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Dental Glossary

Table of Contents


Amalgam is a dental filling material made from a mixture of metals, including silver, tin, copper, and mercury. It is strong and long-lasting. An example is the use of amalgam fillings for restoring decayed teeth.


Anesthesia is a medication or numbing agent used to block pain and sensation during dental procedures. For instance, local anesthesia is commonly administered with a needle to numb a specific area before a filling.


Anterior refers to the front teeth in the mouth. These include the incisors and canines. For example, a dentist may perform cosmetic procedures on anterior teeth to improve their appearance.


The apex is the tip or end of a tooth’s root. It is a critical part for root canal treatment. For example, during a root canal procedure, the dentist removes the infected tissue from the apex of the tooth’s root.


An arch in dentistry refers to the curved arrangement of teeth in the upper or lower jaw. For example, orthodontic treatments like braces are used to align teeth within the dental arch.


Attrition is the gradual loss of tooth structure due to normal wear and tear from chewing and grinding. It can result in tooth flattening over time. For example, attrition may cause sensitivity and the need for dental restorations.


Bicuspids are the premolar teeth located between the molars and canines. They have two cusps (points). For example, bicuspids are used for chewing and grinding food.


A biopsy involves the removal of a small piece of tissue for examination. In dentistry, it may be performed to diagnose oral lesions or abnormalities. For instance, a dentist may perform an oral biopsy if there are suspicious lesions in the mouth.


Braces are orthodontic appliances used to straighten and align teeth. They consist of brackets, wires, and bands. For example, a teenager might get braces to correct a misaligned bite.


A dental bridge is a fixed prosthetic device used to replace one or more missing teeth. It is anchored to adjacent teeth or implants. For example, a bridge can restore a gap left by a missing tooth.

Canker Sore

A canker sore, or aphthous ulcer, is a painful sore or lesion that can develop inside the mouth. They are usually small, round, and white or gray with a red border. For instance, a canker sore can cause discomfort while eating or speaking.


A cavity is a decayed area of a tooth that forms due to the action of bacteria and acids. It appears as a hole or pit in the tooth’s surface. For example, a dentist will fill a cavity with a dental filling to restore the tooth.


Cement in dentistry refers to a material used to bond or attach dental restorations like crowns and bridges to natural teeth. For example, dental cement holds a crown securely in place.


Composite is a tooth-colored dental material used for fillings, bonding, and cosmetic dental procedures. It can be matched to the natural tooth color. For instance, composite fillings are used to repair cavities in visible areas of the mouth.


A dental crown is a tooth-shaped cap that covers and protects a damaged or weakened tooth. It can also improve the appearance of a tooth. For example, a crown is placed over a tooth following a root canal or after significant tooth decay.


The cusp is a pointed or raised part of a tooth used for biting and tearing food. Molars typically have multiple cusps. For example, molars have cusps that help with chewing and grinding food.

Deciduous Teeth

Deciduous teeth, often referred to as baby teeth or primary teeth, are the first set of teeth that erupt in childhood. They eventually fall out to make way for permanent teeth. For example, a child’s deciduous teeth will start to shed as they grow.


Dentin is the hard tissue underlying the enamel in a tooth. It is less dense than enamel and can transmit sensations. For example, dentin can become exposed when enamel wears away, leading to tooth sensitivity.


A denture is a removable dental prosthesis that replaces missing teeth and surrounding tissues. There are partial and complete dentures. For example, complete dentures are used when all teeth are missing in one or both arches.


Enamel is the outermost layer of a tooth, and it is the hardest and most mineralized substance in the human body. It provides protection and strength to the tooth. For example, enamel can erode due to acidic foods and beverages.


Endodontics is a dental specialty that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and conditions within the tooth’s pulp and root canal system. For example, endodontists perform root canal therapy to save damaged teeth.


Tooth extraction is the removal of a tooth from its socket in the jawbone. It is typically done when a tooth is beyond repair or causing issues. For example, a wisdom tooth extraction may be necessary if it’s impacted.


A dental filling is a material used to restore a decayed or damaged tooth. Common filling materials include amalgam, composite resin, and porcelain. For example, a dentist may place a filling in a cavity to repair the tooth.


Gingiva, also known as the gums, is the soft tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. Healthy gums are pink and firm. For example, gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease characterized by redness and inflammation of the gingiva.


Gums, or gingiva, are the soft tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth in the mouth. They play a crucial role in oral health. For example, healthy gums do not bleed when brushing or flossing.


Halitosis is the medical term for bad breath. It can result from various causes, including poor oral hygiene, gum disease, and certain foods. For example, chronic halitosis may be a sign of an underlying dental issue.


Dental hygiene refers to the practice of maintaining oral health through regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups. For example, good oral hygiene can prevent gum disease and tooth decay.


A dental implant is a surgically placed artificial tooth root used to support a crown, bridge, or denture. For example, dental implants can replace missing teeth and provide a stable and long-lasting solution.


Incisors are the front teeth in the mouth, and they have sharp, chisel-shaped edges for cutting and biting food. For example, incisors are essential for initial food processing.


A dental inlay is a custom-made restoration that fits within the cusps of a damaged tooth. It is used to repair larger cavities or damage. For example, inlays are created in a dental laboratory and then bonded to the tooth.


The mandible is the lower jawbone, which houses the lower teeth and plays a crucial role in jaw movement. For example, the mandible allows for speaking, eating, and facial expressions.


The maxilla is the upper jawbone, which houses the upper teeth and forms the roof of the mouth. For example, the maxilla supports the upper teeth and contributes to facial structure.


Molars are the back teeth used for grinding and crushing food. They have multiple cusps for efficient chewing. For example, molars are important for breaking down food during digestion.


Orthodontics is a dental specialty that focuses on the correction of teeth and jaw misalignments. Orthodontic treatment often involves braces or clear aligners. For example, orthodontics can improve the appearance and function of the teeth and jaw.


An overbite is a dental condition in which the upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth excessively. It can impact both aesthetics and function. For example, orthodontic treatment may be needed to correct an overbite.


The palate is the roof of the mouth, divided into the hard palate and soft palate. It separates the oral and nasal cavities. For example, the palate plays a role in speech and swallowing.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is an inflammatory condition that affects the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. It can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. For example, periodontal disease is often caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar.


Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. It can lead to tooth decay and gum disease if not removed through proper oral hygiene. For example, brushing and flossing help prevent plaque buildup.


Dental pulp is the innermost part of a tooth, containing nerves and blood vessels. It is essential during tooth development but can be removed during root canal treatment. For example, dental pulp can become infected, leading to pain and the need for treatment.


A dental retainer is a custom-made appliance used to maintain the position of teeth after orthodontic treatment. For example, wearing a retainer helps prevent teeth from shifting back to their original positions.

Root Canal

A root canal is a dental procedure that involves removing the infected or damaged pulp of a tooth and sealing the space. For example, a root canal can save a tooth from extraction and alleviate pain.

Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planing is a deep cleaning procedure to treat gum disease. It involves removing plaque and tartar from below the gumline. For example, this procedure can help improve gum health and prevent further damage.


A dental sealant is a thin, protective coating applied to the chewing surfaces of molars and premolars to prevent cavities. For example, sealants are often recommended for children to protect their newly erupted permanent teeth.


The tongue is a muscular organ in the mouth that plays a vital role in speaking, tasting, and swallowing. For example, the tongue is responsible for moving food during the chewing and swallowing process.

Ultrasonic Scaler

An ultrasonic scaler is a dental tool that uses high-frequency vibrations to remove tartar and plaque from teeth. For example, during a dental cleaning, the hygienist may use an ultrasonic scaler to clean teeth more efficiently.


A veneer is a thin, custom-made shell of porcelain or composite resin used to cover the front surface of a tooth. It can enhance the appearance of teeth. For example, veneers can be used to correct discolored or misshapen teeth.

Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last set of molars to erupt in the late teens or early twenties. They may require removal if they cause problems like impaction. For example, impacted wisdom teeth can lead to pain and swelling.


An X-ray, or radiograph, is a diagnostic image used in dentistry to view the teeth, jawbone, and surrounding structures. For example, a panoramic X-ray provides a comprehensive view of the entire mouth.


Dental abrasion is the wear of tooth enamel due to mechanical forces such as toothbrushing with excessive force or using abrasive toothpaste. It can lead to tooth sensitivity.

Absorbent Paper Points

Absorbent paper points are small, sterile cones used in endodontics to dry and clean the root canals after irrigation. They absorb excess moisture and disinfect the area.


Alveoloplasty is a surgical procedure to reshape the alveolar bone after tooth extraction, making it more suitable for dental prosthetics like dentures.


Amelogenesis is the process of enamel formation during tooth development. It involves the deposition of enamel matrix by ameloblast cells.


Ankylosis in dentistry refers to the fusion of a tooth root to the jawbone, inhibiting tooth movement. It can lead to the loss of the affected tooth.


An apicoectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the tip of a tooth’s root, often necessary when a root canal treatment is unsuccessful.


An articulator is a device used in prosthodontics and dental lab work to simulate the movements and positions of the jaw for precise restorative work.

Autogenous Graft

An autogenous graft is a bone graft that uses the patient’s own bone from one area of the body to repair or augment the jawbone.


Bicuspidization is a dental procedure that involves splitting a molar into two separate bicuspid-like teeth for improved function and aesthetics.


Biofilm is a community of bacteria that forms a slimy layer on teeth, leading to plaque and dental problems if not removed through proper oral hygiene.


Canine teeth are the pointed teeth located next to the incisors. They are essential for tearing and holding food.

Cantilever Bridge

A cantilever bridge is a type of dental bridge that is supported on one side only, often used when there’s only one healthy adjacent tooth.


Caries is another term for tooth decay, resulting from the demineralization of enamel and the formation of cavities.


Cementum is a calcified tissue that covers the tooth’s roots, providing a secure anchor for periodontal ligaments.


A crossbite occurs when the upper teeth are inside the lower teeth, causing misalignment. It can be corrected with orthodontic treatment.


A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that can develop in the jawbone or soft tissues of the mouth, often requiring surgical removal.

Dental Hygienist

A dental hygienist is a licensed oral health professional who specializes in preventive dental care, including cleanings, examinations, and patient education.


A diastema is a gap or space between two teeth, commonly occurring between the upper front teeth.


Edentulism is the condition of having no natural teeth remaining, often requiring the use of complete dentures.

Endosteal Implant

An endosteal implant is a type of dental implant that is surgically placed into the jawbone to support artificial teeth.


Eruption refers to the emergence of a tooth from the jaw into the oral cavity. It is a natural process that occurs during dental development.

Fissure Sealant

A fissure sealant is a protective coating applied to the pits and fissures of molars and premolars to prevent cavities.


Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens tooth enamel and helps prevent tooth decay. It is commonly found in toothpaste and drinking water.


A gingivectomy is a surgical procedure to remove excess or diseased gum tissue, often used to treat gum disease.

Impacted Tooth

An impacted tooth is one that fails to fully erupt into the mouth due to obstruction or lack of space. Wisdom teeth are commonly impacted.


Invisalign is a brand of clear aligners used to straighten teeth, providing an alternative to traditional braces.


Malocclusion is a misalignment of the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are closed. It can result in bite problems and may require orthodontic treatment.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide, often called “laughing gas,” is a sedative used to relax patients during dental procedures.

Oral Surgeon

An oral surgeon is a dental specialist who performs surgical procedures, including extractions, dental implants, and jaw surgery.

Palliative Treatment

Palliative treatment aims to relieve pain and discomfort rather than providing a permanent solution. It is often used in emergency dental care.

Plaque Disclosure Tablets

Plaque disclosure tablets are chewable tablets that color dental plaque, helping patients see areas they may be missing during oral hygiene.

Pulp Capping

Pulp capping is a procedure to treat exposed dental pulp by placing a protective agent to promote healing and avoid the need for root canal treatment.

Recall Appointment

A recall appointment, also known as a recall visit, is a periodic dental check-up to monitor oral health and provide preventive care.


Saliva is a fluid in the mouth that aids in digestion, protects teeth, and helps maintain oral health.


Stomatitis is the general term for inflammation of the oral mucosa, which can result from various causes, including infection, irritation, or systemic conditions.


Tartar, or dental calculus, is a hard, mineralized deposit on teeth that can only be removed by a dental professional.


Xerostomia is the medical term for dry mouth, a condition where there is a reduced production of saliva, potentially leading to oral health issues.