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Dental Terms

Abscess: An inflammation or swelling caused by an infection due to a large decay, trauma or gum disease. Pus gathers in the body tissue causing the swelling.

Anesthesia: Loss of sensation by depression of nerve function.

Bruxism: The act of clinching or grinding one's teeth. Usually done at night while sleeping, caused by stress and done to relieve tension and anxiety. Action may cause headaches, jaw pain and wearing down of the teeth.

Calculus: Calcified deposits of plaque formed around the tooth either below or above the gums. These stony deposits become so hard that manual removal with a toothbrush is impossible. Removal by your dentist or hygienist is accomplished.

Canines: Of or relating to corner-stone teeth. These teeth are referred as the pointy or vampire teeth.

Caries: Commonly known as a "cavity." Microbial destruction or necrosis of teeth. Synonymous to decay.

Crown Lengthening: A procedure performed to expose more tooth structure for better retention of a crown. Removal of gingival tissue around the tooth is executed along with some bone around the tooth. This extends the tooth structure height above the gums in order to give more support for a crown.

Decay: Destruction or deteriotion of an organic substance. Synonymous to caries.

Diastema: A gap between teeth. Usually associated with the two upper front teeth or incisors.

Extraction: The removal of one or more teeth. Either a simple or a surgical procedure.

Fistula: A passage usually from an abscessed tooth to the outside tissue or gingiva causing a bump in the gums.

Fluoride: The active ingridient in most toothpastes. Fluoride may exist in some water lines around the world depending on location.

Gingivitis: An inflammation of the gingiva (gums) as a response to accumulation of plaque or calculus around the teeth. Gingivitis may lead to periodontitis if not treated.

Impacted tooth: A tooth that is submerged under the gingival tissue. It is most often associated with wisdom teeth.

Incisors: Of or relating to front or anterior teeth.

Inlay/Onlay: A smaller version of a dental crown. A restoration made of either gold, porcelain or composite materials that is bonded or cemented to teeth. If the restoration covers a cusp or a tip of a tooth it is called an onlay.

Molars: Of or relating to back or posterior teeth.

Nightguard: An acrylic mouthpiece worn to prevent damage to teeth from grinding at night. Also worn to protect mouths with many dental restorations.

Periodontal Pocket: The space between all teeth and surrounding gingiva. If this space becomes too large or deep, cleaning by manual toothbrush becomes impossible.

Periodontitis: An advanced disease to the gingiva and bone caused by untreated gingivitis. The disease to the gingiva causes recession and large gaps between the tooth and the gums. The disease to the bone causes bone loss.

Plaque: A clear and sticky deposit of bacteria attached to teeth. Usually accumulates from left over food debris left by insufficient brushing.

Prophylaxis (prophy): Prevention of disease by cleaning teeth performed by a dentist or hygienist.

Root Canal (therapy): The removal of inflamed or infected nerve tissue that lies within the crown and root of a tooth. Reasons for infected nerve tissue consists of trauma to tooth, leakage from a filling, or cavity in close proximity to the nerve tissue.

Root Planing: The removal of calculus and smoothing of the root surface of a tooth. This procedure reduces pocket depth and promotes reattachment of tissue to the tooth.

Sealants: An acrylic material coated on teeth to seal grooves and prevent decay.