Abrasion: Loss of tooth structure caused by a hard toothbrush, poor brushing technique or bruxism (grinding or clenching the teeth).

Abscess: A localised collection of pus, usually due to bacterial infection.

Abutment: In dentistry, an abutment is a connecting element. This is used in the context of a fixed bridge (the “abutment teeth” referring to the teeth supporting the bridge), partial removable dentures (the “abutment teeth” referring to the teeth supporting the denture) and in dental implants (the abutment is used to attach prosthesis such as a crown to the dental implant fixture). The implant fixture is the screw-like component that is osseointegrated with the jawbone.

Adhesive Dentistry: Contemporary term for dental restorations that involve “bonding” of composite resin or porcelain fillings to natural teeth.

Allergy: Unfavourable systemic response to a foreign substance or drug.

Alveolar Bone: The jawbone that anchors the roots of teeth.

Amalgam: A most common filling material, also known as silver fillings, containing mercury, silver, tin, copper and zinc.

Analgesia: A state of pain relief or an agent that lessens pain.

Anaesthesia: Partial or complete elimination of pain sensation. Numbing a tooth is an example of local anaesthesia; general anaesthesia produces complete unconsciousness.

Anterior Teeth: The six upper or six lower front teeth.

Antibiotic: A drug that stops or slows the growth of bacteria.

Apex: The tip of the root of a tooth.

Apicectomy: Surgical removal of the root tip.

Arches: The dental arches are the two arches (crescent arrangements) of teeth, one on each jaw, that together constitute the dentition. In humans and many other species, the superior (maxillary or upper) dental arch is slightly larger than the inferior (mandibular or lower) arch, so that in the normal condition the teeth in the maxilla (upper jaw) slightly overlap those of the mandible (lower jaw) both in front and at the sides. The way that the jaws, and thus the dental arches, approach each other when the mouth closes, which is called the occlusion, determines the occlusal relationship of opposing teeth, and it is subject to malocclusion (such as cross-bite) if facial or dental development was imperfect.

Attrition: Loss of structure due to natural wear.

Base: Cement placed under a dental restoration to insulate the pulp (nerve chamber).

Bicuspid or Premolar: Transitional teeth behind the cuspids (canine teeth).

Bifurcation (Trifurcation): Juncture of two (three) roots in posterior teeth.

Biopsy: Removal of a small piece of tissue for microscopic examination.

Bite: Relationship of the upper and lower teeth on closure (occlusion).

Black Hairy Tongue: Elongated papillae on the tongue, promoting the growth of microorganisms.

Bleaching: Chemical treatment for natural teeth whitening effect.

Block Injection: Anaesthesia of a nerve trunk that covers a large area of the jaw. A mandibular block injection produces numbness of the lower jaw, teeth and half the tongue and chin.

Bonding: Adhesive dental restoration technique. Often using a tooth-coloured composite resin to repair and/or change the colour or shape of a tooth.

Bone Grafting: A surgical procedure by which new bone or a replacement material is used to replace missing bone.

Bone Resorption: Decrease in bone supporting the roots of teeth, which is a common result of periodontal (gum disease).

Braces: Appliances used by orthodontists to gradually reposition teeth to a more favourable alignment.

Bridge: A prosthesis used to replace one or more missing teeth, cemented to supporting teeth or implants adjacent to the space.

Bruxism: Grinding or gnashing of the teeth, most commonly while the patient is asleep.

Calcium: Chemical element needed for healthy teeth, bones and nerves.

Calculus: Hard residue, commonly known as tartar, that forms on teeth.

Canine Teeth: The two upper and two lower cuspid teeth, often known as “eye teeth”.

Cantilever Bridge: Fixed bridge that attaches to adjacent teeth only on one end.

Cap: Common term for dental crown.

Caries: Tooth decay or “cavities”.

Cast or Model: Reproduction of structures made by pouring plaster or stone into a mould.

Cellulitis: Soft tissue infection causing extensive hard swelling, a potentially dangerous condition requiring immediate attention.

Cementum: Hard tissue that covers the roots of teeth.

Chart: Log of dental or medical records.

Clasp: Device that retains a removable partial denture to natural teeth.

Cleaning: Cleaning is a word that has been generically used to identify a procedure that is routinely completed on a patient who is free of disease or has a healthy mouth. The appropriate word for this type of “cleaning” is prophylaxis. There are several different types of “cleaning” that are recommended by the dentist and hygienist depending on the patient’s oral health. To determine which type of “cleaning” is prescribed for you, ask your dental professional.

Composite Resin: Plastic filling material composed of small glass or ceramic particles that is usually cured with filtered light or a chemical catalyst.

Cosmetic Dentistry: Cosmetic dentistry is generally used to refer to any dental work that improves the appearance (though not necessarily the function) of a person’s teeth, gums and/or bite. It primarily focuses on improvement in dental aesthetics in colour, position, shape, size, alignment and overall smile appearance.

Cross Bite: Reverse biting relationship of upper and lower teeth also known as an underbite, as in Class III malocclusion (prognathic jaw).

Crown: The upper part of the tooth that is covered with enamel. Also an artificial cap for a tooth to repair and restore it to its normal shape and size following extensive dental work, root canal treatment or for cosmetic treatment. Dental crowns are also used as a cosmetic form of treatment, covering unsightly teeth or replacing missing teeth. Because they look (and feel) more like natural teeth, they are most commonly sought for those who have crooked, broken, cracked, or chipped teeth as a way of improving overall mouth health and achieving a beautiful smile.

Curettage: Removal of diseased tissue.

Cusp: Mound on posterior teeth.

Cuspid or Canine: The four “eye teeth.”

Cyst: A soft or hard tissue sac filled with fluid.

Decay: Tooth decay, often known as dental cavities or dental caries, is the destruction of the tooth. Decay results from the action of bacteria that live in plaque, which is a sticky, whitish film formed by a protein in saliva (mucin) and sugary substances in the mouth.

Deciduous Teeth: Commonly called “baby teeth,” the first set of teeth.

Dental Arch: The dental arches are the two arches (crescent arrangements) of teeth, one on each jaw, that together constitutes the dentition. In humans and many other species, the superior (maxillary or upper) dental arch is slightly larger than the inferior (mandibular or lower) arch, so that in the normal condition the teeth in the maxilla (upper jaw) slightly overlap those of the mandible (lower jaw) both in front and at the sides. The way that the jaws, and thus the dental arches, approach each other when the mouth closes, which is called the occlusion, determines the occlusal relationship of opposing teeth, and it is subject to malocclusion (such as cross-bite) if facial or dental development was imperfect.

Dental Implant: A dental implant (also known as an endosseous implant or fixture) is a surgical component that interfaces with the bone of the jaw or skull to support a dental prosthesis such as a crown, bridge, denture, facial prosthesis or to act as an orthodontic anchor. The basis for modern dental implants is a biologic process called osseointegration where materials, such as titanium, form an intimate bond to bone. The implant fixture is first placed, so that it is likely to osseointegrate, then a dental prosthesis is added. A variable amount of healing time is required for osseointegration before either the dental prosthesis (a tooth, bridge or denture) is attached to the implant or an abutment is placed which will hold a dental prosthesis.

Dentine: Inner layer of tooth structure, immediately under the surface enamel.

Dentition: The natural or artificial teeth in the mouth.

Dentures: Dentures, also known as false teeth, are prosthetic devices constructed to replace missing teeth; they are supported by the surrounding soft and hard tissues of the oral cavity. Conventional dentures are removable (removable partial denture or complete denture). However, there are many different denture designs, some of which rely on bonding or clasping onto teeth or dental implants.

Diastema: A space between teeth.

Enamel: Hard tissue covering the crown of the tooth.

Endodontist: (from the Greek roots endo- “inside” and odont- “tooth”) is the dental speciality concerned with the study and treatment of the dental pulp. Endodontists perform a variety of procedures including endodontic therapy (commonly known as “root canal therapy”), endodontic retreatment, surgery, treating cracked teeth, and treating dental trauma. Root canal therapy is one of the most common procedures. If the dental pulp (containing nerves, arterioles, venules, lymphatic tissue, and fibrous tissue) becomes diseased or injured, endodontic treatment is required to save the tooth.

Eruption: The process of teeth protruding through the gums.

Exfoliate: The process of shedding deciduous (baby) teeth.

Exodontia: The practice of dental extractions.

Explorer: A sharp instrument used to detect decay on the surface of teeth.

Extraction: Removal of a tooth.

Facing: Tooth coloured overlay on the visible portion of a crown that is made of acrylic, composite or porcelain.

Filling: Restoration of lost tooth structure with metal, porcelain or resin materials.

Fistula: The channel that emanates pus from an infection site.

Flap Surgery: The lifting of gum tissue to expose underlying tooth and bone structures.

Forceps: An instrument used for removal of teeth.

Fossa: The valley found on the surface of posterior teeth.

Freeway Space: The distance between the upper and lower teeth with the lower jaw in rest position.

Frenectomy: The removal or reshaping of thin muscle tissue that attaches the upper or lower lips to the gum, or the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

Full Denture: A removable dental prosthesis (appliance) that replaces all upper or lower teeth.

Full Mouth Reconstruction: Extensive rehabilitation of oral health, function and aesthetics, often involving the use of dental crowns, bridges and dental implants. It may be required due to having heavily broken-down teeth, infected teeth, missing teeth, severe tooth wear and bite discrepancies.

General Anaesthesia: Controlled state of unconsciousness, accompanied by a loss of pain sensation, protective reflexes, and the ability to respond purposefully to physical stimulation or verbal command.

Geographic Tongue: Benign changes in the usual colour and texture of tongue that does not require treatment.

Gingiva: Gum tissue.

Gingivectomy: The surgical removal of gum tissue.

Gingivitis: The inflammation of gum tissue.

GTR: Guided tissue regeneration – a new technique for replacing bone and gum tissue.

Gum Boil: See Fistula

Gum Recession: The exposure of dental roots due to shrinkage of the gums as a result of abrasion, periodontal disease or surgery.

Halitosis: Bad breath of oral or gastrointestinal origin.

Haematoma: The swelling of effused blood beneath tissue surface.

Hydrogen Peroxide: A disinfecting solution used in dental irrigation procedures or as a mouth rinse.

Hygienist: A dental professional who specialises in education and prevention of oral disease. A hygienist partners with the dentist to assess the oral environment for signs and symptoms of periodontal disease, and is educated to provide therapeutic care in the treatment of bacterial infections within the oral environment.

Hyperaemia: Increased blood flow that may cause dental sensitivity to temperature and sweets. May precede an abscess.

Impaction: A partial or completely unexposed tooth that is wedged against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue, precluding the eruption process.

Implant: See Dental Implant An artificial device that replaces the tooth root and may anchor an artificial tooth, dental bridge or denture.

Impression: A mould made of the teeth and soft tissues.

Incision and Drainage: The surgical incision of an abscess to drain suppuration (pus).

Incisors: The four upper and lower front teeth, excluding the cuspids (canine teeth).

Infiltration: A local anaesthetic procedure effective for upper teeth and soft tissue or the placement of anaesthetic under the gum, allowing it to seep into bone.

Inlay: An indirect filling made by a dental laboratory that is cemented or bonded into place.

Interdental Brushes: An interdental or interproximal (“proxy”) brush is a small brush, typically disposable, either supplied with a reusable angled plastic handle or an integral handle, used for cleaning between teeth and between the wire of dental braces and the teeth.There is evidence that after tooth brushing with a conventional toothbrush, interdental brushes remove more plaque than dental floss. TePe and Piksters are the most common brands.

Interocclusal: The space between adjoining teeth.

Interproximal: The surfaces of adjoining teeth.

Intraoral Camera: A small video camera used to view and magnify oral conditions from which images may be printed.

Jacket: The crown for a front tooth, usually made of porcelain.

Laminate: A thin plastic or porcelain veneer produced in a dental laboratory and then bonded to a tooth.

Laughing Gas: Nitrous oxide, an odourless inhalation agent that produces relative analgesia (sedation), and reduces anxiety and creates a state of relaxation.

Lesion: Injury of bodily tissue due to infection, trauma or neoplasm.

Local Anaesthesia: Partial or complete elimination of pain sensation, in the immediate vicinity of its application or injection.

Malocclusion: A “bad bite” or misalignment of the upper and lower teeth.

Mandible: The lower jaw.

Margin: The interface between a restoration and tooth structure.

Maryland Bridge: A bridge that is bonded to the back of the adjacent teeth and requires minimum tooth reduction.

Mastication: The process of chewing food.

Maxilla: The upper jaw.

Molars: The three back teeth in each dental quadrant used for grinding food.

Mouthguard: an oral protection device for your teeth when playing sport – read more here

Mucogingival Junction (MGJ): The meeting of thick, protective gingival tissue around the teeth and the mucous lining of the cheeks and lips.

Nerve: The tissue that conveys sensation, temperature and position information to the brain.

Night Guard: An acrylic appliance used to protect natural teeth and restorations and prevent wear and damage to the temporomandibular joint caused by the grinding or gnashing of teeth during sleep.

Nitrous Oxide: An odourless inhalation agent that produces relative analgesia (sedation), and reduces anxiety and creates a state of relaxation.

Novocaine: The older brand name for a local anaesthetic, currently replaced by safer, more effective agents.

NSAID: A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, often used as a dental analgesic.

Occlusion: The relationship of the upper and lower teeth upon closure.

Onlay: A laboratory-produced restoration covering one or more cusps of a tooth.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: A dental specialist who manages the diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases, injuries and deformities of the mouth and supporting structures.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: Surgical procedures on the mouth including extractions, removal of cysts or tumours, and repair of fractured jaws.

Oral Cavity: The mouth.

Oral Hygiene: The process of maintaining cleanliness of the teeth and related structures.

Oral Pathologist: A dentist specialising in the study of oral diseases.

Orthodontics: Orthodontics is somewhat similar to prosthodontics, since both use artificial means of replacing, repairing, or correcting the smile and jaw. However, where prosthodontics focuses on bridges, dentures, and implants, orthodontics involves dental braces and other appliances. Whether traditional metal braces or innovative invisible braces are used, the effect is normally a straight smile in a relatively short time.

Osseous: Relating to bone.

Osseointegration: Derives from the Greek osteon, bone, and the Latin integrare, to make whole. The term refers to the direct structural and functional connection between living bone and the surface of a load-bearing artificial implant. Osseointegration has enhanced the science of medical bone and joint replacement techniques as well as dental implants.
Osseointegration is also defined as: “the formation of a direct interface between an implant and bone, without intervening soft tissue”. An osseointegrated implant is a type of implant defined as “an endosteal implant containing pores into which osteoblasts and supporting connective tissue can migrate”. Applied to oral implantology, this refers to bone grown right up to the implant surface without interposed soft tissue layer. No scar tissue, cartilage or ligament fibres are present between the bone and implant surface. The direct contact of bone and implant surface can be verified microscopically.

Overbite: A vertical overlap of the front teeth.

Overdenture: A denture that fits over residual roots or tooth implants.

Overjet: A horizontal overlap of the front teeth.

Palate: Hard and soft tissue forming the roof of the mouth.

Palliative Treatment: The non-invasive relief of irritating conditions.

Paraesthesia: A partial loss of sensation that is temporary or permanent.

Partial Denture: A removable dental prosthesis (appliance) that replaces one or more natural teeth.

Pathology: The study of disease.

Paedodontics or Paediatric Dentistry: As the name implies, paediatric dentistry is the field of dentistry that deals with children. A children’s dentist specialises in the care of a child’s small mouth and teeth, including fillings, crowns, extractions, cleaning, x-rays, plates, braces and similar tools in everyday work.

Periapical (PA): The region at the end of the roots of teeth.

Periodontal Chart: A record measuring the depth of gum pockets around the teeth.

Periodontal Surgery: The re-contouring or aesthetic management of diseased gum and supporting tissue.

Periodontist: A dental specialist who treats and maintains the gums and supporting soft and hard tissues in order to retain natural teeth and prepare for surgical placement of dental implants. Heredity, diet, smoking and other factors can result in gum disease.

Permanent Teeth: Thirty-two adult teeth (approximately) in a complete dentition.

Pit: A small defect in the tooth enamel, or the junction of four formative lobes of a developing tooth.

Plaque: A soft, sticky substance that accumulates on teeth and is composed of bacteria and food debris due to inadequate dental hygiene.

Pontic: A replacement tooth mounted on a fixed or removal appliance.

Porcelain: (also known as dental ceramic) is used by a dental technician to create biocompatible life-like dental restorations, such as crowns, bridges, and veneers.

Porcelain Crown: A porcelain restoration that covers the coronal portion of tooth (above the gum line).

Porcelain Fused to Metal (PFM) Crown: A restoration containing metal coping for strength covered by porcelain for aesthetics.

Porcelain Inlay or Onlay: A tooth-coloured restoration made of porcelain and cemented or bonded in place.

Porcelain Veneers: A thin layer of porcelain, fabricated by a laboratory and bonded to a natural tooth to replace lost tooth structure, close spaces, straighten teeth, or change their colour and/or shape.

Post: A thin metal rod inserted into the root of a tooth after root canal therapy. A post provides retention for a “core” which replaces lost tooth structure and retains crowns.

Post-Core: A post and build up to replace lost tooth structure and retain crowns.

Post-Crown: A single structure that combines post-core and crown.

Prognosis: The anticipated outcome of treatment.

Prophylaxis: Cleaning of the teeth for the prevention of periodontal disease and tooth decay.

Prosthesis: An artificial appliance for the replacement of a tooth or teeth, such as a crown, bridge or denture.

Prosthodontist: A Prosthodontist is a dental specialist in the field of Prosthodontics. The area of speciality includes dental implants, crowns, bridges, dentures, TMJ, full mouth rehabilitation and other areas of expertise commonly associated with cosmetic dentistry.

Pulp: The nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue inside a tooth.

Pulp Cap: A medicated covering over a small area of exposed pulp tissue.

Pulp Chamber: The centre or innermost portion of the tooth containing the pulp.

Pulpectomy: Complete removal of the pulp (commonly done in children’s teeth).

Pulpitis: Inflammation of the pulp, which is a common cause of toothache.

Pulpotomy: Partial removal of the pulp tissue.

Pyorrhoea: Older term for periodontal (gum) disease.

Re-implantation: The insertion and temporary fixation of partially or completely avulsed teeth resulting from traumatic injury.

Reline: The acrylic restoration of a denture base to compensate for bone loss.

Restoration: The replacement of a portion of a damaged tooth.

Retained Root: The partial root structure remaining in the jaw after extraction or fracture of a natural tooth.

Root: The tooth structure that connects the tooth to the jaw.

Root Canal Therapy: The process of removing the pulp of a tooth and filling it with an inert material.

Root Resection: The removal of a portion of diseased root structure, but retaining the remaining natural tooth.

Rubber Dam: A soft latex sheet used to isolate one or more teeth from contamination by oral fluids and to keep materials from falling to the back of the throat.

Saliva: A clear lubricating fluid in the mouth containing water, enzymes, bacteria, mucus, viruses, blood cells and undigested food particles.

Saliva Ejector: A suction tube placed in the mouth to remove saliva.

Salivary Glands: The glands located under the tongue and in cheeks that produce saliva.

Scaling and Root Planning (SRP): The meticulous removal of plaque and calculus from tooth surfaces.

Sealants: Thin resin material bonded in the pits and fissures of back teeth for the prevention of decay.

Secondary Dentine: Reparative tooth structure produced by the pulp in response to tooth irritation.

Sinus Grafting or Sinus Lift: Is surgery that adds bone to your upper jaw in the area of your molars and premolars. It is also known as sinus augmentation. The bone is added between your jaw and the maxillary sinuses, which are on either side of your nose.

Sinusitis: Inflammation of the sinus that may mimic dental pain.

Sleep Apnoea: The periodic interruption or delay in breathing during sleep. It is a serious medical disorder that has long term consequences and requires management.

Socket Preservation: Also known as alveolar ridge preservation (ARP), it is a procedure to reduce bone loss following tooth extraction. A bone grafting material or scaffold is placed in the socket of an extracted tooth at the time of extraction. The socket is then directly closed with stitches or covered with a non-resorbable or resorbable membrane and sutured.
After extraction, jawbone has to be preserved to help keep the socket in its original shape. Without socket preservation, the bone quickly resorbs resulting in 30-60% loss in bone volume in the six months after dental extraction. The jawbone will never revert to its original shape once bone is lost and tissue contour has changed.
The human body reduces the amount of bone that is not sufficiently used with a daily stress; without the strain stimulus, the jawbone behaves (with or without socket preservation) as if the space occupied by the tooth and periodontal ligament was empty.

Splint: The connection of two or more teeth so that they function as a stronger single structure.

Supernumerary Tooth: An extra tooth.

Suture: A stitch or stitches used by doctors and surgeons to hold tissue together.

Tartar: A common term for dental calculus, a hard deposit that adheres to teeth and produces a rough surface that attracts plaque.

TMD (or TMJ Disorder): Temperomandibular disorder, the term given to the condition characterised by facial pain and restricted ability to open or move the jaw.

TMJ: The temporomandibular joint where the lower jaw attaches to the skull.

Tooth Decay: Often known as dental cavities or dental caries, is the destruction of the tooth. Decay results from the action of bacteria that live in plaque, which is a sticky, whitish film formed by a protein in saliva (mucin) and sugary substances in the mouth.

Tooth Whitening: A chemical process to lighten the colour of teeth.

Topical Anaesthetic: An ointment that produces mild anaesthesia when applied to the tissue surface.

Torus: Common bony protuberance on the palate or lower jaw.

Transplant: The process of placing a natural tooth in the empty socket of another tooth.

Trauma: Injury caused by external forces, chemical or temperature extremes, or poor tooth alignment.

Trench Mouth: Gum disease characterised by severe mouth sores and loss of tissue.

Unerupted Tooth: A tooth that has not pushed through the gum and assumed its correct position in the dental arch.

Veneer: In dentistry, a veneer is a layer of material placed over a tooth, either to improve the aesthetics of a tooth or to protect the tooth’s surface from damage. There are two main types of materials used to fabricate a veneer: composite resin and dental porcelain.

Vertical Dimension: The arbitrary space between the upper and lower jaws upon closure that may decrease over time due to wear, shifting or damage to the teeth.

Wisdom Teeth: The third (last) molars that usually erupt between the ages of 18-25.

Xerostomia: Dry mouth or decrease in the production of saliva.

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