Moffitt Restorative Dentistry

What Does That Even Mean? A Quick Guide with Dental Terminology.

May 02 2015

You may have heard different dental terms either in or out of the dental office. Wondering what these terms mean? We compiled a list of dental terms from the webMD website so you can see what is being talked about. To see the complete list of terms visit:
Abscess : an infection of a tooth, soft tissue, or bone.
Abutment: tooth or teeth on either side of a missing tooth that support a fixed or removable partial; also refers to a piece of metal or porcelain that is screwed on to an implant to allow a crown to be glued on.
Acrylic resin: a plastic widely used in dentistry.
ADA Seal of Acceptance: a designation awarded to products that have met American Dental Association’s criteria for safety and effectiveness and whose packaging and advertising claims are scientifically supported.
Adjustment: a modification made upon a dental prosthesis after it has been completed and inserted into the mouth
Alveolar bone: the bone surrounding the root of the tooth, anchoring it in place; loss of this bone is a possible sign of periodontal (gum) disease.
Amalgam: a common filling material used to repair cavities. The material, also known as “silver fillings,” contains mercury in combination with silver, tin, copper, and sometimes zinc.
Anesthesia: a type of medication that results in partial or complete elimination of pain sensation; numbing a tooth is an example of local anesthesia; general anesthesia produces partial or complete unconsciousness.
Apex: the tip of the root of a tooth.
Baby bottle tooth decay: decay in infants and children, most often affecting the upper front teeth, caused by liquids given and left clinging to the teeth for long periods (for example, in feeding bottles or pacifiers); also called “early childhood caries.”
Bite-wing: a single X-ray that shows upper and lower teeth teeth (from crown to about the level of the supporting bone) in a select area on the same film to check for decay in between teeth. (Most often taken in a set of four)
Bonding: a process by which dental materials are mechanically attached to teeth; this would include composite resin, porcelain, and metal.
Calculus: hard, calcium-like deposits that form on teeth due to inadequate plaque control, often stained yellow or brown. Also called “tartar.”
Caries: tooth decay or “cavities;” a dental infection caused by toxins produced by bacteria.
Crown: (1) the portion of a tooth above the gum line that is covered by enamel; (2) dental restoration covering all or most of the natural tooth; the artificial cap can be made of porcelain, composite, or metal and is cemented on top of the damaged tooth.
DDS: Doctor of Dental Surgery — equivalent to DMD, Doctor of Dental Medicine.
Deciduous teeth: commonly called “baby teeth” or primary teeth; the first set of (usually) 20 teeth.
Demineralization: loss of mineral from tooth enamel just below the surface in a carious lesion; usually appears as a white area on the tooth surface.
Endodontics: a field of dentistry concerned with the biology and pathology of the dental pulp and root tissues of the tooth and with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases and injuries of these tissues. Root canal therapy is a commonly performed endodontic procedure.
Fluoride: a mineral that helps strengthen teeth enamel making teeth less susceptible to decay. Fluoride is ingested through food or water, is available in most toothpastes, or can be applied as a gel or liquid to the surface of teeth by a dentist.
Gum recession : exposure of dental roots due to shrinkage of the gums as a result of abrasion, erosion, periodontal disease, or surgery.
Panoramic X-ray: a type of X-ray that shows a complete two dimensional representation of all the teeth in the mouth. This X-ray also shows the relationship of the teeth to the jaws and the jaws to the head.
Periodontitis: a more advanced stage of periodontal disease in which the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth and form pockets and alveolar bone is destroyed.
Plaque: a colorless, sticky film composed of undigested food particles mixed with saliva and bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. Plaque left alone eventually turns in to tartar or calculus and is the main factor in causing dental caries and periodontal disease.
Scaling and root planing: a deep-cleaning, nonsurgical procedure whereby plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line are scraped away (scaling) and rough spots on the tooth root are made smooth (planing).
Sealants: a thin, clear or white resin substance that is applied to the biting surfaces of teeth to prevent decay.
Veneer: a thin, custom-made shell of tooth-colored plastic or porcelain that is bonded directly to the front side of natural teeth to improve their appearance — for example, to replace lost tooth structure, close spaces, straighten teeth, or change color and/or shape.
Xerostomia: dry mouth or decrease in the production of saliva.

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