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Dental Dictionary


Abscess – A collection of pus that forms, usually, because of an infection.

Abutment – A tooth or structure that anchors. For example, if you are missing a tooth and need a bridge, the teeth next to the missing space would be the abutment teeth.

Acid etch – Using acid to prepare tooth structure to accept filling material.

Alveolar – The bone to which the tooth is attached.

Amalgam – A silver filling material composed of mercury, silver, tin, copper and other metallic elements.

Anesthetic – A substance that makes your mouth numb.

Anterior – Towards the front.

Apex – The tip of the root of the tooth.

Attrition – The wear of your teeth.

Avulsed – A tooth that has been completed knocked out of your mouth.


Benign – Not threatening or malignant.

Beneficiary – A person who is eligible for dental benefits.

Bitewing – An x-ray taken when your teeth are in a closed position. It shows cavities that are between your teeth.

Bleaching – To whiten your teeth.

Bridge – To fill a space.

Bruxism – Grinding of teeth.

Buccal – The surface of your tooth toward the cheek.


Calculus – Commonly called tartar. Hard mineral and bacterial deposits attached to your teeth.

Canine – The longer tooth third from the front.

Canker Sore – A small ulceration inside your mouth that can be very, very sore. Many times we don’t know why they appear, but nutrition, extreme weather change, stress or citrus foods can bring them on.

Caries – Tooth decay.

Cavity – A hole in your tooth.

Cast – A model of your teeth.

Cementation – To glue something onto a tooth.

Cementum – The hard surface covering the root of your tooth.

Clasp – The metal arm that wraps around your tooth and helps retain a denture.

Cleft Palate – When the bones on the roof of your mouth do not fuse.

Clenching – Clamping or pressing your back teeth together.

Cold Sore – Usually pertaining to a blister on your lip caused by the herpes virus.

Composite – A tooth colored filling material.

Copayment – The patient’s share of the fee after the benefit plan has paid.

Cracked Tooth Syndrome – Pain when biting a certain way usually due to a small crack in the tooth.

Crown – Metal, porcelain, plastic, zirconium, gold, or any combination of materials that totally covers your tooth.

Crown Lengthening – A surgical procedure that exposes more of your tooth in your mouth.


Decay – Softened tooth structure caused by bacteria.

Diastama – A space between your teeth.

Distal – A direction away from the front of the mouth.

Dry Socket – A painful result of losing the blood clot or an infection after a tooth is removed.


Edentulous – Without teeth.

Enamel – Hard material covering the crown of your tooth.

Endodontics – A dental specialty dealing with the inner nerve of the tooth.

Eruption – When a tooth grows into the mouth.

Extraction – To remove a tooth.

Extruded – When a tooth is pushed partially out of its’ socket.


Filling – A material which is placed after decay is removed.

Flipper – A temporary denture.

Floss – String that is used for cleaning between your teeth.

Fluoride – An element which strengthens teeth.

Foramen – A natural opening in bone.

Fracture – A crack in your tooth.


Gingiva – Soft tissue around your teeth.

Gingivitis – Inflammation (swelling) of your gums due to bacteria.


Hemorrhage – Bleeding


Impaction – When a tooth cannot come into the mouth normally.

Implant – A metal piece which is put into your jaw to replace a missing root.

Incisal – The cutting edge of your front teeth.

Incisor – The four upper and lower front teeth.

Interproximal – Between your teeth.


Lingual – The side of your tooth towards your tongue.


Mandible – The lower jaw.

Maxilla – The upper jaw.

Mesial – The part of your tooth that points toward the front of your mouth.

Minimal Sedation – A depressed level of consciousness. You can still talk, walk and respond.

Molar – The last three larger teeth in your mouth.


Night Guard – An acrylic appliance that covers the biting surface of your teeth to prevent you from damaging them.


Occlusal – The biting surface of your teeth.

Occlusion – The way your teeth bite together.

Open Bite – When your upper and lower teeth don’t touch while in the biting position.

Orthodontics – The specialty that involves the movement of teeth and bone.

Overbite – When your upper front teeth cover your lower front teeth as the back teeth are in the biting position.

Overhang – A bit of filling material that hangs beyond its’ border.


Palate – The roof of your mouth.

Perforation – An opening.

Periodontics – The specialty which deals with gum disease or treatment of gum and bone and placement of implants.

Pontic – That which replaces a missing tooth.

Posterior – Located in the back of your mouth.

Pre-authorization – To estimate the insurance benefits prior to dental treatment.

Pre-medication – Medication, typically antibiotics, to be taken before dental treatment.

Premolar – Teeth located 4th and 5th from the front tooth.

Primary Teeth – Baby teeth (10 on top and 10 on the bottom).

Prophy – Teeth cleaning and polishing.

Pulp – The nerve of the tooth.


Radiograph – An x-ray.

Reimplantation – To physically put the tooth back into the socket after it has fallen out.

Root – The part of the tooth under the bone.

Rubber Dam – A thin piece of rubber which stretches over your teeth. The teeth are exposed but your throat and airway is protected. It isolates and keeps the teeth dry so that a better filling can be placed.


Scaling – The process used to remove hard mineralized material from your teeth.

Sealant – A thin resin material placed over the pits of your back teeth to prevent tooth decay.

Supernumerary Teeth – Extra teeth


Torus – An elevation of bone.

Trismus – Restricted mouth opening usually due to the inflammation of muscles.


Xerostomia – Dry mouth.

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