Welcome to the first post in a multi-part series highlighting common clinical dental terms that you may learn about or hear during your visit. These sections will appear in alphabetical order, so if you see that we haven’t included a particular term that you’re interested in or curious about, just let us know and we’ll add it!
A – Terms
Abscess: An abscess can be an acute or chronic localized inflammation that likely has a collection of pus and is associated with tissue destruction and swelling that usually occurs secondary to infection.
Abutment: In the case of an implant, an abutment is the fixture that is placed between the implant body and the restorative prosthesis (i.e. a single crown or a denture). In the case of a natural tooth, an abutment refers to the tooth used as the support for one end of a fixed denture. There is also an abutment crown, which is an artificial crown that functions as the retention or support of a dental prosthesis.
Amalgam: An amalgam, also referred to as an alloy, is a “silver filling” used in direct dental restorations. It’s typically composed of mercury, silver, tin and copper along with other metallic elements that aim to improve physical and mechanical properties.
Anesthesia: Local anesthesia is a type of medication used to prevent pain in a specific area of your mouth during treatment by blocking the nerves that sense or transmit pain, which numbs mouth tissues.
Avulsion: This refers to the separation of a tooth from its socket due to trauma.
B – Terms
Bicuspid: A bicuspid is a premolar tooth; or a tooth with two cusps.
Biopsy: A biopsy refers to the process of removing tissue for histologic evaluation.
Bleaching: Bleaching is the process of lightening the teeth, usually using a chemical oxidizing agent and sometimes in the presence of heat. Through bleaching, the goal is to remove intrinsic or acquired discolorations from crowns of vital and non-vital teeth through the use of chemicals, sometimes in combination with the application of heat and light. There are short and long term bleaching options available, including applications of pastes or solutions containing various concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide.
Bonding: Bonding is when two or more components are integrated by mechanical and/or chemical adhesion at their interface.
Bridge: A bridge, or a fixed partial denture, is a prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth cemented or attached to the abutment of natural teeth or their implant replacements.
Bruxism: Simply put, bruxism is excessive grinding of the teeth or clenching of the jaw.
C – Terms
Calculus: This is the hard deposit of a mineralized substance that adheres to crowns and/or roots of teeth or prosthetic devices.
Cavity: A missing tooth structure due to decay, erosion or abrasion (the process of scraping or wearing something away).
Clenching: This refers to the act of clamping and pressing of the jaws and teeth together.
Composite: A composite, or a “white filling”, is dental restorative material made up of disparate or separate parts (i.e. resin and quartz particles).
Crown: A crown is an artificial replacement that restores a missing tooth structure by surrounding the remaining tooth structure, or that is placed on a dental implant. Crowns are typically made of metal, ceramic or polymer materials or a combination of materials, which are retained by luting cement or mechanical means.
D – Terms
Debridement: This refers to the removal of subgingival and/or supragingival plaque and calculus.
Decay: The lay term for carious lesions in a tooth and the decomposition of tooth structure.
Dental Assessment: A limited clinical inspection performed to identify possible signs of oral or systemic disease, malformation, or injury, and the potential need for referral for diagnosis and treatment.
Dentin: This is the hard tissue that forms the bulk of the tooth and develops from the dental papilla and dental pulp; in its mature state, it is mineralized.
Denture: A denture is an artificial substitute for some or all of the natural teeth and adjacent tissues.
Diagnostic Imaging: This is a visual display of structural or functional patterns for the purpose of diagnostic evaluation; it may be photographic or radiographic.
Diastema: A space, like one between two adjacent teeth, in the same dental arch.
E – Terms
Enamel: This is the hard calcified tissue that covers the dentin of the crown of a tooth.
Endodontic: This term relates to the soft tissues inside a tooth (the dental pulp).
Excision: This refers to the surgical removal of bone or tissue.
Extraoral: This refers to anything outside of the oral cavity.
Extraction: An extraction is the process or act of removing a tooth or tooth parts.
Be sure to stay tuned for upcoming posts about common dental terms – there are several future installments that you’ll want to bookmark! As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time with any dental health-related questions.