Dental Glossary – Terms and Definitions

Dental Glossary


AACD: American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.

AAE: American Association of Endodontists.

AAO: American Association of Orthodontists.

AAP: American Academy of Period ontology.

ABPD: American Board of Pediatric Dentistry.

Abscess: Dental abscess is caused when pus builds up in the gums as a result of some infection of the teeth or infected gum tissues.

Abutment: This is basically a method for supporting the fixed or the removable dental bridges used for replacing missing teeth. Abutment requires both the teeth on either sides of a missing tooth.

ACD: American College of Dentists.

ACP: American College of Prosthodontists.

ADA: American Dental Association.

Alveolar bone: It is a part of jaw bone, surrounding and anchoring the root of teeth.

Amalgam fillings: Amalgam fillings have been used as dental fillings long back and there are certain places in the state where these fillings are still in use. Amalgam is a metal, which is produced by combining mercury, silver and nickel, and it is used for filling the hollow parts of tooth after the same has been decayed due to dental cavity. However, these fillings have been replaced by composite fillings, although they aren’t as long-lasting as the amalgam fillings.

Apicoectomy: This is a typical endodontic procedure which involves the process of removing the apex or the tip of the root of a tooth. It is often called root resectioning.


Bicuspid: Bicuspid teeth are basically “two-point” teeth or two cusps, located in between the molars and the incisors or canines. These teeth are typically used for crushing the food.

Bleaching: Teeth bleaching or whitening is a treatment that is used for whitening the teeth color.

Bonding: Dental bonding is a restorative treatment in which an artificial substance is used for binding the teeth to its surface.

Braces: An orthodontic treatment, dental braces help in correcting misaligned teeth for functional as well as cosmetic purpose.

Bridge: Dental Bridge is a prosthetic appliance, often fixed to the patient’s mouth for replacing missing teeth.

Bruxism: Bruxism is a typical habit that people develop, characterized by habitual and unconscious grinding or clenching of teeth when asleep.

Bruxomania: This is a nervous disorder in which an individual tends to grind his/her teeth involuntarily while awake.


CAD/CAM: The abbreviated form of computer-aided design / computer-aided manufacturing. This technology helps in making a computerized design of the product. It is used in cosmetic dentistry for designing crowns and for other restorative procedures.

Calculus: It is also called tartar. Calculus is a hard form of mineralized plaque sticking to the roots and crowns of teeth. Development of calculus often leads to decayed tooth and a few periodontal conditions.

Canker Sore: It is an open sore or ulceration that affects the lips and the lining of mouth. It is a common oral problem in America, and it usually lasts for a week or more.

Canines: Canines or cuspids are located between the premolars and incisors.

Cantilever Bridge: Cantilever bridge is one of the dental abridges that can be used for replacing a missing teeth and is attached to the abutment teeth on any one side. These bridges are used only when there is no tooth adjacent to the bridge, and the bridge is supported by one tooth only.

Cap: Also known as crowns, caps help in covering the front teeth, particularly the incisors or canines.

Caries: Canines is basically progressive tooth decay in the technical sense. Caries are usually caused due to excessive production of acid, which is caused by the bacterial sugar digestion.

Calculus: Calculus is a typically hard deposit of mineralized material that helps in attaching itself to crowns or root of teeth. Calculus is usually composed of a blend of hardened saliva and plaque.

Cementum: Connective tissues, usually fibrous in texture, that acts as an envelope for the root of your tooth.

Clenching: This is an act of closing your teeth and jaws forcibly together, thereby causing potential structural damage to your teeth and bite.

Composite Fillings: Composite fillings are used for bonding or repairing tooth fracture, decayed tooth and damaged tooth.

Composite Veneers: Composite veneers are less expensive when compared to porcelain veneers and they usually last for 5-7 years.

Cosmetic Dentistry: An innovative and specialized field that emphasizes on the aesthetic treatments solely intended to enhance the appearance of your teeth to give you a new look.

Crown: Dental crowns are basically restorative prosthetic appliances that can be used for replacing a missing tooth. Earlier on, these crowns were manufactured by the lab technicians, but in the recent times, CAD/CAM technology is used for manufacturing crowns.

Cuspid: Cuspids are also known as “canine teeth”, and are located between the premolars and incisors.


DDM: Doctor of Dental Medicine.

DDS: Doctor of Dental Surgery.

Decay: Tooth decay, technically known as dental caries, usually refers to the ongoing degradation of tooth due to acid production triggered by bacterial digestion of foods, particularly sugars. Tooth decay also indicates poor hygiene.

Deciduous Teeth: These are also known as “baby teeth” or the primary teeth that are temporary. Gradually deciduous teeth are replaced by permanent teeth, which are known as “adult teeth”.

Dental Floss: Flossing basically involves the use of nylon strings, either waxed or unwaxed, for cleaning the gaps between teeth. This should be made a regular practice, alike brushing.

Dental Implant: This is yet another prosthetic device that needs to be inserted into one’s jawbone, either upper or lower, onto which the artificial tooth or bridge or crown is anchored. Dental implants are made from titanium.

Dental Plaque: It is almost like tartar that comprises of saliva, bacteria and food that clings onto the teeth. Dental plaque can have negative affect on your tooth both above as well as below your gum line.

Dentures: These are artificial teeth used for replacing missing teeth permanently. Dentures are not the same as any other replacement like the implant or bridge; dentures are removable, while the others are not.

Diastema: This is actually the gap between the incisors lying in front of your upper jaw.

Dry Mouth Syndrome: Xerostomina as it is often known, dry mouth syndrome is characterized by dryness of the mouth due to the inability of the body to produce the required amounts of saliva. This condition is relatively common in aged people; however, it can be caused by other factors like medications as well.


Enamel: Enamel of tooth is basically one of the 4 important tissues that make a tooth. Enamel is a hard white material on the outer layer of the teeth, which is also the most mineralized element in the whole body.

Endodontics: This is a specialized field that emphasizes on the root canal therapy.

Exodontia: This is a particular branch of cosmetic dentistry that focuses on the simple procedures of teeth extraction; sometimes surgical methods might also be applied for the same purpose.

Extraction: Dental extraction is the procedure using which a tooth or several teeth are removed.


FAACD: Fellow of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.

FAGD: Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry.

Family Dentistry: Family dentistry or general dentistry primarily focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of different oral health conditions and diseases involving teeth, gums and maxillofacial problems.

Filling: Dental filling is used for restoring the shape of a tooth. Filling is inserted into the hollow part of a tooth. These fillings are primarily used for restoring these teeth that have been damaged by cavities. Dental fillings are made from metals, alloy, resin and porcelain.

Fixed Bridge: Fixed bridge or pontic is a porcelain ceramic replica of tooth that can be bonded to the adjacent crowned teeth firmly, so as to avoid removing the same.

Floss: Basically a nylon string could be waxed or unwaxed, is used for cleaning the spaces or gaps between teeth. This needs to be made a part of regular hygiene practice.

Flouride: Fluoride is used for dental treatment as a topical gel or liquid for warding off damage or decayed tooth. American Dental Association or ADA supports the use of water fluoridation and so does the World Health Organization or WHO.


General Dentistry: This field of dentistry is the part which mainly deals with the prevention, diagnosis as well as treatment of different dental conditions and diseases that affects the teeth, maxillofacial regions and gums.

Gingiva: Gum tissues are technically known as gingival. It surrounds the teeth’s roots and the jawbone too.

Gingivitis: A peculiar disease of gum tissues that causes bleeding and inflammation. Excessive plaque buildup and poor dental hygiene leads to gingivitis.

Gum Disease: A commonly occurring dental disease that results in the inflammation of gum tissues followed by pain. Gum diseases, when left untreated, can cause Periodontitis.

Gummy Smile: This is a common condition that is characterized by a hypermobile lip or higher lip line than usual, thereby resulting in the abnormal exposure of gum tissues. Gummy smile is easily corrected through cosmetic gum surgery.


Halitosis: Bad breath is a common problem, which is technically known as halitosis. Halitosis is caused due to gum diseases, cavities and tooth decay, gastrointestinal problems and other systematic abnormalities.


Implants: Dental implant is a prosthetic device that can be inserted into the lower or the upper jawbone for holding the artificial tooth, bridge or crown as an anchor. Implants are usually made from titanium.

Incisors: It is the front teeth which is located between the canines.

Indirect Fillings: Indirect fillings are used for treating such dental conditions or damages in which the traditional fillings actually fail to serve the purpose. The damage caused is much more than usual tooth decay but not enough to use a crown. On such cases, indirect fillings are used for treatment; indirect fillings are available in two forms – inlays and onlays. Using the CAD/CAM technology, these fillings are created in a dental lab.

Inlays: Dental Inlays or inlays are basically restorative devices used for placing dental fillings for treating damaged or decayed teeth. These fillings are not placed inside the mouth; these are rather created in the dental lab using CAD/CAM technology and are placed within the hollow in a tooth.


Laser Dentistry: It is one such field of dentistry that involves the use of laser beams for performing dental procedures. Laser dentistry usually heals the condition faster than ever, having a higher precision rate, with minimal recovery time. It is a popular treatment option today when compared to the traditional alternatives.

Local Anesthesia: Basically a medication, which is given for numbing pain in a particular location or a part of the body.


Malocclusion: It means misaligned lower and upper teeth. Lower teeth are the mandibular teeth and upper teeth are the maxillary teeth.

Madibualr Teeth: The lower part of the jaws is the mandibualr teeth.

Maxillary Teeth: The upper part of the jaw is the maxillary teeth.

Molars: The teeth at the back, primarily used for chewing and grinding are known as molars. The molars located at the back of your mouth are known as the “wisdom teeth”.


Narrow Implants: As the name suggests, it is a narrow dental implant made for those people who prefer not to use the traditional implants. These implants are used for smaller teeth and for incisors too. It serves patients who require the stabilization of the dentures of lower jaw or pre-molar teeth. It is also useful for replacing narrow missing teeth.

Night Guard: This is basically a dental appliance (plastic) that is used for inhibiting the clenching or grinding habit at night. This condition is known as Bruxism.

Nitrous Oxide: Laughing gas is nitrous oxide in chemical terms. N2O is used as dental anesthetic. When it is used in combination with the usual, local anesthesia, nitrous oxide helps in numbing the pain and discomfort.

Novocain: A type of local anesthesia brand that was commonly used in the dental industry.


Occlusion: “Bites” are known as occlusion in technical terms, Bite is the way in which your upper (maxially) and lower (mandibalr) teeth align as the jaw closes. Misalignment in this department is known as malocclusion.

Onlays: Dental onlays or onlays as it known are restorative tools that are used for treating dental filings in order to treat damaged or decayed tooth. Dental onlays are usually fabricated in the dental lab with the use of CAD/CAM technology, instead of being molded inside the mouth. Onlays are to be placed on the tooth surface, rather than the hole formed in the teeth.

Oral Cancer: When the oral cavity becomes malignant, it is known as oral cancer.

Oral Sedation: Oral sedatives are given to patients in order to relax their muscles prior to a dental treatment, which is often called sedation modality. It is often known as oral conscious sedation.

Oral Surgery: A surgery involving the mouth or jaws.

Oral Thrush: Fungal infection occurring inside the mouth, characterized by open lesions or sores. Thrush is very commonly seen in infants, denture wearers and immunocompromised people.

Orthodontics: Orthodontics is a specialized field of cosmetic dentistry today that involves the treatment of malocclusions. This field is usually associated with dental braces, headgear, retainers and other devices for straightening as well as correcting any abnormalities of teeth. With orthodontics you can now straighten your teeth as well as improve you smile to a great extent.


Pediatric Dentistry: A highly-specialized field of modern dentistry that deals with the treatment of kid dental health and different dental complications children experience.

Periodontitis: A progressive gum disease that results in loss of tooth/teeth of left untreated. Periodontitis is caused due to improper oral hygiene.

Periodontal Surgery: A typical surgical procedure that helps in providing relief against structurally damaged connective tissues or gum tissues.

Periodontics: A specialized field of modern dentistry that emphasizes on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of different oral sides involving the gums and the supportive tissues around the oral cavity.

Permanent Teeth: Permanent teeth or adult teeth are used as a follow-up plan for the loss of deciduous teeth. It consists of 32 teeth.

Plaque: Quite similar to tartar, plaque is also caused due to the development of saliva, bacteria and food together that tends to form a permanent layer on the teeth. Plaque can have many negative affects on the teeth and the gum line.

Pontic: Used for replacing missing teeth, pontic is a typical artificial tooth attached to a fixed bridge.

Porcelain Veneers: These are expensive dental veneers that last for 10-15 years or more.

Premolars: The teeth located between the molars are cuspids are known as the premolars.

Prenatal Dentistry: Dentistry treatment meant for pregnant women.

Prothodontics: A field of dentistry that deals with the replacement of certain teeth, particular missing teeth with its artificial alternatives. Some commonly employed prosthodontist procedures are dental implants, dental bridges, dental crowns and dentures.

Pulp: Dental pulp is present in the center of a tooth. It is basically a soft tissue that helps in producing dentin, which is a hard tissue that is required for making the structure of the tooth.


Receding Gums: It is caused due to poor oral hygiene, old age, recurring infection and other such conditions. Receding gums refer to the loss of tissues of the gums.

Resin Bonded Bridge: This type of bridge is used for replacing missing front teeth with alternatives. However the adjoining teeth should not have unhealthy gums or dental fillings. These bridges are less expensive than the traditional dental bridges.

Retainer: A retainer is an orthodontic dental appliance that helps in maintaining the alignment of your teeth following the corrective treatment. Dental retainers are usually used after removing the dental braces.

Root: The root of your tooth is that section which is embedded in your jawbone. It helps in anchoring the tooth in place.

Root Canal: It is the hollow region located right in the middle of a tooth.

Root Canal Therapy: It is a dental treatment procedure that helps in removing diseases or damaged soft tissues from the inner parts of a tooth, this replacing them with permanent filling and capping the same with a crown.

Scaling: Scaling is the procedure through which plaque and tartar are removed from the tooth surface to prevent staining.

Sealant: A composite material that help in sealing teeth to prevent the same from further decay.

Secondary Teeth: Also known as permanent teeth that develops after the baby teeth.

Sedation Dentistry: Also called sleep dentistry, sedation dentistry is one specialized dentistry treatment meant for people experiencing problems with dental phobia. Sedatives help in reducing fear and anxiety as a result of phobia.

Sleep Apnea: This is a typical sleep disorder type in which patients experience temporary breathing cessation while sleeping. Sleep apnea is usually triggered by the abnormal position of the tongue or jaw, and is successfully treated by dental professionals.

Sleep Dentistry: Sedation dentistry is also known as sleep dentistry. However, this is a misleading term because patients usually do not sleep when sedated.

Sjögren’s Syndrome: An autoimmune disease that as been named after the Swedish ophthalmologist Henrik Sjögren, this disease affects the exocrine glands, thereby causing cessation of saliva and tear production. This disease can actually cause extensive damage to the vital organs and is incurable till now, older woman are worst affected by this condition.

Stomatitis: This condition is characterized by the inflammation of mucosal membranes located inside your mouth temporarily.

Somatology: A typical branch of medicine that deals with the study of different disorders and diseases involving the mouth.


Tartar: Tartar is quite similar to plaque. It is a sticky and thick buildup of bacteria, food and saliva together that tends to get attached to teeth. Tartar affects tooth lying both above as well as below the gum line.

Teeth Whitening: It is the commonly known bleaching or whitening treatment that can clean your teeth to give a pearl white effect.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ): The typical temporomandibualr joint is a link between the jawbone and the base of our skull.

TMJ Syndrome: Also known as temporomandibualr disorder or TMD, this is a serious complication affecting the temporomandibualr joint, which further limits the ability of the patient to open or close his jaws.

Toothache: Any pain or ache occurring in and around a particular tooth is toothache. It can be caused due to trauma or sometimes more complicated dental conditions like diseases, crack or decay as well.


Veneers: Used for restorative purpose, veneers are thin material, made from composite or porcelain material that has various uses.


Waterlase Dental Laser: A typical dental laser manufactured by the BIOLASE technology that makes use of the hydrokinetic energy for removing enamel and the soft tissues with precision and no heat virtually.

Whitening: It is the teeth whitening or bleaching procedure that can be done through different methods, such as lasers, bleaches or other whitening agents.

Wisdom Teeth: The back molars or back teeth are known as the wisdom teeth. These teeth tend to grow at a mature age, and usually a person aged 17 to 25 develops these teeth. Wisdom teeth needs to be removed if it starts causing pain and affects the surrounding area.


Xerostomia: Technical term for dry mouth syndrome.


Zoom Whitening: Zoom whitening is a teeth whitening treatment done in the dental office, which has been developed by the Discus Dental.


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Dental Glossary - Terms and Definitions