Gordon Dentistry Glossary of Dental Terms

Here are a list of some of the most common dental terms used in dentistry today.  We provide these dental resources for your convenience.  Gordon Dentistry hopes these dental terms will help you understand the advice we have given and instructions on care.  If you have any additional questions about these dental terms, feel free to call us at our office at 727-724-4227 and we will be happy to give you more information.



Anesthesia – Medications used to relieve pain.

Anterior teeth – Front teeth. Also called incisors and cuspids (canines).

Arch – The upper or lower jaw.

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Baby bottle tooth decay – Caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby’s mouth.

Bicuspids – Also known as pre-molars; back teeth used for chewing in combination with molars.

Bitewings – Radiographs (x-rays) that help a dentist diagnose cavities.

Bleach– see Whitening

Bonding – Application of tooth-colored resin materials to the surface of the teeth.

Bridge – A fixed appliance that replaces lost teeth.

Bruxism – Teeth grinding and clenching.

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Calculus – Bacterial plaque that has hardened through mineralization in the mouth; also called tartar. Calculus cannot be removed by brushing and must be removed using sharp instrumentation or ultrasonics available in a dental office.

Canal – The narrow chamber inside the tooth’s root.

Canines – Anterior teeth also called cuspids.

Canker sore – One that occurs on the delicate tissues inside your mouth. A canker sore is usually light-colored at its base and can have a red exterior border; also called aphthous ulcers.

Caries – Another term for decay, which causes cavities.

Cementum – Covers the roots of teeth and the dentin of the root surface. It is rougher and more yellow in color than enamel.

Cold sore – Occurs on the outside of the mouth, usually on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious because it is caused by the herpes simplex virus, and it is usually painful and filled with fluid. The amino acid, Lysine, or prescription medication may help control outbreaks, as these sores commonly recur.

Composite resin filling – Tooth colored restorations, also known as resin fillings.

Contouring – The process of reshaping teeth.

Crown – An artificial cover that is placed on the top of a tooth following restoration.

Cusps – The pointed parts on top of the back teeth’s chewing surface.

Cuspids – Also called canines; front teeth that typically have a protruding (pointed) edge.

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Dentin – The tooth layer underneath the enamel. It is much softer than enamel.

Dentures – A removable set of teeth.

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Endodontics – The science of dentistry that addresses problems affecting the tooth’s root or nerve.

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Fluoride – A naturally occurring substance which may be added to water, toothpastes and some rinses, and used for strengthening the tooth’s enamel. Fluoride may be present in natural water sources prior to any supplementation.

Fluorosis – Over-exposure to fluoride and resulting sometimes in tooth discoloration.

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Gingiva – Another word for gum tissue.

Gingivitis – A reversible state of inflammation of the gums caused by plaque.

Gum disease – A non-reversible infection of the gum tissues. Also called periodontal disease.

Gutta percha – natural substance fabricated from the trees; used with root canal therapy.

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Impacted teeth – A condition in which a tooth fails to erupt or only partially erupts. It is usually covered by bone and called a bony impaction.

Implant – A permanent appliance used to replace a missing tooth or to anchor a denture.

Incisor – Front teeth with cutting edges; located in the center or on the sides near the front.

Inlay – An artificial filling which may be fabricated from porcelain, resin, or gold.

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Laser – Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. A single wavelength beam of highly concentrated energy.

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Malocclusion – Bad bite relationship or misaligned teeth.

Mandible – The lower jaw.

Maxilla – The upper jaw.

Molar – Usually the largest teeth, near the rear of the mouth. Molars have large chewing surfaces.

Myofascial pain – Muscular pain association with the facial and chewing muscles related to the temporomandibular joint.

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Onlay – An indirect restoration similar to an inlay, but designed to protect the chewing surface of a tooth. Onlays are sometimes referred to as ¾ crowns.

Orthodontics – A field of dentistry that deals with tooth and jaw alignment.

Overdenture – A non-fixed dental appliance applied to a small number of natural teeth or implants.

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Palate – Roof of the mouth.

Partial denture – A removable appliance that replaces teeth also called a partial (RPD) or a fixed appliance cemented also called a bridge (FPD).

Pedodontics – A field of dentistry relating to children’s teeth and oral conditions.

Perio pocket – An opening formed between the teeth and bone usually caused by periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease – Infection of the gum tissues. Also called gum disease.

Periodontist – A dental specialist who treats diseases of the gums.

Permanent teeth – The teeth that erupt after primary teeth. Also called adult teeth.

Plaque – A sticky, colorless substance of bacteria that covers the teeth after sleep or periods between brushing. Plaque may become mineralized and be called calculus.

Posterior teeth – The bicuspids (pre-molars) and molars. Also called the back teeth.

Primary teeth – A person’s first set of teeth. Also called baby teeth.

Prophylaxis – The act of cleaning the teeth.

Prosthodontics – The field of dentistry that deals with artificial dental appliances.

Pulp – The inner tissues of the tooth containing blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue.

Pulpotomy– Partial removal of the pulp; this procedure is usually done with primary teeth.

Pulpectomy – Complete removal of pulp; also called root canal therapy.

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Receding gum – A condition in which the gums follow bone loss, allowing bacteria and other substances to attack the tooth’s enamel and cementum, which covers roots.

Resin filling – An artificial white filling material used to restore teeth. Also called a composite filling.

Root canal therapy – A procedure in which a tooth’s nerve is removed and an inner canal cleansed and later filled with a biocompatible substance such as gutta-percha.

Root scaling & planing – Removal of heavy tartar and diseased tissue below the gum line and smoothing of the root surface to promote healthy periodontal tissues. Sometimes referred to as a deep cleaning.

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Sealant – A synthetic material placed on the tooth’s surface that protects the enamel and chewing surfaces.

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TMD – Temporomandibular joint disorder. Health problems related to the jaw joint just in front of the ear.

Tartar – A hardened substance (also called calculus) that sticks to the tooth’s surface.

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Veneer – A laminate applied or bonded to the tooth.

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Whitening – A process that employs special agents for restoring the color of natural teeth. Also called bleaching.

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Xerostomia – dry mouth usually due to diet (high sugar or carbohydrates), smoking, medications or previous radiation treatment to the head and neck area

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