Dental Dictionary

L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Lingual

The side of the tooth towards the tongue.

Mesial

The side of the tooth towards the midline of the jaw.

Molar

The last three upper and lower teeth on both sides of the mouth.

Mouthguard

An acrylic appliance to be worn in the mouth. Depending on the design, it prevents injury to teeth and/or jaw during teeth grinding or sport events.

Nightguard

A mouthguard which is worn at night time.

Occlusal

The biting surface of the back teeth.

Occlusion

The manner in which the upper and lower teeth close/bite together.

Onlay

A lab-fabricated restoration that covers at least one cusp of a tooth. It is permanently cemented in.

Open bite

The situation where the upper teeth are not able to contact the opposing lower teeth.

Orthodontics

A special field in dentistry which involves diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of bite abnormalities or facial irregularities.

Over bite

The overlap of upper teeth and lower teeth when they close together.

Overhang

The portion of filling material that hangs beyond the border of the cavity.  If not corrected, these can lead to new cavities and localized periodontal problems.

Palate

The roof of the mouth.

Panoramic Radiograph

An x-ray film used to obtain the wide view of upper and lower jaws and their associated structures.

Perforation

An opening on a tooth or other oral structure.

Periapical

The surrounding area around the tip of the root of a tooth.

Periodontics

A specialty of dentistry involved in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of gum (periodontal) disease.

Permanent teeth

Adult teeth. The first permanent tooth usually comes in around 6 years old.  There are 32 permanent teeth including the wisdom.

Pin

A small, cylindrical piece of metal. It usually is used for better retention of a filling.

Polish

A process to make the tooth, filling or other dental restoration smooth and glossy.

Pontic

The false tooth in a bridge or denture to replace the missing tooth.

Post

An anchoring rod, which can be made of metal or carbon. Its function  is to anchor a big buildup on a tooth that has had root canal.

Posterior

Located at the back.

Pre-authorization

An approval from the particular authority (usually insurance company in dentistry) before any action (treatment) is carried out.

Pre-medication

Medication needing to be taken before treatment.  This is determined by the patient’s physician as a result of various medical conditions including joint replacement and cardiac disease.

Premolar

The two teeth located between the first molar and canine.  Also known as a bicuspid.

Prescription

A written request (from a doctor to a pharmacist) regarding the type, the amount and direction of the use of a medication for a patient. In dentistry, a prescription can also be a written statement for preparation of a dental restoration from a dentist to a lab technician.

Primary teeth

Baby teeth.

Prophylaxis/prophy

The procedure of polishing teeth. It also means the prevention of diseases.

Prosthesis

An artificial part to replace missing teeth and their associated structures.

Prosthodontics

A specialty of dentistry involving diagnosis, treatment planning, and fabrication of artificial parts to replace missing teeth and their associated structures.

Pulp

The innermost part of a tooth. It contains nerves and blood vessels inside a tooth.

Pulpectomy

The removal of the whole pulp inside a tooth.

Pulpotomy

The removal of  part of the pulp inside a tooth.

Q

Radiograph

An x-ray picture.

Recall

The regular checkup and teeth cleaning appointment.

Recementation

The process of “gluing” the appliance/prosthesis back on the associated area.

Restoration

An item a dentist uses to restore the normal function of a tooth or an area in the mouth. It can be a filling, a crown, a bridge, etc.

Retainer

A device used for maintaining the position of teeth in the jaw in orthodontic treatment.  It can also be the anchor tooth or implant for a bridge or partial denture.

Retreatment

The process of repeating the root canal treatment due to reinfection.

Root

The bottom part of tooth. It anchors the tooth in the bone.

Root canal

The canal that runs inside the root of the tooth. It contains the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth.

Root canal treatment

A treatment of compromised pulp inside the tooth.

Root planing

The action of cleaning the root of a tooth on the outside until it is smooth.

Rubber dam

A rubber sheet that fits around teeth. It isolates the treatment area from the rest of the oral cavity.

Scaling

The action of cleaning teeth below the gumline.

Sealant

A thin layer of plastic-like material covering the grooves and pits on a tooth to prevent cavities.

Sedation

The use of medication to calm a patient.

Space Maintainer

An appliance to maintain the space between teeth.

Splint

An appliance or a material to prevent movement of a mobile part.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

The joint that links the mandible (lower jaw) to the skull.

Torus

An outgrowth of bone. It usually develops on the roof of the mouth or around the premolar area on the lower jaw.

U

Veneer

A thin layer of tooth-colored material (can be porcelain or composite) that attaches to the front of the tooth. It is usually used to improve the appearance of the tooth.

Wisdom tooth

The last tooth in the back of the jaw.  Also known as a third molar.

Xerostomia

Dry mouth

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Z

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Abscess

An infection that can result in pus formation, pain and swelling.

Abutment

A tooth or tooth structure which is responsible for anchoring a bridge or a denture.

Amalgam

A silver filling material.

Anesthetic

An agent that causes temporary loss of sensation/feeling.

Anterior

Referring to the front teeth.

Apex

The end of the root (root tip).

Asepsis

No micro-organisms present.

Attrition

Wear of teeth due to activities such as chewing or grinding.

Avulsed

 A tooth that has been completely knocked out of the mouth.

Bitewing

A type of dental x-ray which is taken with the teeth biting together. The main function of this  x-ray is to detect cavities in between teeth and height of bone support.

Bleaching

Whitening of teeth.

Bridge

A prosthesis which is permanently cemented  in the mouth to replace missing teeth.

Bruxism

Teeth grinding.

Canine

The third tooth from the midline of the jaw. There are four of them. They are the longest teeth in humans.

Canker sore

An ulceration with yellow base and red border in mouth. It can be caused by trauma or herpes simplex virus.

Caries

Tooth decay.

Cavity

A hole in the tooth.

Cast

A model of teeth.

Cementation

The process of “gluing” the crown/prosthesis in place.

Chlorhexidine

An anti-microbial agent. It is available in many forms such as gels and rinses. It is an effective agent in controlling gum diseases.

Clasp

A metal or acrylic  arm extended from a removable partial denture. It helps to hold onto natural tooth structure and thus provide anchorage for the denture.

Cold sore

An ulcer or blister on lip or in the mouth. Often the result of the herpes simplex virus.

Composite

Resin-based white filling.

Cross-bite

An abnormal bite relationship of upper and lower jaw. The lower teeth/tooth align toward the check/ lip side more than the upper teeth/tooth.

Crown (porcelain/plastic/metal)

A crown is also known as  a “cap”. It covers the tooth partially or totally above the gum to restore its function, protect tooth from fracture, and improve its appearance.

Decay

The bacterial demineralization of enamel and dentin. An infection within a tooth that must be treated.

Dentistry

A branch of medicine that involves diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of any disease concerning teeth, oral cavity, and associated structures.

Dentition

The position, type, and number of teeth in the upper and lower jaw.

Denture

(Immediate/complete/partial) (overdenture, temporary)
An artificial prosthesis to replace missing teeth and their supporting structures. There are many different types of dentures to satisfy different treatment requirements and patient preferences.

Desensitization

A procedure to reduce the sensitivity of teeth.

Diagnosis

The process of identifying dental disease.

Diastema

The space between two adjacent teeth.

Distal

Indicates the direction away from the midline of the jaw.

Edentulous

No teeth.

Endodontics

A department of dentistry involving diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental pulp (nerves and blood).  Also known as “root canal”.

Eruption

The process of the tooth appearing in the mouth.

Excision

The action of cutting biological tissue and removing it from the body.

Extruded

When a tooth may be pushed partially out of the socket.

Filling

A restoration placed in a tooth to replace missing tooth structure due to fracture or dental decay.

Flipper

A temporary partial denture to replace missing teeth during the waiting period for long term treatment.

Floss

A thread/tape that goes in between teeth for cleaning.

Fluoride

A compound of fluorine (an element) which be put in different forms such as water, gels, and rinses to strengthen teeth.

Fluoride Treatment

Dental treatment with fluoride agents like gel or rinse to prevent tooth decay.

Fracture

When the structure of a tooth becomes weakened, a fracture may result. It is possible for the crack to be severe enough to warrant root canal and a crown.  Sometimes fractured teeth need to be extracted.

Framework

The metal skeleton of a removable partial denture to support the false teeth and the acrylic attachments.

Gingivitis

The mildest form of gum disease: inflammation of gums or gingiva. The hallmark sign of gingivitis is bleeding gums.

Hemorrhage

Severe bleeding that is difficult to stop.

Hemostasis

Stop bleeding.

Impaction

A condition where a tooth is not able to come in normally or is stuck underneath another tooth or bone.

Implant

A device (usually “screw-like”) put in the jaw bone to support a false tooth, a denture or a bridge.

Impression

A mold taken by various types of material loaded in a tray.

Incisal

The cutting edge of front teeth.

Incisor

The four upper and lower front teeth.

Inlay

A restoration (usually gold, composite or ceramics) fabricated in the lab that cements in a tooth after an impression has been taken. It helps to restore the normal function and replaces missing tooth structure due to cavities.

Interproximal

The space between two adjacent teeth.

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