Your Guide to Dental Jargon

Your Guide to Dental Jargon

Dentists and dental hygienists use a lot of words to describe parts of your mouth, problems, and procedures. In fact, it often seems as though dental terminology is a language of its own.

Here is a list of some of the more common terms
you may hear at the dentist and what they mean.

  1. Abscess: Acute or chronic localized inflammation, probably with a collection of pus, associated with tissue destruction and, frequently, swelling; usually secondary to infection.
  2. Adult Dentition: The permanent teeth of adulthood that either replace the primary dentition or erupt distally to the primary molars.
  3. Alveolar: Referring to the bone to which a tooth is attached.
  4. Apex: The tip or end of the root end of the tooth.
  5. Artificial Crown: Restoration covering or replacing the major part, or the whole, of the clinical crown of a toothor implant.
  6. Bicuspid: A premolar tooth; a tooth with two cusps.
  7. Bruxism: The parafunctionalgrinding of the teeth.
  8. Cavity: Missing tooth structure. A cavity may be due to decay, erosion or abrasion. If caused by caries; also referred to as carious lesion.
  9. Cementum: Hard connective tissue covering the outer surface of a tooth root.
  10. Complete Denture: A prosthetic for the edentulous maxillary or mandibular arch, replacing the full dentition. Usually includes six anterior teeth and eight posterior teeth.
  11. Crown:An artificial replacement that restores missing tooth structure by surrounding the remaining coronal tooth structure, or is placed on a dental implant. It is made of metal, ceramic or polymer materials or a combination of such materials.
  12. Cuspid: Single cusped tooth located between the incisors and bicuspids.
  13. Decay: The lay term for carious lesions in a tooth; decomposition of tooth structure.
  14. Dentin: Hard tissue which forms the bulk of the tooth and develops from the dental papilla and dental pulp, and in the mature state is mineralized.
  15. Denture: An artificial substitute for some or all of the natural teeth and adjacent tissues.
  16. Dry Socket: Localized inflammation of the tooth socket following extraction due to infection or loss of blood clot; osteitis.
  17. Enamel: Hard calcified tissue covering dentin of the crown of tooth.
  18. Filling: A lay term used for the restoring of lost tooth structure by using materials such as metal, alloy, plastic or porcelain.
  19. Gingivitis: Inflammation of gingival tissue without loss of connective tissue.
  20. Impacted Tooth: An unerupted or partially erupted tooth that is positioned against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue so that complete eruption is unlikely.
  21. Incisor: A tooth for cutting or gnawing; located in the front of the mouth in both jaws.
  22. Molar: Teeth posterior to the premolars (bicuspids) on either side of the jaw; grinding teeth, having large crowns and broad chewing surfaces.
  23. Occlusal: Pertaining to the biting surfaces of the premolar and molar teeth or contacting surfaces of opposing teeth or opposing occlusion rims.
  24. Plaque: A soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth composed largely of bacteria and bacterial derivatives.
  25. Posterior: Refers to teeth and tissues towards the back of the mouth (distal to the canines); maxillary and mandibular premolars and molars.
  26. Pulp: Connective tissue that contains blood vessels and nerve tissue which occupies the pulp cavity of a tooth.
  27. Root: The anatomic portion of the tooth that is covered by cementum and is in the alveolus (socket) where it is attached by the periodontal apparatus; radicular portion of tooth.
  28. Root Canal: The portion of the pulp cavity inside the root of a tooth; the chamber within the root of the tooth that contains the pulp.
  29. Root Planing: A definitive treatment procedure designed to remove cementum and/or dentin that is rough, may be permeated by calculus, or contaminated with toxins or microorganisms.
  30. Scaling: Removal of plaque, calculus, and stain from teeth.

These definitions were provided by the American Dental Association. For more dental terms and meanings, visit their glossary page here.

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