Dental Glossary


  • Amalgam

    Material made from mercury and other alloy mixtures used to restore a drilled portion of a tooth.

  • Anesthesia

    Medications used to relieve pain.

  • Anterior teeth

    Front teeth. Also called incisors and cuspids.

  • Arch

    The upper or lower jaw.


  • Baby bottle tooth decay

    Caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby's mouth.

  • Bicuspids

    A premolar tooth; tooth with two cusps, which are pointed or rounded eminences on or near the masticating surface of a tooth.

  • Bitewings

    X-rays that help a dentist diagnose cavities.

  • Bonding

    Application of tooth-colored resin materials to the surface of the teeth.

  • Bridge

    A prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth cemented or otherwise attached to the abutment teeth or implant replacements.

  • Bruxism

    Teeth grinding.


  • Calculus

    A hard deposit of mineralized substance adhering to crowns and/or roots of teeth or prosthetic devices.

  • Canal

    The narrow chamber inside the tooth's root.

  • Canines

    Also called cuspids.

  • Canker sore

    One that occurs on the delicate tissues inside your mouth. A canker sore is usually light-colored at its base and can have a red exterior border.

  • Caries

    A commonly used term for tooth decay, or cavities.

  • Cold sore

    Usually occurs on the outside of the mouth, usually on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious because it is caused by the herpes simplex virus, and it is usually painful and filled with fluid.

  • Composite filling

    Tooth colored restorations, also known as resin fillings.

  • Composite resin

    A tooth colored resin combined with silica or porcelain and used as a restoration material.

  • Contouring

    The process of reshaping teeth.

  • Crown

    An artificial tooth replacement that restores missing tooth structure by surrounding the remaining coronal tooth structure. It is also placed on a dental implant.

  • Cusps

    The pointed parts on top of the back teeth's chewing surface.

  • Cuspids

    Front teeth that typically have a protruding edge.


  • Dentin

    The tooth layer underneath the enamel.

  • Denture

    A removable set of teeth.


  • Endodontics

    A form of dentistry that addresses problems affecting the tooth's root or nerve


  • Fluoride

    A harmless over-exposure to fluoride resulting in tooth discoloration.

  • Fluorosis

    A harmless over-exposure to fluoride and resulting sometimes in tooth discoloration.


  • Gingiva

    Another word for gum tissue.

  • Gum disease

    An infection of the gum tissues. Also called periodontal disease.

  • Gingivitis

    A minor disease of the gums caused by plaque.


  • Impacted teeth

    A condition in which a tooth fails to erupt or only partially erupts.

  • Incisor

    Front teeth with cutting edges; located in the center or on the sides near the front.

  • Implant

    A permanent appliance used to replace a missing tooth.

  • Inlay

    An artificial filling made of various materials, including porcelain, resin, or gold.


  • Laminate veneer

    A shell that is bonded to the enamel of a front tooth. The shell is usually thin and made from porcelain resin.


  • Malocclusion

    Bad bite relationship.

  • Maxilla

    The upper jaw.

  • Mandible

    The lower jaw.

  • Molar

    Usually the largest teeth, near the rear of the mouth. Molars have large chewing surfaces.


  • Neuromuscular Dentistry

    Addresses more than the aches and pains felt in and around the neck and head that are associated with your teeth and jaw.


  • Onlay

    A filling designed to protect the chewing surface of a tooth.

  • Overdenture

    A non-fixed dental appliance applied to a small number of natural teeth or implants.

  • Orthodontics

    A field of dentistry that deals with tooth and jaw alignment.


  • Palate

    Roof of the mouth.

  • Pediatric Dentistry

    A field of dentistry that deals with children’s teeth.

  • Periodontal disease

    Infection of the gum tissues. Also called gum disease.

  • Permanent teeth

    The teeth that erupt after primary teeth. Also called adult teeth.

  • Posterior teeth

    The bicuspids and molars. Also called the back teeth.

  • Prophylaxis

    The act of cleaning the teeth.

  • Pulp

    The inner tissues of the tooth containing blood, nerves and connective tissue.

  • Partial denture

    A removable appliance that replaces missing teeth.

  • Perio pocket

    An opening formed by receding gums.

  • Periodontist

    A dentist who treats diseases of the gums.

  • Plaque

    A sticky, colorless substance that covers the teeth after sleep or periods between brushing.

  • Primary teeth

    A person's first set of teeth. Also called baby teeth or temporary teeth.

  • Prosthodontics

    The field of dentistry that deals with artificial dental appliances.


  • Receding gum

    A condition in which the gums separate from the tooth, allowing bacteria and other

  • Root canal

    A procedure in which a tooth's nerve is removed and an inner canal cleansed and later filled.

  • Resin filling

    An artificial filling used to restore teeth. Also called a composite filling.

  • Root planing

    Scraping or cleansing of teeth to remove heavy buildup of tartar below the gum line.


  • Sealant

    A synthetic material placed on the tooth's surface that protects the enamel and chewing surfaces.


  • TMJ

    Temporomandibular joint disorder. Health problems related to the jaw joint just in front of the ear.

  • Tarter

    A hardened substance (also called calculus) that sticks to the tooth’s surface.


  • Veneer

    A laminate applied or bonded to the tooth.


  • Whitening

    A process that employs special bleaching agents for restoring the color of teeth.

  • Wisdom tooth

    Third set of molars that erupt last in adolescence.