Dental Terms Glossary

Are you confused about something that you’ve heard or read regarding dental health? Are you looking for more information on a specific term or topic? Use our glossary of dental terms to quickly navigate to the term or topic you’d like defined. If you’re still confused or feel like you don’t understand, it’s always a good idea to discuss any questions you might have with your dentist or oral hygienist. We’re always happy to talk with you about your dental health, to answer your questions, and to make sure you’re informed and comfortable.
Dental Terms Glossary by Premier Dental Care in Idaho Falls ID
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Abrasion Damage to the teeth caused by impact. Can be from accidents, jaw grinding or incorrect cleaning procedures.
Abscess A local area of swollen tissue with a build-up of pus. Often presents on the gums as a symptom of tooth infection.
Acute A painful illness which develops quickly and requires immediate treatment.
Aesthetic Pertaining to beauty and appearance. In dentistry the aesthetic area is the area visible when a person smiles.
Antibiotic Prophylaxis Pre-medicating before treatment to prevent infection during the surgery.
Antibiotics Medications which fight infection by killing bacteria.
Arch See Dental Arch.
Attrition The cumulative loss of tooth structure through natural wear.


Bleaching The use of chemicals to lighten and remove stains from the teeth.
Bone Augmentation Supporting implanted teeth by building up existing bone around the roots.
Braces Orthodontic devices worn to straighten teeth and correct tooth position.
Bridge See Dental Bridge.


Caries Common name for tooth decay.
Cavity A hole in the tooth structure. Can have a number of causes, including abrasion, erosion and decay.
Cosmetic Dentistry Services to improve smile aesthetics rather than dental health. See more information on cosmetic dentistry.
Crown An artificial tooth which fits over the top of a natural tooth or implanted root. See more information on dental crowns.


Decay The deterioration of tooth structure over time.
Deciduous Teeth A child’s first teeth. Also known as primary or baby teeth.
Dental Arch The curved shape of the inside of the mouth.
Dental Bridge A device to fill the space left by missing teeth and prevent tooth movement. Can either be removable or fixed. See more information on dental bridges.
Dental Erosion The wearing away of dental enamel over time.
Dentures A set of artificial teeth which are removable as opposed to implanted.


Enamel The natural hard coating which protects teeth.
Erosion See Dental Erosion.
Extract The removal of a natural tooth.


Floss Treated nylon string used to remove food residue and clean between teeth.
Fluoride A mineral reputed to help prevent tooth decay. It is often added to toothpastes and, sometimes, to public water supplies.
Fluoride Varnish A fluoride-based liquid which hardens when painted on to teeth and imitates natural enamel.


Gingival Pertaining to the gums.
Gingivitis Temporary inflammation of gum tissue, often caused by poor dental hygiene or infection.
Gum Disease Ongoing gum infections causing pain, swelling and bleeding to the gums. If left untreated it can cause permanent damage to gums, teeth and connective tissue. Medically known as Periodontal Disease.


Halitosis Unpleasant breath odor caused by dental infections.
Hygiene See Oral Hygiene.
Hygienist See Oral Hygienist.


Implant An artificial tooth root which is surgically implanted in the jaw bone. See more information on dental implants.
Intraoral Pertaining to the inside of the mouth.


Jaw The common and accepted word for both the maxilla and the mandible bones.


Malocclusion A diagnosis given when teeth do not line up on the jawbone. There may be gaps, over or under-bite or crookedness. This is often treated by an orthodontist.
Molars The large, strong teeth used to chew food.


Nerves The tissue which conveys sensations, particularly pain, to the brain.
Night Guard Worn to prevent dental damage from grinding or gnashing one’s teeth during sleep.
NSAIDs Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs; a group of medications which relieve mild pain. Generally sold over the counter without requiring a prescription.


Opioids Medicines used to relieve strong pain. Only administered by prescription and usually only under close supervision because of their possible side effects and addictive properties.
Oral Anything pertaining to the mouth and teeth.
Oral Hygiene The practice of keeping the mouth clean and free of infection. It can include brushing, the use mouthwash or dental floss, and having the teeth and mouth cleaned by a dental hygienist.
Oral Hygienist A dental professional who specializes in keeping the mouth hygienic and preventing infection. Also educates clients on how to maintain oral hygiene between dentist visits.
Orthodontic Treatment Treatment to correct malocclusion and to straighten and realign teeth. Braces are a common orthodontic treatment applied in the teenage years.


Peri-Implantitis An infection which develops around the site of an implant. Commonly known as bone loss.
Periodontal Disease See Gum Disease.
Periodontitis A severe form of gum disease which can lead to tooth loss.
Plaque A layer of bacteria which forms constantly on the teeth and should be removed by regular brushing.
Prophylaxis A professional dental cleaning service to remove plaque build-up or stains from tooth structures.
Pulp The nerves and blood supply to teeth.


Radiograph See X-Ray.
Recession Plaque build-up causing the gums to pull away from the teeth.
Root Canal Treatment Used to treat serious tooth infection, decay and irreparable damage. The procedure involves removing the blood supply and nerves of the tooth. The damaged tooth is then filled, reshaped or covered with a crown. See more information on root canal treatment.


Sealant A protective coating made of thin plastic applied to molars. These help to protect teeth from cavities by preventing residual food from being packed into the tooth surface.
Staining Discoloration to the surface of the teeth. Is often accelerated of excessive tobacco smoking or tea and coffee intake; but it is a natural part of the aging process.
Stomatitis A slight irritation to the soft tissues of the mouth, including the lips, gums, tongue, cheeks and the floor or roof of the mouth.


Tartar A hard, calcium-like build-up on the teeth, caused by inadequate oral hygiene and poor plaque control.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders Painful conditions of the jaw bone. (Abbreviated as TMD)
Therapeutic Pertaining to beneficial treatments and therapies.
Topical Medications or anesthetics applied to the skin or gums, rather than being inserted into the blood stream.


Unerupted Tooth A tooth which is still below the gums and has not yet pushed through. The process of “teething” can be very painful for babies as their deciduous teeth come through.


Veneer Artificial coverings for the front of the teeth. Used to hide staining and improve aesthetic. See more information on veneers.


Wisdom Teeth The third and final molars to come through, usually in early adulthood. They often cause severe pain and need to be surgically removed.


X-Ray A photograph of the inside of the bones and teeth. Used to diagnose cavities and fractures.
Xerostomia A condition where saliva production is inhibited, often causing a dry mouth or a burning sensation.


Zinc A key nutrient for fighting infection throughout the body.

Additional Resources

If you’d like to learn more about dentistry and dental terms, the websites below can provide further information and additional insight into how your mouth works and some of the dental treatments that are commonly used.
Dental Terms Glossary was last modified: July 11th, 2018 by Lisa Carr