Glossary of Dental Terms


Abscess – infection caused by severe tooth decay, trauma or gum disease.

Amalgam – a silver and mercury material used for fillings.

Anesthetic – a drug used by your doctor to eliminate a patient’s localized pain during certain dental procedures.

Anterior – the teeth in the front of your mouth.

Apex – the very tip of the root of a tooth.

Aspirator – a suction device your dentist uses to remove saliva from your mouth.


Bleaching Agent – a gel used to whiten and brighten teeth.

Bonding – a plastic composite painted on the teeth to correct stains or damage.

Bridge – one or more artificial teeth attached to your adjacent teeth.

Bruxism – the clenching or grinding of teeth, most commonly while sleeping.


Calculus – the hardened plaque that can form on neglected or prone teeth, commonly known as tartar.

Canine – the pointy teeth just behind the laterals.

Caries – another name for cavities or decayed teeth.

Cavity – a tiny hole in the tooth caused by decay.

Central – the two upper and two lower teeth in the center of the mouth.

Crown – an artificial tooth or cover made of porcelain or metal.

Cuspid – the pointy teeth just behind the laterals, also known as canines.


Decalcification – the loss of calcium from the teeth.

Deciduous Teeth – also called “baby teeth.”

Dental Implants – an implant permanently attached to the jawbone that replaces a missing tooth or teeth.

Denture – a removable set of artificial teeth.


Enamel – the hard surface of the tooth above the gum line.

Endodontist – a dentist who specializes in root canals and the treatment of diseases and infections of the dental pulp (inner tooth).

Extraction – the removal of a tooth or teeth.


Filling – a plug made of metal or composite material used to fill a tooth cavity.

Fluoride – a chemical solution used to harden teeth and prevent decay.


Gingivitis – inflammation of gums around the roots of the teeth.

Gums – the firm flesh that surrounds the roots of the teeth.


Impacted Tooth – often occurring with wisdom teeth, it is a tooth that sits sideways below the gum line, often requiring extraction.

Incisal – related to incisors (see below).

Incisor – one of the flat, sharp-edged teeth in the front of the mouth.

Inlays – a custom-made filling cemented into an unhealthy tooth.

Instant Orthodontics – alternative to braces using bonded porcelain veneers or crowns.


Lateral – these are the teeth adjacent to the centrals.


Night Guard – a plastic mouthpiece worn at night to prevent grinding of the teeth. Often used to treat TMJ.


Pedontist – also known as a pediatric dentist, a dentist that specializes in the treatment of children’s teeth.

Periodontist – a dentist specializing in the treatment of gum disease.

Plaque – a sticky buildup of acids and bacteria that causes tooth decay.

Posterior Teeth – the teeth in the back of the mouth.

Primary Teeth – also known as “baby teeth” or deciduous teeth.

Prosthodontist – a dentist specializing in the restoration and replacement of missing teeth or severely damaged teeth.


Root – the portion of the tooth below your gum line.

Root Canal – cleaning out and filling the inside nerve of a tooth that is heavily decayed.


Sealant – plastic coating applied to teeth to prevent decay. Used most commonly for children.

Secondary Teeth – the permanent teeth.

Six-Year Molar – commonly known as “the first molar.”

Sleep Apnea – a potentially serious disorder in which a sleeping person may stop breathing for 10 seconds or more, often continuously throughout the night.


Tartar – see calculus.

TMJ Syndrome – a disorder associated with the joint of the jaw. Often caused by a misalignment of or a disparity in upper and lower jaw sizes.

Tooth Whitening – a process designed to whiten and brighten teeth.

Twelve-Year Molar – commonly known as “the second molar.”


Veneer – a plastic, porcelain or composite material used to improve the attractiveness of a stained or damaged tooth.