Glossary of Dental Terms

Dental Implant Glossary and Cosmetic Dentistry Glossary

Ever wondered what those dental words mean? Well we have tried our best to explain these words in plain English…


ABSCESS – a local infection; some of the most common causes of an abscess are trauma, decay or periodontal disease. An abscess is often characterized by the presence of swelling and pain.

ABUTMENT – pertaining to the teeth positioned on either side of a missing tooth.

ACRYLIC RESIN – the plastic material widely used for the creation of dentures.

ACTIVE ERUPTION – the act of the tooth emerging from its position in the jaw.

ADJUSTMENT – a change that is made on a dental prosthesis after its completion and after it has been positioned in the mouth.

AEROBIC BACTERIA – bacteria that grows in the oral cavity’s oxygen-rich environment.

AGAR – a substance resembling gelatin that is usually used as an impression material.

AIR ABRASION – a method used in removing decay and bacteria from the tooth without resorting to using the drill.

ALLERGY – an abnormal or unfavourable reaction to a medication, substance or an organism.

ALVEOLECTOMY – a surgical procedure involving the removal of portions of the alveolar bone.

ALVEOLAR BONE – the mineralized bone tissue that houses the tooth sockets on bones where teeth rest. Severe periodontal disease may lead to alveolar bone loss.

ALVEOLAR CREST – the alveolar ridge’s highest point, extending beyond the socket of the tooth. The crest’s position slightly moves upwards with the eruption of the tooth.

ALVEOLUS – the bony socket where the tooth rests upon.

AMALGAM- also called “silver filling”, an amalgam is an alloy that has Mercury as one of the metals. The approximate percentages of the amalgam’s components are as follows:

Mercury (Hg): 50%

Silver (Ag): 35%

Tin (Sn): 13%

Copper (Cu): 0%-3%

Zinc (Zn): 0% – 1%

AMALGAM FILLINGS – dental fillings that are made from combining a number of components, which are usually different types of metals.

ANAEROBIC BACTERIA – bacteria that can grow without the need for oxygen; this kind of bacteria is usually associated with the development of periodontal disease.

ANAESTHESIA – loss of sensation or the ability to feel pain, usually brought about by the administration of a substance or drug, or other kinds of medical intervention.

ANTERIOR TEETH – the front teeth, including the canines and the incisors.

ANODONTIA – refers to the congenital absence of all or some of the teeth.

ANTIBIOTICS – a substance that is derived from or produced by bacteria, which has the power to inhibit or kill other bacteria.

ANTIMICROBIAL – the capability of inhibiting or destroying the growth of microorganisms or bacteria.

ANTIMICROBIAL THERAPY – a treatment method that prevents the growth or microorganisms or bacteria.

ANATOMICAL CROWN – the tooth’s portion that is covered and protected with enamel.

APICAL FORAMEN – the tooth root’s opening (located at the tooth’s end); this opening is where the tooth receives blood and nerve supply.

APICECTOMY – the surgical removal of the tip of the tooth root, usually done before the root end’s cavity is filled with a material that is biocompatible.

ARCH – the curvature of both the mandibular and maxillary ridges, forming an arch that has a horseshoe shape.

ARTICULATOR – a mechanical device that is used to reproduce the jaw’s functional movements to casts.

ASPIRATOR – a tube resembling a straw that the dentist positions in the patient’s mouth for suctioning purposes.

ATTRITION – the wearing away of the tooth’s structure caused by friction, through normal usage.

BABY TEETH & TEETHING – the first set of human teeth, which will start to appear or erupt when the baby reaches the sixth month of age. Teething can be a very uncomfortable period for the baby, and can cause swollen gums and high body temperatures.

BASE – a substance that resembles cement, usually used to protect a dental filling from sensitivity to extremely hot or cold temperatures.

BLACK HAIRY TONGUE – an infection that affects the tongue’s surface papillae, characterized by a brown or black fuzzy appearance.

BLADE IMPLANTS – types of dental implants that belong to the “endosseus” category of dental implants. The blade implants are placed in the jaw with the prong (or prongs) protruding into the mouth, rising from above the gum line; the prongs will serve as anchors where prosthetic teeth will be attached to.

BLEACHING – the cosmetic whitening or lightening of the teeth’s colour with the use of peroxide.

BONDING – covering the surface of the tooth to deal with damaged or badly-stained teeth.

BONE GRAFTING – a surgical process of augmenting missing or insufficient bone mass with the use of new bone, or other bone grafting material. The material used for a bone grafting procedure can be sourced from: the patient’s own body (his own bone matter), from another human donor, from an animal (such as bovine), or from other materials.

BRIDGE – a fixed dental prosthesis that is used to replace missing or lost teeth; it is composed of a number of crowns attached together (abutments and pontics).

BRUXISM – refers to the act of uncontrolled teeth grinding, which is often a result of malocclusion or stress/anxiety.

CALCULUS – hard deposits that resemble calcium, which form on surfaces of the teeth and dentures.

CANKER SORES – ulcers or sores that are found inside the mouth.

CANTILEVER BRIDGE – a type of dental implant which is used to fill in the gap resulting from missing teeth; this particular type of dental bridge is used when only one side of the gap has healthy teeth.

CARIES – the medical term for tooth decay, which results when the tooth’s dentine disintegrates because of acid-causing bacteria; caries are also caused by tooth enamel’s decalcification.

CAST – a reproduction of the mouth set in plaster or stone.

CEMENT – a material used in dentistry to seal crowns, inlays and onlays; it is also used for pupal protection.

CLASP – the metal part of the denture which serves as the device’s support. A clasp is also used to put together the prosthesis’ different parts, and to fix it to surrounding abutments or natural teeth.

COMPOSITE FILLING – a restorative material that closely resembles the natural hue of a tooth.

COSMETIC DENTISTRY – the branch of dentistry that deals with the aesthetic improvement of a patient’s teeth.

CT SCAN (Dental CT Scan) – refers to the process of obtaining clear images of the teeth and other parts of the mouth. A dental CT scan can show three-dimensional images without exposing the patient to radiation from conventional X-rays.

DEBRIDEMENT – a method used to treat bacterial infection with the removal of irritants, such as calculus or bacteria.

DECALCIFICATION – the loss of calcium on the teeth that results to the teeth being more susceptible to decay and overall tooth structure weakening.

DELAYED IMPLANT PLACEMENT – the placement of dental implants a few months or years after the tooth has been extracted, and the tissues surrounding the area have fully healed.

DENTAL CROWN – a dental restoration type that completely encircles or caps a tooth or a dental implant; a dental crown is often used in cases when a large cavity is threatening the healing of a specific tooth.

DENTAL IMPLANTS – an artificial root and tooth that is designed to replace a missing tooth (or teeth).

DENTAL MAINTENANCE ORGANIZATION (D.M.O.) – a legal entity that accepts the responsibility of providing dental services at fixed prices.

DENTAL PHOBIA – a state or extreme nervousness or anxiety arising from the mere thought of going for a dental visit, or even from issues related to going to the dentist.

DENTAL TOOTH FILLINGS – material used to fill a tooth hole or cavity, to prevent infection and bacteria from further spreading. Types of dental tooth fillings include: silver amalgam, composite and temporary tooth fillings.

DENTAL TRAUMA – any injury (“trauma”) that affects the mouth; dental trauma can include injuries that affect the gums, teeth, lips, tongue and the jaws.

DISINFECTION – a method of cleaning that destroys the majority of microorganisms, although highly-resistant forms of microorganisms such as mycotic or bacterial spores may not effectively be dealt with by a disinfection process.

DISTRACTION OSTEOGENESIS – a surgical procedure used to reconstruct deformities in bones by lengthening the body’s long bones.

DRY MOUTH – a condition that results from the decreased production of saliva.

EDENTULOUS – toothless; having no teeth.

EMPRESS – a type of porcelain laminate/veneer or porcelain crown; this type of porcelain crown or veneer compatibly blends with the surrounding teeth without any difficulties.

ENAMEL – the white, hard and shiny surface of the tooth’s crown; the tooth enamel is composed of 95% hydroxypatite.

EROSION – the mechanochemical or chemical destruction of the tooth structure, often due to the presence of acidic substances such as gastric juices. Tooth erosion very rarely occurs by itself, and is often accompanied by varying degrees of tooth abrasion or attrition (or both). Tooth or dental erosion can be avoided by staying away from food and drinks high in acidity, such as citrus fruits and fruit juices.

EXTRACTION – the removal of teeth, often to prevent the spread of tooth decay and infection.

FIN IMPLANTS – types of dental implants generally used for patients who have thin jaw bone ridges, so they can have dental implants placed without the need for a bone grafting procedure.

FLAP SURGERY – a complex dental surgical procedure that involves the lifting of the gum away from the bone, to get to the area that is covered by the gums.

FLOSSING – the act of using a dental floss (a material which is used to aid in proper dental hygiene that resembles a string) to remove plaque from in between the teeth, as well as in the areas between the tooth and the gum line.

FLUORIDE – a gel or liquid substance applied topically to prevent the development of tooth decay.

GERIATRIC DENTIST – a dentist who specializes in the dental treatment of senior citizens or elderly patients.

GINGIVITIS – swollen or inflamed gums that are most commonly caused by the presence of plaque. When gingivitis is left untreated, it may lead to more serious gum diseases or periodontitis.

GOLDEN PROPORTION – a guideline that dentists use to determine the most pleasing aesthetic appearance of a tooth, because teeth have to maintain a specific width-to-height ration for the most visually appealing results.

HALITOSIS – more commonly known as bad breath, this is an oftentimes embarrassing condition that is characterized by a foul odour coming from the mouth. Halitosis can be treated effectively with proper dental hygiene practices, as well as regular dental checkups; however, there are also cases when halitosis is caused by an underlying medical condition.

HYDROGEN PEROXIDE – a substance that is often used as an antiseptic, it is also a common ingredient in mouthwashes and in dental whitening products.

IMMEDIATE DENTURES – partial or complete dentures that are created before the extraction of the natural teeth.

IMMEDIATE IMPLANT LOADING – refers to the immediate use of the dental implant, right after it has been positioned into place. The area where the dental implant is placed can immediately be used for biting, so the patient does not have to wait for a long time to maximize the use of the dental implants.

IMMEDIATE IMPLANTS PLACEMENT – the technique where teeth extraction and the placement of dental implants are done at the same time, with no waiting period in between the two procedures.

IMPACTION – the partially erupted or unerupted tooth that cannot fully erupt out from underneath the gum line, usually because of an existing obstruction in the area.

IMPLANT – a metal device directly implanted into the jaw bone, which will serve as the anchor to which a prosthetic tooth (or teeth) will be attached to. The dental implant and the prosthetic teeth will replace the form and function of missing teeth.

INCISION – a dental procedure that involves cutting away the abscessed part; an incision can be complemented by Drainage, to drain out the fluid that may cause further infection.

INTERPOSITIONAL BONE GRAFT – refers the surgical sectioning of the bone, with the bone graft material placed in the space left by the surgical procedure. This bone graft procedure can provide more predictable long-term results.

INVISALIGN – a system that moves the teeth without using traditional metal brackets. Invisalign uses clear, removable aligners that effectively deal with minor teeth movements into the desired position in an “invisible” way.

LASER DENTISTRY – dental procedures that are carried out with the use of modern laser technology.

MALOCCLUSION – a dental condition or problem that arises when the lower and upper jaws do not fit together (comfortably) when chewing or biting.

MASTICATION – the process of chewing.

MICRO ABRASION – a dental technique that does not use a dental drill; micro abrasion uses a device that resembles a small sand blaster that delivers small aluminium oxide particles to the teeth’s surface.

MINI DENTAL IMPLANTS – implants that are smaller in diameter compared to conventional dental implants. The placement procedure of these implants is less invasive, resulting to very minimal to no downtime and trauma for the patient. Mini implants are often used to give support to removable dentures, which can immediately be used after the mini implants are placed.

MOUTH GUARD – a soft, comfortably-fitting dental device that protects the teeth and inner mouth area from injuries or accidents.

NERVE REPOSITIONING/LATERALISATION – the process of moving or repositioning the inferior alveolar nerve prior to the dental implants placement. This process is necessary when the patient has insufficient bone mass in the lower jaw bone, and the placement of dental implants will not be possible without damaging the inferior alveolar nerve (thus the need for the nerve’s repositioning).

NERVOUS PATIENTS – a common form of mild dental phobia, wherein patients experience anxiety or nervousness when going for a dental checkup.

OCCLUSAL – pertaining to the teeth’s biting surfaces.

ORAL AND MAXILLOFACIAL SURGERY – the diagnosis and treatment of conditions or illnesses that relate to the face, jaw, neck and mouth. An Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon is responsible for treating the above-mentioned conditions.

ORTHODONTICS – a dentistry specialty that deals primarily with the prevention and correction of teeth irregularities.

PANOREX – a single large X-ray that shows all of the patient’s teeth in one film; the X-ray is taken on the exterior part of the mouth.

PEDODONTICS – a dentistry specialty that mainly deals with the mouth conditions and teeth of children. This includes the overall dental health of children from birth throughout their adolescence period.

PERIODONTICS – a dental specialty dealing with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gum diseases. A Periodontal Examination is done by the dentist to determine the status of the patient’s teeth and gum health.

PERIODONTIST – a dentist specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gum diseases; a periodontist also deals with the conditions affecting the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth.

POLISHING – a dental procedure done to remove dental plaque and stains, with the use of an abrasive polishing paste in a rubber cup, which is in turn attached to a handpiece held by the dentist.

PONTIC – a part of the bridge that replaces a missing tooth (or teeth). A pontic can be attached to a removable or fixed dental appliance.

PORCELAIN VENEER – ultra-thin shells that resemble the colour and appearance of natural teeth; the veneer is bonded to the front of the tooth, usually to improve the appearance of discoloured or badly stained teeth.

POST (DENTAL IMPLANT POST) – the post is a part of the dental implant structure used to connect to the top of the dental implant in an accurate manner.

POST EXTRACTION PLACEMENT – the technique involving a waiting period (anywhere from a few weeks to a few months) for the dental implants to be placed, after the tooth extraction procedure.

PROCERA – a type of porcelain crown, which is considered to be one of the strongest all-porcelain crowns available for dental purposes. The framework of Procera consists of computer-generated porcelain, which is then added to the overall crown structure.

PROPHYLAXIS – the method of cleaning the teeth and removing plaque, to prevent the development of tooth caries or tooth decay.

PROSTHETICS – a removable or fixed dental appliance that is used as a replacement for missing teeth. Some of the prosthetics that can be used to replace missing teeth are dentures and bridges.

PULP – the part of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels; the pulp is the tooth’s soft substance. Pulpectomy is the method of removing the infected tooth pulp.

RADIOSURGERY – a surgical method that uses radio waves to create a dental incision without blood and without putting pressure in the affected area.

RAMUS FRAME IMPLANTS – a one-piece rail suspended just above the patient’s gum line, these types of dental implants are made of titanium and specifically designed for use in the lower jaw – usually where no natural teeth are remaining.

RESTORATIVE DENTISTRY – a dentistry specialty dealing with the restoration of diseased, missing or damaged teeth to their natural function and form.

ROOT CANAL THERAPY (RCT) – a dental procedure used to save a tooth that has been abscessed. During a root canal therapy, the pulp chamber is cleaned thoroughly, disinfected and closed with a permanent dental filling.

ROOT FORM IMPLANTS – also called “endosseus” or “endosteal” implants, these types of dental implants are the most common ones used worldwide. They are inserted directly into the jawbone, and have two sub-types: cylindrical and screw.

ROOT PLANING – the process of removing hard deposits from the surface of the tooth root, which is below the gum line.

SEDATION DENTISTRY – also known as “sleep dentistry”, sedation dentistry allows a patient to feel relaxed during dental treatments. Sedation dentistry is effective in enabling patients who have dental phobias to get the dental treatments they need, without having to feel fear or anxiety.

SINUS GRAFTING – also called a “sinus lift”, sinus grafting is the procedure of lifting the sinus membrane to introduce a bone graft onto the sinus floor; this procedure is done when there is insufficient bone mass in the sinus area to support a dental implant.

SUBPERIOSTEAL IMPLANTS – custom-made dental implants that are positioned above a patient’s jaw bone, but underneath the gum line. The lightweight metal framework of subperiosteal implants is usually used to secure a patient’s dentures in cases when the jaw bone is insufficient because it has atrophied or receded.

TEMPOROMANDIBULAR JOINT – the hinge or joint connecting the lower jaw to the base of the skull. A TMJ Disorder occurs from problems arising from the movement or condition f the temporomandibular joint.

VIRGIN TEETH – teeth that are free from dental caries or tooth decay, or from any dental restorations.

WISDOM TOOTH – any of the last four teeth on each side of the lower and upper jaws. Wisdom teeth become impacted when they grow sideways, in which case a wisdom tooth extraction may be needed.