Adults & Kids  Dental Care

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  Dental Terms


Common Dental Terms

Amalgam A type of tooth filling made of silver and mercury.  The metallic mixture is initially soft so that it can be molded to fit the tooth and gradually hardens.  
Anesthesia Substances used to remove the effects of pain.
Autoclave Equipment used to clean dental instruments that uses super heated high pressure steam.
Bicuspids The premolars
Bitewing X-rays Similar to periapical X-rays except that only the crowns and part of the roots are seen for 2 or 3 adjacent teeth.  So called Bitewing because the X-ray film holder provides a surface to bite down on and hold the X-ray securely in place.
Board Certified A Dentist that has been approved by the American Dental Society to practice a particular specialty. Board certified dentists have demonstrated at least two years of residency within a particular dental specialty and have been certified to be competent in that specialty. Any dentist may claim specific knowledge of any specialty, but a board certified dentist has passed an exam demonstrating education and experience within a certain field of dentistry.
Braces Bands, wires, ceramic or other appliances used to correct teeth alignment.
Bridges Dental work that involves supporting a replacement tooth between two healthy teeth.
Calculus Same as tartar.  Occurs when plaque is left on the teeth untreated.   A hard substance that acts an irritant by wedging between the tooth and gum.   Left untreated calculus can eventually lead to periodontal disease.
Canines The teeth located just to the left and right of the lateral incisors, 4 in total.  Also referred to as cuspids.
Canker Sore An ulcer appearing in the mouth or lips usually caused by viral infection.  Also referred to as a cold sore.
Central Incisors The first four front teeth, two located on the top and two on the bottom of the mouth.
Composite Fillings An alternative to Silver Amalgam fillings.   Composite fillings are made from a resin and particles that are mixed together and then given time to "cure" and harden.  The advantages of composite fillings is that they are naturally white, can easily be colored to match the surrounding teeth, and are relatively easy to install.  Composite fillings are however less biocompatiable than silver or gold and are generally not as strong as metal fillings.   Composite fillings are used more often on front teeth.
Crowns An artificial "top" made of porcelain, composite, or metal that is cemented on top of damaged teeth.
Currettage A periodontal procedure which involves scraping off plaque to the bottom of the damaged gum tissue and removing the damaged gum tissue.
Dentures A set of artificial teeth.
Endodontist Board Certified Dentists who specialize on teeth and diseases of the tooth pulp
Endentulous Without any teeth.
Fluoride A chemical substance known to strengthen teeth enamel making teeth less susceptible to decay.  There are two ways fluoride makes its way to teeth:   ingestion through food or water; and topical application made directly to the surface of the teeth by the dentist.
General Anethesia A class of Anesthesia substance or substances that are inhaled as gases.  General anesthesia eliminates pain by rendering patients completely unconscious.  General anesthesia must be administered by medical or dental anesthesiologist, and oral surgeons with special training in a hospital or office operating room.  General anesthesia is general used with oral surgery or more complicated procedures where the patient must be relaxed and pain-free for an extended period of time.  Complete recovery from general anesthesia often takes at least several hours.
Gingivitis Stage one of early periodontal disease characterized by inflammation, swollen, reddish gum tissue which may bleed easily when touched or brushed.   Untreated, gingivitis can lead to chronic periodontal disease and the stability of your teeth.
Gingivectomy A procedure performed by periodontists to remove gum tissue.
Gingivoplasty A procedure performed by periodontists to reshaping the gum.
Gold Fillings An alternative to Silver Amalgam fillings.   Gold is longer lasting however they are generally much more complicated, expensive and require multiple visits.  Gold is generally used as totally cast fillings which are cemented into the mouth.
Halitosis The same as bad breath.  Halitosis has several potential causes including dentures, tooth decay or periodontal disease.
Impacted Tooth A tooth that is blocked by an adjacent tooth preventing it from erupting the surface of the gum.  An impacted tooth may push other teeth together or damage the bony structures supporting the adjacent tooth.  Often times, impacted teeth must be surgically removed.
Lateral Incisors The teeth located just to the left and right of the central incisors, 4 in total
Local Anesthesia A class of Anesthesia substance applied by injection directly to the gums or mouth tissue to provide pain relief to a local area of the mouth or gum.  Lidocain and prilocaine, and mepivacain are the most widely used.   Dentists often apply local anethesia to reduce the pain associated with general dental procedures.  The advantages are that the patient remains alert during the procedure without the pain.
Molars The class of teeth found in the back of the mouth after the canines that are characterized as having multiple biting surfaces.
Neuroleptic Anesthesia A class of Anesthesia substance applied intravenously.  The degree of  anethesia can be controlled from slight consciousness to totally unconscious.   Fentanyl and droperidol combinations are most commonly used.  Dentists often apply Neuroleptic anethesia to reduce the pain associated with any dental procedures.  The advantages are that the degree of unconsciousness and pain relief can be controlled and generally the recovery time is much less than with general anesthesia.
Occlusal X-rays Larger X-rays taken to show the whole bite of the lower and upper jar.
Onlay A large filling when a substantial part of the tooth is replaced.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Board Certified Dentists who specialize on surgery of the teeth and bones of the jaw, jawbone or face.
Orthodontist Board Certified Dentists who specialize on correcting abnormally aligned or positioned teeth. See Braces.
Panoramic X-rays As the name suggests, a type of  X-ray where the X-ray machine makes a complete half circle from ear to ear to produce a complete two dimensional representation of all teeth.
Periapical X-rays X-rays providing complete side views from the roots to the crowns of the teeth.  Typically a complete set consists of 14-24 films with each tooth appearing in two different films from two different angles.
Perio Charting A numeric assignment indicating the depth of a periodontal probe which is used to measure the depth between the teeth and the adjacent gums.  The larger the number, the larger the space and the more likely that periodontal disease can or has occurred.
Plaque A sticky fairly transparent film that forms on the teeth or cracks of the teeth primarily composed of undigested food particles mixed with saliva and bacteria.   Plaque left alone eventually turns in to tartar or calculus.
Porcelain Fillings An alternative to Silver Amalgam fillings.   Porcelain fillings are made of the same material as china.  Porcelain fillings and tooth replacement is accomplished by hardening in a mold and then baked at an extremely high temperature.  The advantages of porcelain are similar to composites in that they can be easily color to match surrounding teeth.  Porcelain is much stronger and longer lasting than composite teeth replacement.  The disadvantages of porcelain is that the substance is brittle and typically requires a highly skilled dental professional and multiple dental visits.
Prosthetics Dental implants or artificial teeth.
Prosthodontist Board Certified Dentists who specialize in the replacement of missing teeth by bridges and dentures. See Bridges. See Dentures.
Root Canal A four step process required when the inner pulp of the tooth is irreversibly damaged. Step one involves removing all of the inner pulp from the chamber of the tooth. Step two involves cleaning and smoothing the inside of the tooth. Step three involves filling the tooth with an inert material. Finally, an artificial crown is placed on top of the tooth.
Root Planing The procedure of scraping plaque off of teeth below the gum line or on the root of the tooth.
Sealants A substance applied to the biting surface of teeth to protect the teeth from decay.
Splints Used with an otherwise healthy tooth has become loose due to advanced periodontal disease.  The loose tooth is wired to surrounding solid teeth and a composite is added on top to hold the wire in place.
Topical Anesthesia A class of Anesthesia substance applied directly to the gums or mouth tissue to provide pain relief on the immediate surface of the tissue.   Lidocain and Benzocaine are the two most widely used.  Dentists often apply topical anesthesia to reduce the pain associated with needle pricks required for the application of a local anesthesia or to reduce pain and discomfort of mild infections or irritations on the gum or in the mouth.
TMJ/TMD Temporalmandibular Joint (TMJ) /Temporomandibular disorder (TMD).   The temporalmandibular joint is a complicated joint formed where the lower jaw bone attaches to the head.  TMD refers to general class of disorder affecting the bones and muscles of this region.  Symptoms range from tenderness and swelling to headaches and neck and back aches.  Generally, a clicking or popping sound when the jaw is opened or closed is evidence or some form of one of the disorders.
Trench Mouth Same as Vincent's Infection and Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis (NUG).   An acute and painful infection of the gums not contagious with a odor and painful bleeding of the mouth and gums.
X-Rays High frequency light (or radiation) which pentrate different substances with different rates and absorption.  By using film on the opposite side of the substance, different level of exposure are recorded corresponding to each of the different substances to form a picture.  In dentistry, there are typically 4 types of X-rays:   Periapical, Bite-wing, Occlusal, Panoramic.



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