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  • Glossary of Dental Terms


    Abscess – a pus-filled, swollen portion of the gums.

    Amalgam – silver-mercury material used as a filling to reinforce teeth (esp. molars).

    Bicuspid – a tooth located between the front teeth (incisors and canines) and the grinding teeth (molars). The main function of bicuspids is to disintegrate solid foods. There are two pairs of bicuspids, both found at the top and bottom of the mouth.

    Bonding – a process of attaching veneers to teeth or filling teeth with composite/amalgam material by way of first etching the tooth and applying the material/s mentioned.

    Bridge – permanent false teeth attached on an adjacent tooth/teeth (depending on the type of bridge). Bridges are primarily installed to reinforce the bite and to prevent gum diseases.

    Bruxism – an impulsive and habitual grinding of a person’s teeth, mainly experienced by people under emotional and physical stress. Relentless bruxism usually occurs when a person is in his subconscious (i.e., sleeping). This can cause severe damage on the teeth, leading to malocclusions.

    Calculus – also known as “tartar”, this hardened plaque clings on to teeth, eventually leading to tooth decay and gingivitis. Tartar buildup is hard to remove by ordinary means and may require dental products and apparati to clean.

    Caries – the gradual collapse of a tooth. Also known as “tooth decay”, caries is primarily caused by buildup of acid-producing carbohydrates such as sucrose, fructose, and glucose on the teeth.

    Cavity – a depressed or collapsed area in the tooth, as evidenced by blackened hole, is caused by tooth decay.

    Composites – semisolid (resin) substances that can are primarily used in creating dental fillings. Composites are usually made up of small glass particles that resemble the color of the teeth. These are made up of nontoxic materials (silicon dioxide), as opposed to amalgam (mercury).

    Crown (“cap”) –the crown is the exterior or visible area of the tooth, or the artificial material covering it. The crown is covered by enamel. Artificial crowns are composed of a metal/porcelain substance. These artificial crowns are used to restore or preserve a decayed tooth/teeth.

    Cuspid – Also known as a “canine”, this protruding or pointy tooth is used to tear ingested food into pieces.

    Dentin – the calcified tissue located in the middle of the tooth. It is blanketed by the enamel. It comprises the majority of a tooth’s composition.

    Dry socket – also known as alveolitis, this painful and cringing sensation is caused by the failure of blood to clot on the alveolar bone after a tooth extraction. It usually passes away after a few days or when the exposed portion of the bone is properly concealed. It usually secretes a foul smell and causes a bitter taste.

    Enamel – known as the toughest substance in the body, the enamel the outer layer of the tooth that protects the dentin and all inner parts of the tooth to be exposed to bacteria and other acidic elements that compromise the health of the tooth.

    Endontist – a dentist who specializes in treating dental pulp and nerve infections/diseases related to the. Endodontists usually perform root canal surgery (endodontics).

    Fluoride – a chemical commonly and richly found in drinking water and in toothpastes (though toothpastes have higher concentrations of fluoride). Fluoride is essential in strengthening the enamel of the tooth, thus preventing tooth decay.

    Gingivitis – inflammation/disease that causes the gums to swell up, become tender and eventually bleed. Ineffective oral hygiene causes the gums tissue to become compromised. Gingivitis is an early indicator of periodontal disease and can lead to a more serious gum disease, paradontitis.

    Gum disease – also known as “periodontitis”, gum diseases are preventable infections/diseases that cause inflammation of the gum tissue. Gum diseases are often marked by swollen and tender gums. A good oral hygiene strongly helps in the prevention of periodontitis.

    Halitosis – or commonly known as “bad breath”, is caused by a variety of factors, such as: a bad oral hygiene, sinus problems and food particles that have been latched onto the teeth for quite some time.

    Impacted tooth – a tooth that cannot erupt or break through the gum tissue because of a blockage (crowded tooth rows, bad gum position, hindrance of the alveolar bone). Impacted teeth will eventually erupt, but will be malformed and will eventually cause pain. Surgical removal of an impacted tooth is required to prevent any malocclusions (misaligned teeth) from forming.

    Incisor – type of tooth located at the front of the mouth. Adults have eight of these flat teeth (four on the top and four on the bottom), and they are used primarily to bite and cut food.

    Malocclusion – the misalignment or protrusion of the upper and lower teeth caused by a variety of factors like: large teeth that do not have enough space to fit into the alveolar bone normally; missing teeth; impacted teeth; hereditary causes.

    Molar – a molar is a grinding tooth located just behind the bicuspids. Molars are teeth identified by broad crowns. There are a total of eight molars found in the average adult mouth (12 with the wisdom teeth combined). Molars are the subjected to both the most pressure and acidic substances from grinding food, hence the effect that they are more prone to decay and tartar buildup.

    Mucin – protein secreted by saliva, that when mixed with acidic carbohydrates or sugars, build up plaque.

    Orthodontist – a dentist who specializes in correcting malocclusions and other tooth deformities by installing dental appliances on the teeth (orthodontics).

    Pedodontist – a dentist who specializes in treating children (pedodontics).

    Periodontist – a dentist who specializes in the treatment of gum diseases and the bones that support the teeth, like the alveolar bone and the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) (periodontics).

    Periodontal Disease – any gum disease that infiltrates the gum and bone surrounding the teeth. Examples of periodontal diseases are gingivitis, loss of the alveolar bone, pus buildup, and severe periodontal breakdown.

    Plaque – the transparent film that builds up on the enamel of the teeth. Plaque is composed of different protein substances and bacteria that cling on to the teeth. Plaque can be prevented by a good oral hygiene.

    Prosthodontist – a dentist who specializes in the restoration of missing teeth by way of prosthetics or “dentures” and other artificial devices.

    Pulp – the central and innermost part of the tooth, consisting of enamel, dentin, soft tissue and dental cells (called odontoblasts). The pulp encapsulates the nerves and the blood vessels of the tooth.

    Pulpitis – the inflammation of the pulp, caused by an infection of the nerves inside the tooth. Other causes include trauma or a large, gaping cavity that exposes the pulp. Acute, prolonged headaches are to be experienced on the onset and course of pulpitis.

    Radiograph – a machine used by dentists and dental technicians to take x-ray photos of the teeth, alveolar bone, and the maxilla.

    Root Canal (or Root Canal Therapy) – an endodontic treatment wherein possible bacteria buildup (or the diseased nerve itself) inside the abscessed tooth are cleaned out, disinfected and subsequently, the tooth is filled with an inert material.

    Tartar – also known as “calculus”, is the hardened deposit of calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate and organic material (or plaque) that builds up on the surface of the tooth. Tartar leads to gum diseases if not remedied.

    Wisdom teeth – these “final” set of molars erupt from the gum tissue between the ages of 15 to 25. Also called the third molars, wisdom teeth are four in count and are expected to cause pain when they become impacted against the second molars. These teeth are difficult to maintain, as they cause severe pain when they are at their erupting phase and wisdom teeth may require surgical intervention if they become severely impacted against the other molars.

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