Abscess

A swelling caused by an an infection resulting in a pus filled hole.

Abutment

A tooth, root or implant used to support an artificial tooth restoration.  An abutment tooth can hold in place a fixed bridge, a removable partial denture, or an implant restoration.

Alveolar process

The part of the jaw that holds the teeth.

Amalgam

A combination of metals that includes silver, nickel and mercury used to filled cavities in teeth.

Anterior

Term referring to the front area of the mouth.

Apex

The end of the root of a tooth where the blood and nerve supply exit the tooth.

Apicoectomy

The surgical removal of the end of a tooth root.  Apicoectomies are done in conjunction with a root canal or a tooth that previously received a root canal.

Bell’s palsy

Paralysis of the facial nerve that results in the permanent or temporary immobilization of one side of the face.

Bicuspids (Premolars)

Teeth between the canine teeth and molars.

Bonding

A cosmetic procedure in which teeth are covered with composite resin in order to cover stains or improve appearance.  Bonding also refers to the technique of using resin materials for procedures such as placing tooth colored fillings, applying orthodontic brackets, or adhering sealants to teeth.

Bridge

An artificial fixed or removable prosthesis replacing one or more teeth.

Bruxism

The habit of tooth grinding, usually during sleep, that often results in loose or worn teeth, gum recession, destruction of the supportive bone and/or temporomandibular joint disorders.

Calculus

Hardened deposit of mineral salts that form around the teeth.  Calculus cannot be removed by brushing or flossing.

Canine teeth (Cuspids)

Teeth next to the lateral incisors.  These teeth quite often have a pointed cusp designed for tearing food.

Canker sores

Painful, noncontagious sores that form inside the mouth and on the lips.  Canker sores are of unknown etiology, but are often associated with exposure to sunlight, exposure to acidic foods such as tomatoes, and stress.

Composite resin

A tooth colored mixture of plastic resin and finely ground glass that is used to fill cavities in teeth.

Crown

The visible part of the tooth that is covered by enamel. A crown is also a restoration made of chrome, cobalt, gold, porcelain fused to gold or porcelain that is used to restore a tooth to its original shape and size after extensive decay, wear or breakage.

Cusp

A pointed projection located on the chewing or biting surface of the tooth.

Cuspids

See Canine teeth

Deciduous teeth (Baby teeth or Primary teeth)

The first set of teeth that is later replaced by permanent teeth.  There are 20 deciduous teeth.

Dentin

The material that makes up the bulk of a tooth.  The portion of the tooth in the mouth is covered with enamel.  The dentin is under the enamel and is less dense and less resistant to decay than enamel.

Denture

A partial or full set of artificial removable teeth.

Enamel

The hard white outer covering of the tooth.  Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body.

Endodontics

An area of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases of the dental pulp and the tissues at the root apex.

Extrusion

When a tooth is in a position where it has erupted into the mouth past its normal position.

Gingivitis

A condition in which the gums are red, swollen, and bleeding. Most cases result from poor oral hygiene and the build-up of plaque on teeth.

Halitosis

Bad breath, caused by tooth decay, gum disease, digestive problems, smoking or some systemic diseases.

Impacted Tooth

A condition in which a tooth is unable to erupt due to its angle or position in the jaw.  The teeth most frequently impacted are wisdom teeth (third molars) and maxillary (upper) canine teeth.

Implant

Tooth replacements that are inserted into the bone to provide structure for an artificial fixed or removable restoration.

Incisors (central and lateral)

The four upper front teeth and four lower front teeth used for cutting food.

Malocclusion

(bad bite) Abnormal contact between upper and lower teeth.  Malocclusion can result in poor chewing ability, difficulty in cleaning teeth, and unsightly appearance.

Mandible

The lower jawbone.

Maxilla

The upper jawbone.

Maxillofacial

Relating to the lower half of the face.

Molars

Back teeth used for grinding food. The last (third) molars are also known as wisdom teeth.

Nitrous Oxide

(laughing gas) A gas used in dentistry and other medical procedures to help the patient relax.

Orthodonticts

The branch of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of malaligned teeth.

Overbite

A vertical overlaping of the upper teeth over the lower teeth.

Papillae

1.  Small projections on the surface of the tongue.
2.  The tissue that fills the triangular shaped spaces between two teeth.

Partial (denture)

A removable appliance replacing one or more teeth.

Periodontal

Relating to the gums and bone structure that surround and support the teeth.

Plaque

A fuzzy film that forms on the surfaces of teeth and is made up of masses of bacteria.

Pontic

The artificial tooth of the fixed bridge that replaces natural tooth.

Post

A metal, glass, or carbon fiber support used to reinforce a tooth that has had root canal therapy.

Posterior

Term referring to the back part of the mouth.

Premolars

See bicuspids.

Prosthetic

Refering to the artificial part of the human body.

Prosthodontics

The branch of dentistry that deals with replacement of damaged or missing teeth.

Pulp

The soft tissue in the center of the tooth that contains blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerves.

Pulpectomy

The complete removal of the pulp of the tooth.

Pulpotomy

The partial removal of the pulp of the tooth.

Root canal

The space inside the root of a tooth which contains pulp tissue.

Root canal therapy

A procedure in which the pulp chamber and canals in the root(s) are cleaned, shaped, and filled with an inert material.

Tartar (also known as Calculus)

A salivary deposit of calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, and organic matter on natural or artificial teeth.

TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome)

A malalignment of the joint connecting upper and lower jaw which can result in muscle and joint pain in the jaw area