Dental Terms (Oral Health Glossary)

    Oral Health Glossary

Oral Health Glossary

air abrasion: a method of tooth-structure removal considered to be an effective alternative to the standard dental drill

amalgam: a mixture of mercury, silver, tin and copper used to fill cavities

bleaching: cosmetic whitening of teeth

burning mouth syndrome: a condition characterized by a burning or scalding pain on the lips and tongue

bruxism: the unintentional grinding or clenching of teeth that may cause facial pain

canker sore: ulcers that occur inside the mouth and are often are triggered by trauma to the inner cheek or gum

caries: also known as cavities, tooth decay

cold sore: tiny, clear, fluid-filled blisters that form around the mouth and are caused by the herpes simplex virus

composite resin: a tooth-colored plastic and glass mixture used to restore decayed teeth

cosmetic dentistry: aesthetic improvement of the color and shape of teeth

crown: a restoration that covers, or "caps," a tooth to restore it to its normal shape and size, strengthening and improving the appearance of a tooth

denture: a removable replacement for missing teeth and adjacent tissues

dry mouth: a painful condition caused by a decrease in the amount of saliva in the mouth when salivary glands do not work properly

fluoride: a compound that makes the tooth more resistant to decay and promotes remineralization, which aids in repairing early decay

general dentist: a primary care provider for patients in all age groups who takes responsibility for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services to meet patients' oral health needs

gingivitis: an early stage of gum tissue

halitosis: chronic bad breath

mouthguard: an appliance used to protect teeth from injury

orthodontics: a branch of dentistry dealing with the treatment of irregular bites

periodontal disease: inflammation and irritation of the gums, which if left untreated, can cause tooth loss

plaque: a sticky substance that forms on teeth and causes tooth decay

root canal: a procedure that repairs the damaged or dead pulp in the root canal of the tooth

sealant: a plastic coating used to protect teeth from decay

sleep apnea: a serious, potentially life-threatening sleep disorder in which a person stops breathing episodically during sleep due to an obstructed airway

temporomandibular disorder: problems relating to the temporomandibular joint, including locking of the jaw, frequent headaches, sore jaw muscles and painful clicking of the jaw

wisdom teeth: the third molars, which typically erupt during the teenage years

veneer: ultra-thin shells of ceramic (porcelain) or a composite resin material, which are bonded to the front of teeth to improve the smile

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Original content of this reprinted with permission of the Academy of General Dentistry. © Copyright 2007-2009 by the Academy of General Dentistry. All rights reserved. Read the original article here.