the flat edges
for biting and cutting.
A laboratory processed restoration made of metal, acrylic, composite or porcelain.
This filling does not involve the high points of the tooth (cusps).
Local Anaesthetic
Relieves the sensation of pain in a localized area.
The Lower Jaw
The Upper Jaw
Molar Tooth
The first, second and third molars, those are the sixth, seventh and eighth teeth
from the centre of the mouth to the back of the mouth. The back teeth with the
large chewing surface on top. They have 4 points (cusps).
Night Guard Appliance
A removable acrylic appliance to minimize the effects of grinding the teeth (bruxism) or joint
problems (T.M.J.). Usually worn at night to prevent the grinding of teeth or relieve joint pain.
The chewing surfaces of the back tooth
A laboratory processed restoration made of metal, porcelain or acrylic that replaces one or more
of the highest points of the tooth (cusps).
Oral Surgery
Surgery of the mouth.
Orthodontics is one of the specialised fields of dentistry. It is concerned with the
growth and development of the dentition and the treatment of irregularities which
can occur.
Abbreviation for a Periapical Radiograph (X-ray) .
Paedodontics is one of the specialised fields of dentistry. It is the practice of dentistry on children.
Roof of the mouth.
Commonly known as an OPG. An x-ray taken outside of the mouth that shows all
the teeth on one film.
Partial Denture
A removable appliance (prosthesis) that replaces some of the teeth in either the
upper or lower jaw.
Periodontal Charting
Measures the depth that the gums have detached from the side of the tooth forming a pocket
(perio pocket).
The treatment of diseases of the gum or bone (supporting structure).
Periodontal Pocketing
The pocket that forms when the gums detach from the side of the tooth.
Permanent Molars
The adult first and second molars, they are the sixth and seventh teeth from the
centre of the mouth to the back of the mouth. Does not include the third molar
(wisdom tooth).
A sticky, bacteria laden film on the teeth. If it is not removed by brushing it can
harden into calculus.
The part of a bridge that replaces the missing tooth or teeth.
The first and second bicuspids, those are the fourth and fifth teeth from the centre
of the mouth to the back of the mouth. These are the back teeth that are used for
chewing, they only have two points (cusps).
Procedures performed to prevent decay and gum disease.
Primary Teeth
See 'Deciduous Teeth'.
Cleaning the teeth. Also known as a prophy.
A fixed or removable appliance to replace missing teeth. Example: bridges,
dentures and partials. Sometimes single crowns are considered prosthetics.
Dealing with the replacement of missing teeth.
One of the four equal sections of the mouth. The upper right, upper left, lower right
or the lower left.
Procedures performed to restore the missing part of the teeth.
Root Canal Treatment (RCT)
The nerve of the tooth is removed from the canal inside the root and replaced with
a filling material
Root Planing
Deep cleaning of the teeth to remove calculus below the gumline.
Sealant (Fissure Sealant)
Clear or coloured application of resin placed over the biting surface of the tooth to help prevent
decay. Most commonly placed on newly erupted first permanent molar teeth.
Temporo (temporal bone), mandibular (lower jaw). This is the connecting hinge between the
lower jaw and base of the skull. Also known as TMJ.
Treatment Plan
A list of procedures and related costs recommended to treat patient's dental needs.
A porcelain facing placed on an anterior tooth. With the recent boom in esthetic
dentistry, veneers are commonly being used to improve smiles.
Wisdom Teeth
The third molar, this is the eighth tooth from the centre of mouth to the back of the
mouth. Wisdom teeth are often impacted (obstructed from erupting) and have to be extracted.
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