NB Dental
Your Oral Health

Tooth Care

Dental Glossary

Abutment: A tooth or implant used to support a prosthesis. A crown unit used as part of a fixed bridge.

Abscess: A localized infection in the bone or soft tissue. This is usually caused by an infection.

Alloy: A mixture of two or more metals used to repair teeth. There are noble (mostly silver), high noble (mostly gold) and "base" metal alloys. Cost of a filling or crown depends on the alloy selected.

Amalgam: A dental filling material, or alloy, used to fill decayed teeth.

Alveolus: An opening in the jawbone in which a tooth is attached.

Alveoloplasty: A surgical procedure used to recontour the supporting bone structures in preparation of a dental prosthesis such as a complete denture.

Anaesthetic: Drugs used to block pain and sensation during a dental procedure, which may be given topically or by injection.

Anterior: Refers to the teeth and tissues located towards the front of the mouth (upper or lower incisors and canines).

Apex: The tip or end of the root of the tooth.

Apicoectomy: The amputation of the apex, or tip, of a tooth.

Baby Teeth: Also see primary teeth.

Base Metal: The alloys used for partial dentures or crowns, which do not contain precious metals.

Bicuspid: A two-cusped tooth found between the molar and the cuspid.

Biopsy: A process of removing tissue to determine the existence of pathology.

Bitewing X-rays: X-rays taken of the crowns of teeth to check for decay.

Bleaching: The technique of applying a chemical agent, usually hydrogen peroxide, to the teeth to whiten them.

Bonding: A process to chemically etch or scrape the tooth's enamel to better attach (bond) composite filling material, veneers or plastic/acrylic.

Bone Loss: The breakdown and loss of bone supporting the teeth, usually caused by infection, gum disease or regions of missing teeth.

Bridge: A non-removable restoration used to replace missing teeth.

Bruxism: The involuntary clenching or grinding of the teeth.

Buccal: The tooth surface that is next to the cheek. Usually only posterior, or back, teeth touch the cheek, so dentists usually use the term "buccal" when talking about back teeth.

Calculus: A hard deposit of mineralized plaque that forms on the crown and/or root of the tooth. Also referred to as tartar.

Canine Tooth: The third tooth from the midline, commonly called the eyetooth or cuspid.

Cap: Another term for crown. Usually referring to a crown for a front tooth.

Caries: The technical and correct term for tooth decay. The progressive breaking down or dissolving of tooth structure caused by acid produced when bacteria digest sugars.

Cavity: The common term for tooth decay. Also, the dental term for the hole that is left after decay has been removed.

Cement: A special type of glue used to hold a crown in place. Cement also acts as an insulator to protect the tooth's nerve.

Cementum: The very thin, bonelike structure that covers the root of the tooth.

Central Incisors: The two large teeth in the middle of the mouth.

Cephalometric X-rays: Head X-Ray to evaluate growth and/or position of the jawbones and teeth mainly for orthodontics or jaw surgery.

Cephalometric X-rays: A procedure used to make precise measurements for braces.

Clenching: The forceful holding together of the upper and lower teeth, which places stress on the ligaments that hold the teeth to the jawbone and the lower jaw to the skull.

Complete Denture: an acrylic plate that replaces all of the upper teeth and/or all the lower teeth.

Complex Rehabilitation: The extensive dental restoration involving 6 or more units of crown and/or bridge in the same treatment plan. Using full crowns and/or fixed bridges which are cemented in place, your dentist will rebuild natural teeth, fill in spaces where teeth are missing and establish conditions which allow each tooth to function in harmony with your occlusion (bite). The extensive procedures involved in complex rehabilitation require an extraordinary amount of time, effort, skill and laboratory collaboration for a successful outcome.

Composite: A tooth-coloured filling made of plastic resin.

Consultation: A diagnostic and educational service provided by a dentist or dental specialist.

Cosmetic Dentistry: Any dental treatment or repair that is solely rendered to improve the appearance of the teeth or mouth.

Crown: The portion of a tooth that is covered by enamel. Also a dental restoration that covers the entire tooth and restores it to its original shape.

Crown Lengthening: A surgical procedure exposing more tooth for restorative purposes.

Curettage: A deep scaling of the portion of the tooth below the gum line. Purpose is to remove calculus and infected gum tissue.

Cuspid: Also see canine tooth.

Cusp(s): The protruding portion(s) of a tooth's chewing surface.

Decay: Also see caries.

Deciduous: Also see primary teeth.

Dental Floss: A thin, nylon string, waxed or unwaxed, that is inserted between the teeth to remove food and plaque.

Dental Hygienist: A dental professional specializing in cleaning the teeth by removing plaque, calculus, and diseased gum tissue. The hygienist acts as the patient's guide in establishing a proper oral hygiene program. Also known as RDH (registered dental hygienist).

Dental Specialist: A dentist who has successfully completed an accredited, advanced educational program in a recognized dental specialty and holds such designation from the New Brunswick Dental Society.

Dentin: The part of the tooth that is under both the enamel, which covers the crown, and the cementum, which covers the root.

Denture: A removable appliance used to replace teeth. See also complete denture and partial denture.

D.D.S.: Doctor of Dental Surgery or D.M.D., Doctor of Dental Medicine. Degrees given to dental school graduates. Both degrees are the same; dental schools identify at their discretion graduates as DMD or DDS.

Diagnostic Photographs: Pictures taken to determine treatment, and used as records.

Diagnostic Cast: A mould of the mouth made by taking an impression of the teeth.

Direct Pulp Cap: The procedure in which the exposed pulp is covered with a dressing or cement that protects the pulp and promotes healing and repair.

Dry Socket: A localized inflammation of the tooth socket following an extraction due to the loss of a blood clot.

Enamel: The hard, calcified (mineralized) portion of the tooth that covers the crown. Enamel is the hardest substance in the body.

Endodontics: The branch of dentistry that deals with injuries to or diseases of the pulp, or nerve, of the tooth.

Endodontist: A dental specialist who has successfully completed an accredited advanced educational program in endodontics and currently holds such specialty designation from the NBDS.

Eruption: A tooth coming through the gum into the oral cavity

Excision: Surgical removal of bone or tissue.

Exostosis: The overgrowth of normal bone.

External Bleach: The use of external bleaching agents to handle tooth discolouration.

Extracoronal: The outside of the crown of the tooth.

Extraoral: The outside of the mouth.

Extraction: The removal of teeth - may be simple or complex (surgical).

Eye Tooth: Also see cuspid.

Filling: Material used to fill a cavity or replace part of a tooth.

First Bicuspid: The teeth behind the cuspids. These teeth have two cusps.

First Molar: The teeth behind the second bicuspids. These teeth also have a level surface with four cusps.

Fistula: A bump or boil on the gum tissue, which is a tract, in which an abscessed tooth can drain. A path by which trapped bacteria can escape from an infected tooth.

Floss: Also see dental floss.

Fluoride: A chemical compound used to prevent dental decay, used in fluoridated water systems and/or applied directly to the teeth.

Frenum: Muscle fibres covered by a mucous membrane that attaches the cheek, lips and or tongue to associated dental mucosa.

Frenectomy: The removal of a frenum.

Full Dentures: Complete replacements for the upper or lower teeth.

Full Mouth X-rays: Twelve to 18 films taken to check on dental diseases.

Gingiva: The soft tissue that covers the jawbone. Also referred to as the gums.

Gingivectomy: The removal of gingiva.

Gingivitis: An inflammation or infection of the gingiva; the initial stage of gum disease.

Gingivoplasty: A surgical procedure to reshape or repair the gingiva, or gum.

Graft: A piece of tissue or synthetic material placed in contact with tissue to repair a defect or supplement a deficiency.

Gum: See gingiva.

Gum Disease: See periodontal disease.

High Noble Metal: See metals, classification of.

Immediate Denture: A denture constructed for immediate placement after removal of the remaining teeth.

Impacted Tooth: An unerupted, or partially erupted, tooth that is positioned against another tooth, bone or soft tissue so that complete eruption is unlikely.

Impaction, Bony: A condition in which a tooth is unable to erupt normally and is covered by bone.

Impaction, Gingival: A condition in which a tooth is unable to erupt normally and covered by gum.

Implant: An artificial device usually made of a metal alloy or ceramic material that is implanted within the jawbone as a means to attach an artificial crown, denture or bridge.

Incisors: The four front teeth, referred to as central and lateral incisors, located in the upper and lower jaws and used to cut and tear food.

Indirect Pulp Cap: A procedure in which the nearly exposed pulp is covered with a protective dressing to protect it from additional injury, and to promote healing and repair via formation of secondary dentin.

Inlay: A cast gold filling that is used to replace part of a tooth.

Internal Bleach: The use of internal bleaching agents on front teeth to address tooth discolouration due to internal causes, such as endodontic treatment (root canal).

Interproximal: The area between two adjacent teeth.

Intracoronal: The area within the crown of a tooth.

Intraoral: The inside of the mouth.

Labial: The area pertaining to or around the lip.

Lateral Incisors: These teeth are located next to the central incisors, one on each side.

Lateral Tooth: The teeth adjacent to the centrals.

Laughing Gas: Also see nitrous oxide. A controlled mixture of nitrogen and oxygen gases (N2O) that is inhaled by the patient in order to decrease sensitivity to discomfort.

Lingual: The area pertaining to or around the tongue.

Local Anaesthetic: The injection given in the mouth to numb the areas where a tooth or area needs a dental procedure.

Malocclusion: The improper alignment of biting or chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth.

Mandible: The lower jaw.

Margin: The point at which prepared tooth structure ends and unprepared tooth begins.

Mastication: The act of chewing.

Maxilla: The upper jaw.

Metals, Classification of: The noble metal classification system has been adopted as a more precise method of reporting various alloys commonly used in crowns, bridges and dentures. These alloys contain varying percentages of Gold, Palladium and/or Platinum. High noble contains more than 60% of Gold, Palladium, and/or Platinum (with at least 40% gold); noble contains more than 25% Gold, Palladium and/or Platinum; predominantly base contains less than 25% Gold, Palladium and/or Platinum.

Molars: The broad, multicusped back teeth, used for grinding food. Considered the largest teeth in the mouth. Adults have a total of twelve molars (including the four wisdom teeth, or third molars), three on each side of the upper and lower jaws.

Night Guard: A plastic mouthpiece to prevent damage from grinding teeth at night. May be a hard or soft material.

Nitrous Oxide: A controlled mixture of nitrogen and oxygen gases (N2O) that is inhaled by the patient in order to decrease sensitivity to discomfort. Also referred to as laughing gas.

Non-Vital Tooth: A tooth that contains no living nerve tissue.

Novocaine: A generic name for the many kinds of anaesthetics used in the dental injection, such as Xylocaine, Lidocaine or Novocaine. See local anaesthetic.

Occlusal X-ray: An intraoral X-ray taken with the film held between the teeth in biting position.

Occlusal Surface: The chewing surface of the back teeth.

Occlusion: Any contact between biting or chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth.

Onlay: A cast gold or porcelain filling that covers one or all of the tooth's cusps.

Oral Surgery: The removal of teeth and the repair and treatment of other oral problems, such as tumours and fractures.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: A dental specialist who has successfully completed an accredited advanced educational program in oral and maxillofacial surgery and who currently holds such specialty designation from the NBDS.

Orthodontics: A branch of dentistry that corrects malocclusions and restores the teeth and/or jawbones to proper alignment and function. Several different types of appliances are used in orthodontics, one of which is commonly referred to as braces.

Orthodontist: A dental specialist who has successfully completed an accredited advanced educational program in orthodontics and currently holds such specialty designation from the NBDS.

Overbite: A condition in which the upper teeth excessively overlap the lower teeth when the jaw is closed. This condition can be corrected with orthodontics.

Palate: The hard and soft tissues forming the roof of the mouth.

Panoramic X-ray (Panorex): An extraoral full-mouth X-ray that records the teeth and the upper and lower jaws on one film.

Partial Denture: A removable appliance used to replace one or more lost teeth.

Paediatric Dentistry: The branch of dentistry that deals solely with treating children's dental disease. Also referred to as pedodontics.

Pedicle Soft Tissue Graft: The replacement of damaged gum tissue.

Periapical: The area that surrounds the root tip of a tooth.

Pedodontics: Also see paediatric dentistry.

Pedodontists or Paediatric Dentist: A dental specialist who has successfully completed an accredited advanced educational program in paediatric dentistry and currently holds such specialty designation from the NBDS.

Pericoronitis: An inflammation of the gum tissue around the crown of a tooth, usually the third molar.

Periodontal: Relating to the tissue and bone that supports the tooth (from peri, meaning "around," and odont, "tooth").

Periodontal Disease: The inflammation and infection of gums, ligaments, bone and other tissues surrounding the teeth. Gingivitis and periodontitis are the two main forms of periodontal disease. Also called gum disease or pyorrhoea.

Periodontal Pocket: An abnormal deepening of the gingival crevice. Caused when disease and infection destroy the ligament that attaches the gum to the tooth and the underlying bone.

Periodontal Surgery: A surgical procedure involving the gums and bone that support the teeth.

Periodontics: The branch of dentistry that deals with and treats the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth.

Periodontitis: Inflammation of the supporting structures of the tooth, including the gum, the periodontal ligament and the bone that supports the teeth.

Periradicular: The area that surrounds a portion of the root of the tooth.

Permanent Teeth: The thirty-two adult teeth that replace the primary teeth. Also known as secondary teeth.

Pit: A recessed area found on the surface of a tooth, usually where the grooves of the tooth meet.

Plaque: A film of sticky material containing saliva, food particles and bacteria that attaches to the tooth surface both above and below the gum line. When left on the tooth it can promote gum disease and tooth decay.

Pontic: An artificial tooth used in a bridge to replace a missing tooth.

Porcelain Laminate Veneer: A thin porcelain shell bonded to the tooth to correct imperfections in shape, colour, size and position of teeth.

Posterior Teeth: The teeth in the back of the mouth (bicuspids and molars).

Premolar: Another name for bicuspid.

Preventive Dentistry: Education and treatment devoted to and concerned with preventing the development of dental and periodontal disease.

Preventive Treatment: Any action taken by the patient, assisted by the dentist, hygienist and office staff, that serves to prevent dental or other disease (i.e., sealants, cleanings and space maintainers).

Primary Teeth: The first set of teeth that humans get, lasting until the permanent teeth come in. Also referred to as deciduous teeth or baby teeth.

Prophylaxis: The scaling and polishing procedure performed to remove calculus, plaque and stains from the crowns of the teeth.

Prosthodontics: The branch of dentistry dealing with the replacement of missing teeth and other oral structures.

Prosthodontist: A dental specialist who has successfully completed an accredited advanced educational program in prosthodontics and currently holds such specialty designation from the NBDS.

Pulp: The hollow chamber inside the crown of the tooth that contains its nerves and blood vessels.

Pulp Canal: Also see pulp chamber.

Pulp Capping: The use of medicine on decayed areas of teeth to protect pulp and aid in healing.

Pulp Chamber: The very inner part of a tooth containing nerve cells and blood vessels.

Pulpectomy: Removal of the entire pulp from the canals in the tooth's root.

Pulpitis: An often-painful inflammation of the dental pulp or nerve.

Pulpotomy: The removal of a portion of the tooth's pulp.

Pyorrhoea: Also see periodontal disease.

Quadrant: The dental term for the division of the jaws into four parts, beginning at the midline of the arch and extending towards the last tooth in the back of the mouth. There are four quadrants in the mouth; each quadrant generally contains five to eight teeth.

Rebase: The process of refitting a denture by replacing the base material.

Receded Gums: A condition characterized by the abnormal loss of gum tissue due to infection or bone loss.

Referral: When a dental patient from one office is sent to another dentist, usually a specialist, for treatment or consultation.

Reline: The process of resurfacing the tissue side of a denture with a base material.

Replantation: The return of a tooth to its socket.

Resin Filling: The tooth-coloured plastic material used in place of alloys for a more natural appearance.

Resorption: Breakdown and assimilation of the bone that supports the tooth (i.e., bone loss).

Restoration: Any material or creation used to replace lost tooth structure (e.g., filling, crown) or to replace a lost tooth or teeth (e.g., bridge, dentures, complete or partial).

Retainer: A removable dental appliance, usually used in orthodontics, that maintains space between teeth, or holds teeth in a fixed position until the bone solidifies around them.

Retrograde Filling: A method of sealing the root canal by preparing and filling it from the root tip, generally done at the completion of an apicoectomy.

Root: The part of the tooth below the crown, normally encased in the jawbone. It is made up of dentin, includes the root canal and is covered by cementum.

Root Canal: The hollow part of a tooth's root. It runs from the tip of the root into the pulp.

Root Canal Therapy: Process of treating disease or inflammation of the pulp or root canal. This involves removing the pulp and root's nerve(s) and filling the canal(s) with an appropriate material to permanently seal it.

Root Planing: The process of scaling and planing exposed root surfaces to remove all calculus, plaque and infected tissue.

Scaling: A procedure used to remove plaque, calculus and stains from the teeth.

Sealant: A composite material used to seal the decay-prone pits, fissures and grooves of children's teeth to prevent decay.

Second Bicuspid: The teeth behind the first bicuspids. These teeth have two cusps.

Second Molar: The teeth behind the first molars. These teeth have a flat surface with four cusps.

Secondary Teeth: Also see permanent teeth.

Six-Year Molar: The first permanent tooth to erupt, usually between the ages of five and six.

Socket: The hole in the jawbone into which the tooth fits.

Space Maintainer: A dental appliance that fills the space of a lost tooth or teeth and prevents the other teeth from moving into the space. Used especially in orthodontic and paediatric treatment.

Stainless Steel Crown: A pre-made metal crown, shaped like a tooth, which is used to temporarily cover a seriously decayed or broken down tooth. Used most often on children's teeth.

Subgingival Scaling: The removal of calculus and plaque found on the tooth below the gum line.

Supragingival Scaling: The removal of calculus and plaque found on the tooth above the gum line.

Systemic: Relating to the whole body.

Tartar: Also see calculus.

Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD): Also see temporomandibular joint syndrome.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ): The connecting hinge mechanism between the upper jaw and the base of the skull.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Syndrome: The problems associated with TMJ, usually involving pain or discomfort in the joints and ligaments that attach the lower jaw to the skull or in the muscles used for chewing.

Third Molar: The teeth behind the second molars. These teeth have a level surface with four cusps. Also known as wisdom teeth.

Tooth Surface: One of the five sides of a tooth above the gum line.

Torus: A bony elevation or protuberance of normal bone. It is generally seen on the upper palate located behind the front teeth or under the tongue inside the lower jaw.

Treatment Plan: A list of the work the dentist proposes to perform on a dental patient based on the results of the dentist's x-rays, examination and diagnosis. Often more than one treatment plan is presented.

Twelve-Year Molar: Another name for the second molar.

Veneer: An artificial filling material, usually composite or porcelain, that is used to provide an aesthetic covering over the visible surface of a tooth. Most often used on front teeth.

Vital Tooth: A tooth that contains living nerve tissue.

Wisdom Teeth: Also see third molar.