Dental Terms Glossary from Abscess to Tooth Surface

Abscess: An infected, inflamed area containing pus, usually caused by problem tooth.

Abutment: A tooth or root that is fitted with a crown to support a bridge or partial denture.

Alloy: A mixture of two or more metals. Several alloys are used to repair teeth: noble (mostly silver), high noble (mostly gold) and "base" metals. The cost of a filling or crown depends on which alloy is used.

Amalgam: A metal alloy used in filling cavities.

Base metal: Metal alloys used for partials or crowns which contain no precious metals.

Bitewing x-ray: Films of upper and lower teeth used to check for decay between teeth and under gums.

Bonding: A cosmetic procedure that restores damaged teeth.

Bridge: A non-removable replacement for missing teeth made with crowns and pontics.

Cavity: Tooth decay caused by bacteria which, if not treated, can destroy the tooth.

Cephalometric x-ray: Used to make precise measurements for braces.

Crown: An artificial tooth or cap which covers a tooth weakened by decay.

Deep Cleaning of Teeth: Deep cleaning of teeth is often referred to as deep root cleaning or deep root planing. It is an extensive teeth cleaning procedure that focuses on removing the plaque and tartar "build up" on teeth below the gum line.

Dental Implants: Made of titanium and surgically screwed into the patient's jaw bone. A false tooth then sits on top of the implant.

Dentures: An artificial substitute for natural teeth and surrounding tissues.

Diagnostic photographs: Pictures taken by the dentist to plan treatment, particularly for braces.

Diagnostic cast: A mold or "study model" of the mouth made by taking an impression of the teeth.

Dry Mouth: Decreased flow of saliva. Less saliva can mean less oxygen as well. The combination of less saliva and less oxygen adversely affects the breath and taste.

Endodontics: The treatment of tooth pulp disease and infections of the root canal.

Fluoride: A compound used in water and dental products and procedures to reduce tooth decay.

Full mouth x-rays: 12 to 18 films taken when needed to check on dental disease.

Gingiva: Gum tissue.

Gingivectomy: The surgical removal of diseased or inflamed gum tissue.

Gingivitis: An early stage of gum disease that causes inflammation.

Impacted tooth: A tooth that does not come through the gum normally.

Inlay: A precision cast filling that is cemented in a prepared cavity, usually made of gold or porcelain.

Malocclusion: An abnormal alignment of the teeth.

Onlay: A precision cast filling, usually made of gold or porcelain, covering the entire chewing surface of the tooth; larger than an inlay.

Oral surgery: A dental specialty limited to the surgical removal of teeth and the treatment of disease, deformities, and defects of the jaws and associated structures.

Orthodontics: The alignment of teeth, usually through the use of braces.

Osseous surgery: Repair of the bone structure supporting the teeth that has been damaged by gum disease.

Panoramic x-ray: A complete view of the teeth, jaws and surrounding bone on one film.

Partial denture: Removable artificial teeth that keep the remaining natural teeth from changing position and improve chewing ability.

Pediatric Dentistry: A dental specialty limited to treatment of children from birth through adolescence.

Pedicle soft tissue: Graft replacement of damaged gum tissue.

Periapical x-ray: Close-up of an individual tooth and the surrounding tissue.

Periodontal disease treatment: The treatment of diseased gums. A dentist or periodontist will be able to diagnose and prescribe the best treatment.

Periodontics: The prevention and treatment of gum disease.

Periodontitis: A more severe gum disease that can lead to tooth loss in adults.

Plaque: A sticky, nearly clear layer of bacteria on teeth.

Pontic: An artificial tooth used in bridges.

Prophylaxis: A teeth cleaning to remove tartar, plaque and stains.

Prosthodontics: A dental specialty limited to the restoration to the natural teeth and/or the replacement of missing teeth. Pulp: the live tissue within the tooth.

Pulp capping: The use of medicine on a decayed part of a tooth to protect the pulp and help healing.

Pulpotomy: Partial or complete removal of damaged dental pulp to relieve pain. A root canal is usually recommended to save the tooth.

Quadrant: One-fourth of the mouth.

Reline: To add new material on the underside of a denture to improve the fit and chewing ability.

Resin filling: A tooth-colored plastic material used instead of alloys for a less noticeable, more natural appearance.

Root canal: A treatment used on a tooth with damaged pulp to stop infection and save the tooth. The pulp is completely removed, the inside of the tooth is sterilized and sealed to prevent infection.

Scaling and Root Planing: A thorough cleaning of tooth surfaces below the gum line to eliminate inflammation and control disease, usually performed during several visits and under local anesthetic.

Sealant: A plastic coating applied to teeth to prevent decay.

Tartar: Mineralized, hardened plaque that cannot be removed by brushing and flossing.

Temporomandibular joints: The left and right hinges that connect the jaw with the skull.

Tooth Extraction: The process of removing a tooth from the socket in the bone.

Tooth Filling: A durable material (gold, a resin, or amalgam) used to fill a cavity and halt decay.

Tooth surface: One of the five sides of a tooth above the gum line.

Wisdom Tooth Removal: The process of extracting one of four molars in the rear of the mouth on each side of the upper and lower jaw. Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt, typically in early adulthood.

Dental Health Specialists:

Oral Surgeon - A dental specialist who limits his practice to the surgical removal of teeth and the treatment of disease, deformities, and defects of the jaws and associated structures.

Orthodontist - A dental specialist that is qualified to correctly align the teeth by using braces, retainers and other procedures.

Endodontist - A dental specialist who focuses on treating diseases of the tooth root, dental pulp and surrounding tissue.

Periodontist - This dental specialist treats gum disease and can also do dental implants.

Prosthodontist - A dental specialist that works to restore and replace missing teeth or other structures of the mouth area to bring health and function to the patient.

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