Dental terminology

The American Dental Association has terms and definitions compiled in the ADA online glossary.

The list below includes some of the specific terminology asked about by our patients or found on our pages.

  • Abscess: An abscess is acute or chronic localized inflammation with tissue destruction and swelling.
  • Bridge: A bridge is a prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth cemented or otherwise attached to the abutment teeth or implant replacements.
  • Bone grafting: Bone grafting is a surgical procedure using healthy, transplanted bone to replace diseased and damaged bones.
  • Crown: A crown is an artificial replacement that restores missing tooth structure by surrounding the remaining coronal tooth structure or is placed on a dental implant.
  • Endodontics: Endodontics is the branch of dentistry concerned with diseases in the pulp or root canal.
  • Fluoride: Fluoride is a chemical that can be added to drinking water and toothpaste to help keep teeth healthy.
  • Diagnostic sciences: Diagnostic sciences includes oral diagnosis, oral pathology and oral radiology.
  • Implant: An implant is the material inserted or grafted into tissue or bone. 
  • Lingual braces: Braces fixed to the back side of the teeth.
  • Malocclusion: Malocclusion is the improper alignment of biting or chewing surfaces of the upper and lower teeth.
  • Mandible: Mandible refers to the lower jaw.
  • Maxillofacial: Maxillofacial refers to the upper jaw and face.
  • Molar sealants: A molar sealant is a thin, protective coating that adheres to the chewing surface of your back teeth. 
  • Orthognathic: Orthognathic pertains to correcting jaw deformities.
  • Orthodontics: Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that includes treatment of malocclusion or other abnormalities of the teeth and surrounding structures. 
  • Periapical: Periapical is the area surrounding the root of a tooth.
  • Periodontics: Periodontics is a branch of dentistry that specializes in the care and support of the gum and tissues surrounding the teeth.
  • Prosthodontics: Prosthodontics is a branch of dentistry that includes restoration of natural teeth, replacement of teeth and rehabilitation and maintenance.
  • Pulp: Pulp is the connective tissue that contains blood vessels and nerve tissue which occupies the pulp cavity of a tooth.
  • Resorption: Resorption is inflammation and loss of inner dental tissue or outer material to absorption.
  • Scaling: Scaling is the removal of plaque, calculus and stains from teeth.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer found in the mouth.
  • Tissue grafting: Tissue grafting is replacing diseased tissue in the mouth with healthy tissue.
  • TMJ: Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is the abnormal functioning of the hinge mechanism between the base of the skull and lower jaw.
  • Traumatic dental injuries: Traumatic dental injuries include dislocated and fractured teeth including teeth that have been knocked out. 
  • Veneer: Veneer is a thin laminate covering of the surface of the tooth.