Glossary

Baby Teeth

Baby teeth are referred to as primary teeth, which begin to form between 6 months and 1 year of age. When the baby teeth are lost between 6 years and 12 years of age, permanent teeth will replace the baby teeth.

Bite

The overall alignment of teeth. This includes how the upper and lower jaw fit together and spacing between teeth and lips. Most irregularities can be fixed through orthodontics for comfort or appearance.

Bleaching

Processes to lighten the teeth and help remove stains such as coffee, tea, wine or tobacco. These procedures may start with whitening toothpastes or at-home bleaching kits. The procedures in the dentist’s office use pastes or solutions containing various concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide.

Bleeding Gums

Gums may bleed after brushing or flossing, but persistent bleeding is not normal. If bleeding frequently occurs when you brush your teeth or floss, this could be a sign of gingivitis, or inflammation of the gum line.

Bonding

Bonding is the application of a tooth-colored composite resin (plastic) to repair a decayed, chipped, fractured or discolored tooth. Unlike veneers, which are manufactured in a laboratory and require a customized mold to achieve a proper fit, bonding can be done in a single visit. The procedure is called bonding because the material bonds to the tooth.

Bridges

A fixed but removable denture made to replace one or more missing teeth. Bridges can be supported by natural teeth, implants or a combination of teeth and implants.

Bruxism

The grinding or clenching of teeth, sometimes during sleep. Many believe this grinding is caused by stress or anxiety, but it can also occur due to misaligned teeth, disease or medicines.

Cap

A customized tooth-shaped cover cemented into place over a tooth, completely encasing the visible portion of the tooth. Caps improve the shape, size, strength and appearance of a tooth. They are also known as crowns.

Caries

Tooth decay, commonly called cavities.

Ceramics

Porcelain and/or glass compounds most commonly used for inlays, onlays and crowns. Ceramics are tooth-colored, but more brittle than composite resin.

Cleaning

Checkups almost always include a complete cleaning, usually by a dental hygienist. Using special instruments, she or he will scrape below the gum line, removing built-up plaque and tartar that can cause gum disease, cavities, bad breath and other problems. Our hygienists also floss and polish your teeth.

Composites

Synthetic resins used to restore or adhere teeth. These may include a mixture of plastic and fine glass particles. A filling of this type is midrange in price, tooth-colored and fairly strong.

Cosmetic Dentistry

This form of dentistry improves the appearance of teeth. This includes procedures like whitening, bonding and orthodontics.

Crowns

A crown is a custom, tooth-shaped cover placed over a tooth that was badly damaged or decayed. A crown is made to look like your tooth, including color. Many people call it a cap. A crown is also the name for the very top surface of a tooth.

Dental Implant

Dental implants are metal posts or frames that are surgically positioned into the jawbone beneath the gums. Once in place, they allow the dentist to mount replacement teeth onto them.

Dentin

The hard, dense material forming the body of a tooth. It’s covered by the tooth’s enamel.

Dentures

Replacements for missing teeth that can be taken out and put back into the mouth. Available in full or partial sets, today’s dentures look natural and feel comfortable.

Denture adhesives secure the denture into place in the mouth to prevent it from slipping or moving. A variety of denture adhesives are available as pastes (cream/gel form), powders or wafers.

Dry socket:

Localized inflammation of the tooth socket following extraction due to infection or loss of blood clot.

Enamel

The hard, white, glossy coating covering the exterior of a tooth.

Endodontics

The branch of dentistry that deals with diseases of the tooth’s pulp. A dentist specializing in endodontics performs surgeries such as root canals.

Fillings

A way to restore normal function and shape to a tooth damaged by decay. When a dentist gives you a filling, he or she first removes the decayed tooth material, cleans the affected area, and then fills the cleaned out cavity with a filling material.

Flipper Denture

A flipper denture is the least expensive type of temporary denture that usually replaces one or more front teeth. Flipper dentures are only used until a permanent denture (usually a bridge or sometimes a dental implant) is made and is ready to be inserted.

Flossing

A special thread designed to remove plaque and food particles in places where a toothbrush cannot easily reach — under the gum line and between your teeth. Because plaque build-up can lead to tooth decay and gum disease, daily flossing is recommended.

Fluorosis

White or brown spots on the enamel caused by consuming too much fluoride while teeth are forming. Fluorosis does not develop after teeth have erupted and is a purely cosmetic condition.

Fractures

Tooth fractures can involve the tooth itself or the root. A composite filling or a crown may be needed or, in the case of a root fracture, the root may become loose, the pulp may be affected and the root may need to be extracted.

Gingivitis

Inflamed gum tissue caused by bacteria in dental plaque. Mild gingivitis causes little or no pain. You might not notice it. If left unchecked, however, it can become severe. In some people, gingivitis develops into periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss.

Glass Lonomer

An acrylic and glass component used to cement inlays or as filling material. Glass lonomer matches the color of teeth but is weaker than composite resin fillings.

Gum Recession

Gum recession results from periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease when loss of supporting bone results in bacterial infection. The gum tissue pulls away from the teeth and may expose the roots below. This often leads to increased sensitivity to the tooth and damage of the newly exposed roots. Gum recession can also be caused by brushing the gum tissue too hard.

Impacted Tooth

Teeth that fail to emerge through the gums, or emerge only partially, at the expected time. This usually occurs with wisdom teeth between 17 and 21 years old.

Impression

A form taken of the teeth that is typically used to create orthodontic appliances. The dentist uses a soft material that sets into a gel to make a copy of the teeth, which is sent to a fabricator. When finished, the appliance is returned to the dentist for placement.

Inlay

A customized filling that is created from an impression of the tooth to be repaired. The dentist will prepare the tooth, take the impression and order it in a your exact fit and color. A temporary inlay will be placed until the permanent one is ready to be bonded to the tooth.

Mouth Guards

An appliance placed around the teeth like a tray to protect the teeth, jaw, lips and tongue. It may also reduce the rate and severity of concussions.

Night Guard

A plastic bit piece used at night to prevent tooth grinding. A dentist can custom-make a guard if you experience grinding problems.

Onlay

A customized filling similar to an inlay but including tooth points (cusps). The dentist will prepare the tooth, take the impression and order an exact fit and color from a fabricator. A temporary inlay will be placed until the permanent one is ready to be bonded to the tooth.

Oral Hygiene

Daily oral care for the health of the mouth and teeth. Good oral hygiene includes brushing, flossing, eating healthy foods and regular trips to the dentist.

Orthodontics

The branch of dentistry that straightens teeth and corrects misaligned bites (malocclusion). A dentist specializing in orthodontics places dental braces and retainers.

Partial Dentures / Partials

Partial dentures are worn by people who have lost one or more teeth in an area in the mouth. The replacement teeth are attached to a metal framework covered by a plastic pink base colored to look like the gum tissue. Partial dentures usually attach to existing natural teeth with metal or plastic clasps.

Periodontics

The branch of dentistry that focuses on bacterial infections of the gum tissue (gingivitis) and supporting tooth structures. With the former, periodontists typically deep clean, scale and/or plane the roots to remove tartar and toxins from infected pockets. They also can perform dental implants and other surgeries.

Plaque

Invisible masses of harmful germs that live in the mouth and stick to the teeth. If not removed by regular brushing or flossing, plaque will turn to tartar and that often leads to gum disease.

Porcelain

A filling material that can be matched to the color of the tooth and resists staining. It is most commonly used for inlays, onlays and crowns.

Retainer

A removable appliance worn to maintain tooth positions after treatment is completed and braces are removed. Once the bite has been corrected, bone and gums need more time to stabilize around the teeth.

Root Canal

A treatment to remove damaged or diseased tooth pulp. Once removed, the remaining space is cleaned and the tooth is sealed off.

Root Planing

Smoothing the tooth’s root surfaces to make it more difficult for plaque to accumulate. This typically follows scaling to treat periodontal disease.

Scaling

A technique for removing plaque, biofilm and tartar from teeth and below the gum line. This can help reverse the effects of gum disease.

Sealant

A protective plastic coating that is applied to the teeth to help prevent cavities, especially in children. Sealants are gradually lost through normal chewing so need to reapplied after several years to remain effective.

Space Maintainers

An appliance used when a baby tooth is lost too early. This device helps make room for the permanent tooth to enter.

Tartar

Plaque that has hardened on the teeth. Tartar can form at and underneath the gum line and damage the teeth and gums.

Tooth Avulsion

Tooth avulsion occurs when a tooth is knocked out of its normal position due to a blow to the mouth or an injury. When avulsion occurs, immediately call us so we can determine if the tooth (primary or permanent) should be put back into place.

Whitening

A process for lightening teeth and removing stains and discoloration. Whitening must be maintained over time.

Veneers

Thin coverings of porcelain or laminate bonded to the front of the teeth to improve appearance. These can be used to fix chipped, stained, misaligned, worn-down or abnormally spaced teeth.