Dental Dictionary

Glossary of Dental Terms

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Do you struggle to keep all of the different dental terms straight? If so, we’ve got just the thing for you: A glossary full of all the dental terminology you could possibly want to know—and then some! Search for a specific term below, or scroll down to see our full list of dental terms. From dental procedures to parts of the mouth and the tools dentists use, read on to get down with some dentistry vocabulary. 

A

abscess

A type of localized lesion that is usually associated with pus, swelling, and discomfort; this type of infection can affect the tooth, bone, or soft tissues. | Read more…

abutment

1) Teeth that support fixed or partial bridges; 2) The metal or porcelain piece that connects the implant post to the crown

acid etching

A dental material used to prepare/roughen surface of the tooth for bonding materials

activated charcoal

A black powder that is used for natural tooth whitening | Read more…

ADA Seal of Acceptance

An award from the American Dental Association given to products deemed safe, effective, and supported by science

adhesive

A substance or material that bonds surfaces or materials together

aligner

An alternative to wire-and-bracket braces; a plastic tray fitted to the teeth correct alignment problems | Read more…

allograft

A type of tissue graft from one human donor to another recipient

alloplastic

A synthetic material used to replicate/replace human tissue (e.g., bone)

alveolar

A bone that keeps the tooth anchored at the tooth base

amalgam

A common alloy used for fillings, sometimes known as silver fillings; contains tin, silver, copper, zinc, and mercury

anesthesia

A process for pain management; anesthesia is administered before dental procedures to promote relaxation and lessen feelings of pain and discomfort.

antibiotics

A group of medications used to treat bacterial infections, such as abscesses | Read more…

apex

The tip of the tooth root

appliance

A removable orthodontic device or dental restoration

arch

The curved anatomy of upper and lower teeth alignment

autograph

Bone or tissue that is surgically transferred from one part of the body to another

B

baking soda

A chemical compound sometimes used in natural dentistry to clean teeth; also known as sodium bicarbonate

barrier membrane

A thin layer of material used in certain tissue regeneration procedures

benign

A medical term used to describe a non-cancerous growth or lesion

bicuspid

The fourth and fifth teeth toward the back of the mouth in each arch; see also premolars.

biopsy

A procedure that involves removing a small amount of tissue in order to diagnose a condition

bitewing

A type of dental x-ray characterized by showing upper and opposing lower teeth in a single photo film to identify decay

bleaching

A procedure that makes teeth whiter in color

bonding

The process of adhering materials to teeth, such as porcelain or composite resin

bone resorption

Deterioration of the bone that keeps teeth in place; often associated with gum (periodontal) disease

braces

An orthodontic device composed of brackets and wires that is gradually adjusted to straighten misaligned teeth | Read more…

bridge

An appliance that can replace missing teeth and spans multiple teeth to create better support; sometimes called a fixed partial dentureRead more…

bruxism

The condition of teeth grinding, which often occurs at night | Read more…

buccal

A general term relating to the cheek or mouth (e.g. the buccal side of the tooth)

bulimia teeth

Tooth decay that results due to bulimia, an eating disorder | Read more…

C

calculus

Another term for tartar; calculus is a calcium-based deposit that can be yellow or brown in color and is the result of poor plaque removal.

canine

See cuspid.

canker sore

A type of mild mouth ulcer that is common in adolescents and young adults

cap

See crown.

caries

A medical term for cavities or tooth decay

cementum

A type of mineralized tissue that protects the root of the tooth and helps anchor it in place

cervical area

The location of the gum line in between the tooth crown and the root; sometimes called the cervical margin

cleaning

The process of removing plaque and tartar from the teeth above the gum line

cleft lip

A birth condition that results in a split lip and may be associated with a cleft palate

cleft palate

A birth condition that results in a split in the roof of the mouth | Read more…

composite resin

A dental material used in restorations (e.g., fillings) that is tooth-colored and composed of plastic and blended with glass or ceramic particles for added strength | Read more…

cross-bite

A dental misalignment where the top and bottom teeth sit unevenly, resulting in an asymmetrical face | Read more…

crown

1) The part of the tooth above the gum line; 2) A covering for part or all of a tooth to restore the tooth to its original shape and size | Read more…

cusp

The pointed tip(s) of the tooth

cuspid

A tooth with a rounded or pointed tip; the third tooth from the center; also known as canines

cyst

A sac that can contain fluid, soft material, or gas and can be benign or malignant; may be accompanied by inflammation

D

dam

A barrier used during dental care

dead tooth

debridement

The process of removing damaged tissue or debris as part of treatment

decay

Tooth destruction that happens due to bacterial buildup; see also tooth decay.

demineralization

Erosion of the enamel that covers the tooth surface | Read more…

dental lab

A facility where dentures and other dental prosthetics are created and repaired | Read more…

dental tourism

A general term for traveling abroad to receive less expensive dental care | Read more…

dentin

The layer of the tooth just underneath the enamel

dentition

The development and arrangement of teeth

denture

A removable or fixed replacement for damaged or missing teeth; complete dentures replace the entire set of teeth, and partial dentures replace some teeth but not all | Read more…

diastema

A gap between the upper front teeth | Read more…

distal

The side of the tooth away from the midline of the mouth

dry mouth

A medical condition where not enough saliva is produced; may be due to medications, other medical ailments, tobacco use, and certain medical treatments; also called xerostomia | Read more…

dry socket

A complication that can result after a tooth extraction when a blood clot either doesn’t form or comes loose, which leaves the socket and bone unprotected | Read more…

E

edema/edematous

Swelling and inflammation

edentulism

The condition of having no remaining teeth

edentulous

Having no teeth

enamel

The hard, mineralized external layer of the tooth above the gum line

endodontic

endodontist

A dental specialist who focuses on treatment and study of dental pulp and teeth roots, particularly root canal procedures | Read more…

eruption

The process of teeth emerging through the gums

excision

Surgical removal

extraction

Tooth removal | Read more…

F

filling

A type of tooth restoration where lost tooth portions are filled with metal, composite resin, or porcelain | Read more…

fissure

A naturally existing groove on the surface of a tooth

fixed denture

A dental prosthesis that cannot be removed

flap surgery

The process of lifting gum tissue away from the tooth for deeper cleaning

flossing

The process of using a thread-like material to clean in between teeth and keep the contact points between teeth free of debris and plaque | Read more…

fluoride

A mineral that makes tooth enamel stronger | Read more…

fluorosis

A condition that results in tooth discoloration due to ingesting too much fluoride during the first 8 years of life | Read more…

G

gingiva

See gums.

gingivectomy

A type of surgery done to remove gum tissue

gingivitis

Inflammation of the gums and a type of gum disease caused by the accumulation of plaque and food debris | Read more…

glass ionomer

A type of material used for restorations (like fillings) that is partially composed of silicate glass powder

guided tissue regeneration

A procedure that encourages the growth of new gum tissue

gum disease

gum graft

A procedure where tissue from the roof of the mouth is surgically attached to an area that needs gum tissue

gum recession

gums

Oral tissue that covers the jaw and surrounds the base of the teeth; also known as gingiva

H

halitosis

The clinical term for chronic bad breath that does not resolve with basic oral hygiene | Read more…

hard palate

The roof of the mouth

hemisection

A dental procedure where half of a tooth is removed; this procedure can only be done on teeth with multiple roots (molars)

holistic dentistry

A form of dental treatment that seeks to treat total body wellness instead of treating isolated disease; also known as natural dentistry | Read more…

hydrogen peroxide

A chemical compound sometimes used in dentistry as a mouthwash or for teeth whitening | Read more…

hygienist

A specialist who focuses on cleaning and polishing teeth; also known as a dental hygienist

hyperdontia

A congenital condition where a person has more than the normal number of teeth | Read more…

hypersensitivity

A condition where the teeth are more sensitive to pain, cold, heat, and other stimuli | Read more…

hypodontia

A congenital condition where a person has fewer than the normal number of teeth | Read more…

I

imaging

A general term for the process of taking internal pictures of the teeth and mouth; many imaging techniques are radiographs.

impacted tooth

A dental condition where the tooth has either partially grown (erupted) from the gums (partially impacted) or has not grown from the gums at all; this may be due to crowding (like wisdom teeth), and impacted teeth are sometimes surgically removed.

implant

A type of dental prosthesis that replaces a missing tooth root and crown | Read more…

incisor

The front teeth (upper and lower); humans have eight incisors

inlay

A type of indirect tooth restoration that is formed outside the mouth and attached to the inner surfaces between the tips of the teeth

interdental brushes

Small dental tools composed of bristles and wire that are designed to clean in between teeth | Read more…

interproximal reduction

The process of slimming and creating gaps between teeth in preparation for braces, abbreviated as IPR; this will allow teeth to align properly without crowding. | Read more…

intrinsic staining

Discoloration of the internal tooth structure

J

jaw

Pieces of bone that make up the mouth and contain the teeth

L

labial

1) The surface that faces the lips; 2) Related to the lips

laughing gas

lesion

An area of disease or injury, such as an abscess, tumor, or ulcer

leukoplakia

A condition where thick, white patches form on the tongue and inside of the mouth, sometimes due to smoking; leukoplakia is usually benign

lingual

1) The surface of tooth facing the tongue; 2) Related to the tongue

lockjaw

See trismus.

M

malignant

A medical term used to describe a cancerous growth or lesion

malocclusion

A misaligned bite in which the upper and lower teeth do not come together correctly | Read more…

mandible

The lower jaw

maxilla

The upper part of the jaw that is attached to the skull

maxillofacial

A general term referring to the face and jaw

maxillofacial surgeon

A dental specialist who focuses on surgery related to the face and jaw

microabrasion

A minimally invasive procedure that involves using mild abrasive material to restore and shape teeth

molars

The large, multi-rooted teeth in the back of the mouth

mouth breathing

Inhaling and exhaling through the mouth instead of the nose, which can lead to dry mouth, potentially causing gum disease or decay | Read more…

mouthguard

A removable dental device that can be worn to prevent teeth grinding or worn during contact activity to prevent injury

mouthwash

A product used to rinse the mouth to freshen breath and kill bacteria; also known as a rinse | Read more…

N

natural dentistry

nerve

A body system component that sends signals to and from the brain, such as pain

night guard

A removable dental device that can be worn at night to prevent teeth grinding, often made from flexible acrylic

nitrous oxide

A chemical compound used to sedate patients and provide some relief from pain; also known as laughing gas

O

occlusion

The general term referring to the contact/alignment between the teeth

odontoplasty

Also known as recontouring, this mostly cosmetic procedure reshapes the teeth

onlay

A tooth restoration created in a dental lab that covers most/part of the tooth

open bite

A type of misalignment that exists when the jaw is closed and the upper teeth do not overlap over the bottom teeth | Read more…

oral and maxillofacial surgeon

A dental specialist who focuses on surgery related to the inside of the mouth, as well as the face and jaw | Read more…

oral candidiasis

See thrush.

oral cavity

The inside of the mouth

oral herpes

A condition caused by the herpes simplex virus-1 that results in lesions inside and outside the oral cavity | Read more…

oral hygiene

The practice of keeping the teeth and mouth clean to prevent disease; includes brushing and flossing | Read more…

oral mucosa

The lining, or ‘skin’, of the inside of the mouth

oral surgeon

A dental specialist who focuses on surgery related to the inside of the mouth

orthodontic appliances

The general term for fixed and removable devices used with issues related to misaligned teeth and jaws

orthodontist

A specialist who focuses on issues related to misaligned teeth and jaws | Read more…

orthognathic surgery

Jaw surgery

overbite

A teeth alignment condition where the upper jaw overlaps the lower jaw | Read more…

overcrowding

An alignment condition where there is not enough room in the mouth to accommodate tooth growth; also known as crowding or dental crowding | Read more…

overjet

An alignment condition where the upper teeth extend outward; sometimes called ‘buck teeth’

P

pacifier teeth

An alignment condition that can result from long-term pacifier use or thumb-sucking | Read more…

palate

The roof of the mouth that extends into the sinus cavity

palliative

A method of treatment that typically eases discomfort but may not treat the root cause

pedicle graft

A type of gum tissue graft that takes gum from near the area of gum surgery to cover areas of lost tissue

pedodontics

Pediatric dentistry | Read more…

pedodontist

A dental specialist who focuses on treating child and adolescent teeth; also known as a pediatric dentist

periapical

The area and tissue surrounding the tip of a tooth root

periodontal

The tissues and structures that surround and support the teeth (gums)

periodontics

A branch of dentistry that deals with gum disease and other gum issues

periodontist

A dentist who specializes in treating gum disease and gum-related problems | Read more…

periodontitis

Also known as gum disease, this condition refers to inflammation and infection of gum tissue

permanent teeth/dentition

Adult teeth; adults have 32 permanent teeth

plaque

A sticky film that forms on the surface of the teeth, which can eventually harden into tartar and lead to decay | Read more…

porcelain/ceramic

A type of restoration material (like crowns) that is strong, stain-resistant, and tooth-colored and composed of lab-made ceramic

post

A metal shaft that is implanted in the jaw and forms the base for dental implants and bridges

posterior

A general term referring to the rear/back; premolars and molars are considered posterior teeth

premolar

The tooth that is located in between the canine and the molar; adults have four premolars

primary teeth/dentition

Baby teeth; these are the first teeth to emerge in human development, and children have 20 primary teeth | Read more…

prosthesis

A replacement for missing teeth; dentures, veneers, crowns, implants, and bridges are types of prostheses

prosthodontics

A branch of dentistry that deals with dental prostheses and missing teeth

prosthodontist

A dental specialist who focuses on missing teeth and dental prosthetics

pulp

The inner part of the tooth structure that contains blood vessels and nerves

pulp necrosis

A dental condition where the pulp (part of the tooth that contains blood vessels and nerves) dies; also known as a dead toothRead more…

pulpitis

A dental condition that causes pain, swelling and sensitivity in the dental pulp, the tissue that surrounds the root of the tooth | Read more…

R

radiograph

A type of image created by x-rays or other types of radiation (like gamma rays)

radiologist

A specialist who focuses on taking and interpreting x-rays and other radiographic images

rebase

A denture replacement procedure where the denture base is replaced, but not the teeth

receding gums

A type of gum disease that occurs when gums pull back, or recede, away from the teeth, exposing more teeth surfaces and roots; usually affects the smile | Read more…

recontouring

The process of reshaping the outer edges of the teeth; sometimes called odontoplasty, enameloplasty, stripping, or slenderizing | Read more…

reline

The process of refitting the dentures to fit the gums correctly; this is done when gums recede or dentures become loose in some way | Read more…

resin

restorations

A general term for techniques used to preserve or replace teeth, such as fillings, implants, bridges, and root canals

restorative dentistry

A branch of dentistry focused on preserving tooth structure and restoring damage | Read more…

retainer

A type of orthodontic device used after orthodontic treatment to keep the teeth in position | Read more…

rinse

See mouthwash.

root

The bottom part of the tooth, including the bottom tip, that anchors the tooth in place

root canal

1) The passageway into the root of the tooth that contains pulp, blood vessels, and nerves; 2) Root canal treatment (also known as endodontic treatment) involves cleaning the root canal and repairing damage in the area in order to protect the tooth | Read more…

root planing

A process where rough root surfaces are smoothed to remove bacteria; also known as deep cleaning | Read more…

S

saliva

Fluid produced by the salivary glands, which keeps the oral cavity moist

scaling

A dental procedure done to clean calculus and plaque from the teeth

sealant

A type of thin dental coating meant to cover the teeth to prevent tooth decay; applied during a dental cleaning | Read more…

sedation

The general term for the tools and techniques meant to cause relaxation and drowsiness

sedation dentistry

A branch of dentistry that focuses on providing medication to patients to encourage relaxation and drowsiness | Read more…

sedative

The general term for a medication administered to cause relaxation, drowsiness, and pain relief

sensitive teeth

A dental condition involving feeling more pain or sensation in the teeth due to stimuli such as cold or heat

sinus lift

A surgical procedure where bone is added to the upper jaw that is often done in preparation for dental implants | Read more…

smile design

A cosmetic consultation to develop a plan to whiten, straighten, and overall improve one’s smile

smile makeover

The process of using one or more cosmetic dental procedures to improve one’s smile | Read more…

smokers' teeth

A condition involving teeth staining and possibly gum disease or tooth decay as a result of smoking | Read more…

socket graft

A type of graft procedure done in the ‘hole’ from a tooth extraction to keep the bone intact for a dental implant

soft palate

The flexible part of the roof of the mouth

spacer

A small rubber band or ring that is placed around teeth to create a gap; this is done during dental procedures and to help make room for braces

stain

Tooth discoloration due to food, drink, and tobacco, and even medications; intrinsic staining refers to discoloration of the internal structure of the tooth

supernumary teeth

suture

A stitch or series of stitches used in surgical procedures to hold edges of a wound or incision together

T

tartar

Hardened plaque on the surface the teeth that contributes to tooth decay

teeth grinding

See bruxism.

teething

The process that young children undergo when teeth first emerge from the gums | Read more…

temporomandibular joint

The joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull

temporomandibular joint dysfunction

Issues related to pain, clicking, stiffness, and locking of the jaw; sometimes called TMJ or TMJ syndrome

tetracycline teeth

Teeth discoloration due to the antibiotic tetracycline | Read more…

thrush

A condition caused by yeast overgrowth, specifically Candida albicans; thrush can be caused by illness, certain medical conditions, and smoking; also known as oral candidiasis | Read more…

tongue scraper

A tool used to clean the tongue in order to reduce bacteria; a tongue scraper is used in addition to brushing. | Read more…

tongue tie

A condition in young children where the frenulum linguae (the tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth) is shorter or tighter than normal | Read more…

tooth decay

The damage to the tooth surface or enamel caused by bacteria | Read more…

tooth resorption

A rare dental condition where the body starts to absorb part of the tooth | Read more…

topical anesthetic

A medication placed on tissue surface (like skin or gums) to numb an area before a procedure

trauma

The general term for any sort of injury or damage to the teeth, bones, or nearby tissues

trismus

A condition where the jaw cannot be opened completely; this can be temporary or permanent; also known as lockjaw

U

ulcer

A benign lesion inside the mouth; also known as a canker sore | Read more…

ultrasound

A tool that uses high-frequency waves for imaging and dental procedures (such as cleaning)

underbite

An alignment condition where the lower teeth extend further forward than the upper teeth | Read more…

unerupted

A general term for when a tooth does not emerge from the gums

V

veneer

A type of dental restoration that involves placing a thin shell over the tooth enamel; often used in cosmetic dentistry | Read more…

W

wax

A natural or synthetic product used to cover the pointed edges of orthodontic devices (like braces) to prevent damage to oral tissues | Read more…

whitening

A dental treatment that involves using bleaching elements to reduce discoloration | Read more…

wisdom teeth

The most posterior teeth in the mouth, which emerge in adolescence; also called third molars | Read more…

X

x-ray

A type of radiographic image commonly used in dentistry | Read more…

xerostomia

See dry mouth.
There you have it! A digital dental dictionary packed full of all of the dental terminology you could possibly want to know. In our dental glossary, we cover: 
  • Dental procedures: Here you have your dental vocabulary and dentist medical terminology for the procedures that dentists perform. From root canals to extractions, dental terminology abbreviations, and more!
  • Parts of the mouth: We get into the nitty-gritty of dental nomenclature with definitions including the medical terminology for the mouth, the medical term for teeth, and other basic dental terminology.
  • Tooth anatomy: We provide special tooth nomenclature and obscure dental definitions like the medical term for missing teeth,
  • Dental professions: Let this also serve as your dentistry dictionary to expand your dentistry vocabulary with the various medical terms for dentists, such as endodontists, periodontists, orthodontists, and more!
We hope all the dental jargon in our digital dentistry dictionary not only widens your dentistry vocabulary but that it also helps you take amazing care of your oral cavity, from your incisors to your molars and your gingiva to your oral mucosa!