Belsize Dental Care


Dental Dictionary



Dental Dictionary


abrasion: loss of tooth structure caused by tooth grinding, an improper bite, a hard toothbrush or poor brushing technique
abscess: a localized infection of a tooth and/or the gum
abutment: tooth or teeth that anchor a fixed or removable bridge
air abrasion: removal of tooth structure by blasting a tooth with air and abrasive, also a relatively new technology in dentistry that often avoids the need for anaesthetic
allergy: an unwanted bodily response to a substance or organism
alveolar bone: the bone surrounding the roots of teeth
amalgam: the most common material used for fillings, also called silver fillings; a mixture of mercury (app 50%), silver, tin, copper and zinc used for fillings
analgesia: partial loss of pain sensation
anaesthesia: absence of pain sensation; numbing a tooth is local anaesthesia; with general anaesthesia the patient is unconscious
anterior teeth: the six upper and six lower front teeth
antibiotic: a drug that stops or slows the growth of germs (bacteria)
ANUG: an acronym for Acute Necrotising Ulcerative Gingivitis, more commonly known as trench mouth or Vincent’s disease, often brought on by stress and/or smoking
apex: the tip of the root of a tooth
apicectomy: removal of the root end of a tooth to treat an infection
arch: shape assumed collectively by upper and lower teeth


baby teeth: the first teeth, also called deciduous teeth; usually there are twenty baby teeth
biopsy: removal of a small piece of tissue to determine if it is diseased
bite: how the upper and lower teeth come together; may also be called occlusion
black hairy tongue: excessive growth of fungi that normally live in the mouth
block injection: anesthetising a nerve that serves a large area of the jaw, usually the lower jaw; may numb teeth, tongue and half of the jaw in that area
bonding: applying a tooth-coloured resin to repair and/or change the colour or shape of a tooth, most often a front tooth
bone loss: decrease in bone supporting the roots of teeth; a common result of gum disease
bone resorption: the gradual loss of bone Orthodontists use this process to “pull” teeth through bone to new positions
braces: devices used by orthodontists to gradually reposition teeth
bridge: appliance cemented to teeth adjacent to a space that replaces one or more missing teeth; usually cemented or attached to teeth or implants adjacent to the space
bruxism: involuntary, “nervous” grinding of the teeth while the patient is asleep
bruxomania: involuntary, “nervous” grinding of the teeth while the patient is awake


calcium: chemical element needed for healthy teeth, bones and nerves
calculus: hard residue, ranging from yellow to brown, forming on teeth when oral hygiene is incomplete or improper
cantilever bridge: fixed bridge that attaches to adjacent teeth on one end only
cap: common term for crown
caries: tooth decay or cavities
cavitron: dental tool that uses high frequency sound waves to clean teeth
cellulitis: uncontrolled infection causing extensive swelling Since this is a dangerous condition, a dentist or physician should be consulted as soon as possible.
cementum: hard tissue that covers the roots of teeth
chart: to record the condition of teeth and measure the depth of the gum pockets around teeth
clasp: device that retains a removable partial denture
cleaning: removal of plaque and calculus from teeth, generally above the gum line
composite: common bonding mix of plastic and glass/ceramic particles; usually cured with light or chemicals
crown: two meanings: (1)the portion of a tooth covered by enamel, and (2)a restoration that covers all or most of the natural tooth above the gum line
curretage: removal of dead inner tissue from a gum pocket
cyst: a fluid-filled sac


decay: destruction of tooth structure caused by acid produced by bacteria
deciduous teeth: baby teeth
dentine: hard, living inner layer of a tooth (the layer immediately under the outer enamel layer)
dental implant: a (usually) titanium cylinder surgically placed in the bone of the upper or lower jaw to replace the root of a missing tooth
dentition: your teeth and how they are arranged in your mouth
denture: a removable set of artificial teeth
diastema: the space between front teeth


enamel: hard tissue covering the crown (portion above the gumline) of a tooth
endodontist: a specialist who treats injuries, diseases and infections of the tooth pulp
eruption: the process whereby teeth grow through the gums
explorer: a pointed instrument for examining the surfaces of teeth
extraction: removal of a tooth/teeth
eye-teeth: the four upper and lower canine or eye teeth


facing: the visible portion of a crown; may be acrylic, composite or porcelain
filling: restoring lost tooth structure with metal, alloy, porcelain or resin
fistula: tunnel conducting pus from one infection to the site of another; a mouth fistula is called a gum boil
flap surgery: loosening of gums from bone to expose and clean underlying tooth structures
forceps: instrument used to remove a tooth
full denture: removable denture replacing all teeth in upper or lower arch
frenectomy: removal of the frenum, the thin cord of tissue that attaches the upper or lower lips to the gum or the tongue to the floor of the mouth


GTR: (guided tissue regeneration) a new technique for replacing bone tissue lost between roots of teeth
general anaesthesia: a controlled state of unconsciousness, accompanied by a partial or complete loss of pain sensation, protective reflexes, and the ability to respond purposefully to physical stimulation or verbal command
geographic tongue: loss of all usual colour and texture of tongue; does not require treatment
gingiva: the gums
gingivectomy: removal of gum tissue
gingivitis: inflammation of gum tissue
gum boil: see fistula.


halitosis: bad breath
hydrogen peroxide(H202): compound used as a dental whitening agent and mouthwash
hyperaemia: dental sensitivity to temperature and sweets; can precede an abscess


impacted tooth: an unexposed or partially exposed tooth that is so wedged against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue that complete exposure of the tooth is unlikely
implant: artificial device replacing tooth root; may anchor an artificial tooth, bridge, or denture
incision and drainage: making an incision in an abscess to drain infection
incisors: four upper and four lower front teeth, (excludes the canine teeth)
infiltration: process for numbing the upper teeth (placing anaesthetic liquid under the gum tissue and allowing it to migrate into the bone)
inlay: a filling made by a dental laboratory that is cemented into place, generally requires two dental appointments
intraoral camera: a tiny TV camera used to view tissues of the mouth


jacket crown: crown for a front tooth, usually made of porcelain


laminate: thin plastic or porcelain veneer produced in a dental laboratory and then bonded to a tooth to improve its appearance
laughing gas: common name for nitrous oxide; used to reduce anxieties and relax patients
local anaesthesia: elimination of the sensation of pain, in one part of the body by the surface application or regional injection of an anaesthetic drug


malocclusion: “bad bite” or misalignment between the upper and lower teeth
mandible: the lower jaw
margin: point of contact between a restoration and the tooth
Maryland bridge: a bridge that is bonded or cemented only to the backs of the adjacent teeth
maxilla: the upper jaw
milk teeth: the baby teeth
molars: the twelve back teeth in the entire mouth (or the three back teeth in each fourth of the mouth if the wisdom teeth are in)


nerve: common term for tooth pulp which is the sensitive innermost portion of a tooth
night-guard: plastic device that covers all of the upper or lower teeth; used to prevent wear caused by tooth grinding during sleep
nitrous oxide: see laughing gas


occlusion: how the upper and lower teeth come together
onlay: laboratory-produced restoration covering the cusps of a tooth
oral and maxillofacial surgeon: a specialist who deals with the diagnosis & surgical treatment of diseases, injuries, and deformities of the mouth and supporting structures. Generally requires five additional years of training after dental school
oral cavity: the mouth
oral hygiene: the process of maintaining the cleanliness of the mouth
oral surgery: operations on the mouth; for example, extractions, removal of cysts or tumours, and repair of broken jaw bone
orthodontics: dental specialty that treats misalignment of teeth
overdenture: denture that fits over tooth roots or dental implants


palliative treatment: treatment that is designed primarily to reduce or eliminate pain
paraesthesia: loss of sensation in part of the body
partial: removable denture replacing some of the teeth
paedodontics: dental specialty focusing on treatment of children
periodontist: a specialist who treats the gums and supporting structures of the teeth
permanent teeth: the thirty-two adult teeth
pit: a small defect in the tooth enamel, usually found on the back teeth
placebo: a treatment that works because of the patient’s belief in it, not because of the actual physical change it produces
plaque: a soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth; composed largely of bacteria and food substances suspended in saliva
pontic: a false tooth mounted on a bridge
porcelain crowns: a porcelain cap which covers the crown (that portion above the gum line) of the tooth to repair it or change the shape and/or colour
porcelain inlay or onlay: a tooth-coloured filling, made of porcelain
porcelain veneers: a thin layer of porcelain bonded to the front and top of a front tooth to repair or change the colour and/or shape
post: a thin metal rod inserted into the root of a tooth after root canal therapy; provides retention for a “core” which is a build-up of material that replaces the lost tooth structure
post-core: a post and a build-up of material that replaces the lost tooth structure
post-crown: single structure that combines post-core and crown
prognosis: the probable outcome of treatment
prophylaxis: procedure for preserving the health and preventing infection of teeth
prosthesis: an artificial replacement for a body part
prosthodontist: a dentist who specialises in restoring teeth, replacing missing teeth with bridges and dentures, and maintaining proper occlusion
pulp: the nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue inside a tooth
pulp cap: a medicated covering over a small area of exposed pulp
pulp chamber: the centre or innermost portion of the tooth containing the pulp
pulpectomy: total removal of the pulp in children’s teeth
pulpitis: inflammation of the pulp; a common cause of a toothache
pulpotomy: partial removal of the pulp


reimplantation: return to mouth of tooth/teeth lost through trauma
reline: plastic build-up of denture to compensate for bone loss (usually accomplished in conjunction with a dental laboratory)
restoration: the replacement part or portion restored on a damaged tooth
retained root: root remaining in jaw after tooth is extracted or broken off
root: tooth structure that connects the tooth to the jaw
root canal: common term for root canal therapy, also the interior space of the tooth root
root canal therapy: process of removing pulp of a tooth and filling it with an inert material
root resection: removal of root of a tooth while retaining the crown
rubber dam: soft latex sheet used to protect one or more teeth from moisture and to keep materials from falling to the back of the throat


saliva: clear fluid in the mouth containing water, enzymes, bacteria, mucus, viruses, blood cells and undigested food particles
saliva ejector: suction tube placed in the mouth to remove saliva
salivary glands: located under tongue and in cheeks, produce saliva
scaling meticulous removal of plaque and calculus from tooth surfaces
sealants: plastic material bonded in the grooves and pits of back teeth for the prevention of decay
secondary dentin: produced by the pulp in response to tooth irritation
sleep apnoea: the periodic interruption or delay in breathing during sleep
space maintainer: dental device that holds the space lost through premature loss of baby teeth
splint: to connect two or more teeth so they function as a stronger single structure
supernumerary tooth: extra tooth


tartar: also called calculus, a hard deposit containing bacteria and minerals that adheres to teeth
tmj: the temporo-mandibular joint, the point where the lower jaw attaches to the upper jaw
tmj disorder: temporo-mandibular disorder; term given to condition characterized by facial pain and restricted ability to open/move the jaw
third-party provider: insurance company, union, government agency that pays all or a part of cost of dental treatment
tooth bud: early embryonic structure that becomes a tooth
tooth whitening: a process to lighten the colour of teeth
torus: common bony growth on the palate or lower jaw
transplant: placing a natural tooth in the empty socket of another tooth
trauma: injury caused by a blow, chemicals, temperature extremes, or poor tooth alignment
trench mouth: gum disease characterized by severe mouth sores and loss of tissue. see ANUG


unerupted tooth: a tooth that has not pushed through the gum and assumed its correct position in the jaw


veneer: plastic or porcelain facing bonded directly to a tooth to improve its appearance. see laminate.


wisdom teeth: the third set of molars that usually erupt when a person is 18-25 years of age


xerostomia: decrease in production of saliva

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