Abrasion: Damage to the teeth caused by impact. Can be from accidents, jaw grinding or incorrect cleaning procedures.

Abutment: A tooth or implant that supports a dental prosthesis.

Abscess: A local area of swollen tissue with a build-up of pus. Often presents on the gums as a symptom of tooth infection.

Acute: A painful illness which develops quickly and requires immediate treatment.

Aesthetic: Pertaining to beauty and appearance. In dentistry, the aesthetic area is the area visible when a person smiles.

Amalgam: Single surface silver filling

Anesthesia: Administration of medication so that medical procedures can be performed without the patient feeling pain.

Antibiotic Prophylaxis: Pre-medicating before treatment to prevent infection during the surgery.

Antibiotics: Medications which fight infection by killing bacteria.

Apicoectomy: Removal of the tip of a tooth root. Learn more about an apicoectomy

Arch: Term used to refer to an upper or lower denture

Attrition: The cumulative loss of tooth structure through natural wear.


Basic Cleaning: Basic or routine cleaning for a normal amount of plaque build up

Bicuspid: A premolar tooth with two cusps

Bilateral: Occurring on or pertaining to both right and left sides of the mouth

Biopsy: Removing Tissue for evaluation

Bleaching: The use of chemicals to lighten and remove stains from the teeth.

Bonding: A composite resin applied to a tooth to change its shape and color. Also refers to the way a filling or partial denture is attached to teeth. Learn more about dental bonding

Bone Augmentation: Adding bone to areas of thin, weak, or otherwise compromised bone to facilitate the placement of an implant, or to recover bone lost to periodontal disease.

Braces: Orthodontic devices worn to straighten teeth and correct tooth position.

Bridge: A fixed dental restoration used to replace one or more missing teeth by joining an artificial tooth to adjacent teeth or dental implants. Learn more about dental bridges


Caries: Common name for tooth decay.

Cavity: Decay in tooth caused by bacteria

Cementum: Hard connective tissue covering the tooth root

Composite: A dental restorative material made of various materials including resin, radiopaque glass, and other fillers.

Conscious Sedation: A medication induced state of relaxation used in cases of anxiety or long surgical procedures.  During conscious sedation, patients are able to maintain their own airway without medical support.

Cosmetic Dentistry: Services to improve smile aesthetics rather than dental health. See more information on cosmetic dentistry. Learn more about cosmetic dentistry

Crown: An artificial tooth which fits over the top of a natural tooth or implanted root. See more information on dental crowns.

Cusp: The pointed portion of the tooth.


Decay: The deterioration of tooth structure over time.

Deciduous Teeth: A child’s first teeth. Also known as primary or baby teeth.

Dental Erosion: The wearing away of dental enamel over time either through chemical means such as acid reflux, bulimia, or other conditions.

Dental Arch: The curved shape of the inside of the mouth.

Dental Prophylaxis: Scaling and polishing procedure performed to remove plaque calculus, and stains above the gumline.

Dental Prosthesis: An artificial device that replaces one or more missing teeth.

Dentures: A set of artificial teeth which are removable as opposed to implanted. Learn more about dentures

Denture Base: The part of the denture that holds the artificial teeth and fits over the gums.

Direct Restoration : A restoration fabricated inside the mouth.

Dry Mouth: The condition of not having enough saliva to keep the mouth wet. Left untreated, severed dry mouth can lead to increased levels of tooth decay and infections.

DDS: Doctor of Dental Surgery (equivalent to DMD)

DMD: Doctor of Dental Medicine (equivalent to DDS)

Dentin: The part of the tooth that is beneath the enamel and cementum.


Enamel: The natural hard coating which protects teeth.

Endodontist: A dental specialist who is highly skilled in diagnosing and treating tooth pain and performing root canal treatment.

Erosion: When the enamel of the tooth is worn away by acidic foods, sugary drink consumption, or a medical condition that decreases saliva flow/content or increases oral acidity.

Extract: The removal of a natural tooth. Learn more about tooth extraction

Excision: Surgical removal of bone or tissue


Filling: The restoration of lost tooth structure by using materials such as metal or composite. Learn more about fillings

Fixed Appliances:  Orthodontic devices, commonly known as braces, that are bonded to the teeth to produce tooth movements to help reposition teeth for orthodontic therapy

Floss: Treated nylon string used to remove food residue and clean between teeth.

Fluoride: A mineral shown to help prevent tooth decay. It is often added to toothpastes and, sometimes, to public water supplies.

Fluoride Varnish: A fluoride-based liquid which hardens when painted on to teeth and imitates natural enamel.

Full Mouth X-Rays: Series of x-rays that reveal all the teeth, their crowns, roots, and the bone around them.


General Anesthesia: Medication to put patients in a sleep-like state before dental procedures. During General Anesthesia, breathing is supported by medical devices such as a respirator.

Gingiva: Soft tissues overlying the crowns of unerupted teeth and encircling the necks of those that have erupted.

Gingivitis: Temporary inflammation of gum tissue, often caused by poor dental hygiene or infection.

Gingival: Pertaining to the gums.

Graft: A piece of tissue or other material placed in contact with tissue to repair a defect or supplement a deficiency.

Gum Disease: Ongoing gum infections causing pain, swelling and bleeding of the gums. If left untreated it can cause permanent damage to gums, teeth and connective tissue. Medically known as Periodontal Disease.


Halitosis: Unpleasant breath odor caused by dental infections.

Hygienist: A licensed dental professional who specializes in scaling and polishing teeth.


Intraoral: Pertaining to the inside of the mouth.
Impacted Tooth: An unerupted or partially erupted tooth that is positioned against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue, so that complete eruption is unlikely.
Implant: An artificial tooth root which is surgically implanted in the jaw bone.
Interproximal: Between the teeth
Intravenous Sedation: Monitored sedation that relaxes patient through medication administered through the veins. Breathing may or may not be supported by medical devices depending on the depth of sedation.


Jaw: The common and accepted word for both the maxilla and the mandible bones.


Lesion: An injury or wound; area of diseased tissue

Local Anesthesia: Numbing medication that is applied to a small area within the mouth where pain is likely to occur.


Malignant: Having the properties of dysplasia, invasion, and metastasis

Metastasis: Spreading of cancer to another region from where it started.

Maxilla: The upper jaw

Molars: The large, strong teeth used to chew food.

Malocclusion: A diagnosis given when teeth do not line up on the jawbone. There may be gaps, over or under-bite or crookedness. This is often treated by an orthodontist or through restorative dental procedures such as bridges and implants.


NSAIDs: Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs; a group of medications which relieve mild to moderate pain. Generally sold over the counter without requiring a prescription.

Night Guard: Worn to prevent dental damage from grinding or gnashing one’s teeth during sleep.

Nerves: The tissue which conveys sensations, particularly pain, to the brain.


Occlusal: Pertaining to the biting surfaces of the premolar and molar teeth or contacting surfaces of opposing teeth or opposing occlusion rims

Opioids: Medicines used to relieve strong pain. Only administered by prescription and usually only under close supervision because of their possible side effects and addictive properties.

Oral: Anything pertaining to the mouth and teeth.

Oral Hygiene: The practice of keeping the mouth clean and free of infection. It can include brushing, the use mouthwash or dental floss, and having the teeth and mouth cleaned by a dental hygienist.

Oral Hygienist: A dental professional who specializes in keeping the mouth hygienic and preventing infection. Also educates clients on how to maintain oral hygiene between dentist visits.

Oral Surgery: A dentist who has special training in surgery to correct problems of the mouth and jaw. Learn more about oral surgery

Orthodontic Treatment: Treatment to correct malocclusion and to straighten and realign teeth. Braces are a common orthodontic treatment applied in the teenage years.

Overdenture: A removable prosthetic device that overlies and may be supported by retained tooth roots or implants.


Palate: The hard and soft tissues forming the roof of the mouth that separates the oral and nasal cavities

Partial Denture: Refers to a prosthetic device that replaces missing teeth and rests on existing teeth or implants

Peri-Implantitis: An infection which develops around the site of an implant.  It is similar to Periodontal Disease and can result in bone loss or loss of an implant.

Periodontal: Pertaining to the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth.

Periodontal Abscess: An infection in the gum pocket that can destroy hard and soft tissues

Periodontal Disease: Infections of the structures around the teeth, which include the gums, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone. Learn more about Periodontal Disease

Periodontal Ligament: a fibro-elastic tissue that connects teeth to surrounding bone and acts as a shock absorber during function. Each tooth has thousands of periodontal ligaments. Can be destroyed by periodontal disease resulting in bone and tooth loss.

Periodontitis: A severe form of gum disease which can lead to tooth loss.

Plaque: A layer of bacteria which forms constantly on the teeth and should be removed by regular brushing.

Prophylaxis: A professional dental cleaning service to remove plaque build-up or stains from tooth structures.

Pulp: The nerves and blood supply to teeth.


Radiograph: An image produced by projecting radiation, commonly called an x-ray

Recession: Plaque build-up causing the gums to pull away from the teeth.

Reline: To resurface the side of the denture that is in contact with the soft tissues of the mouth to make it fit more securely

Removable Partial Denture: A prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth that can be removed by the patient

Root: The part of the tooth located in the socket that is covered by cementum and connected to the bone by periodontal ligaments

Root Canal: The portion of the pulp cavity inside the root of a tooth

Root Canal Treatment: Used to treat serious tooth infection, decay and irreparable damage. The procedure involves removing the blood supply and nerves of the tooth. The damaged tooth is then sealed, filled, reshaped or covered with a crown. See more information on root canal treatment. Learn more about Root Canal Treatment


Scaling: Removal of plaque, calculus, and stains from the teeth

Stomatitis: A slight irritation to the soft tissues of the mouth, including the lips, gums, tongue, cheeks and the floor or roof of the mouth. Can be the result of a virus, fungus, bacteria, chemical or mechanical damage.

Staining: Discoloration to the surface of the teeth. Is often accelerated of excessive tobacco smoking or tea and coffee intake; but it is a natural part of the aging process.

Sealant: A protective coating made of thin plastic applied to the chewing surface of molars. These help to protect teeth from cavities by preventing residual food from being packed into the chewing surface of a tooth. Learn more about sealants

Submandibular Glands: Walnut-sized major salivary glands located beneath the tongue.

Suture: Stitch used to repair incisions or wounds


Topical: Medications or anesthetics applied to the skin or gums, rather than being inserted into the bloodstream.

Therapeutic: Pertaining to beneficial treatments and therapies.

Temporomandibularjoint (TMJ): The connecting hinge mechanism between the based of the skull and lower jaw.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD): Painful conditions of the jaw joint and supporting muscles and ligaments.

Tartar: A hard, calcium-like build-up on the teeth, caused by inadequate oral hygiene and poor plaque control.


Unerupted Tooth: A tooth which is still below the gums and has not yet pushed through. The process of “teething” can be very painful for babies as their deciduous teeth come through.


Veneer: Artificial coverings for the front of the teeth. Used to hide staining and improve aesthetic. See more information on veneers. Learn more about veneers


Wisdom Teeth: The third and final molars to come through, usually in early adulthood. They often cause severe pain or discomfort when they cannot properly erupt due to position or jaw size and need to be surgically removed when warranted. Learn more about wisdom teeth removal.


Xerostomia: A condition where saliva production is inhibited, often causing a dry mouth or a burning sensation.

X-Ray: A photograph of the inside of the bones and teeth. Used to diagnose cavities and fractures.


Zinc: A key nutrient for fighting infection throughout the body.

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