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Glossary of Terms


A tooth or implant that is used as an anchor to support a dental bridge.

Antibiotic Therapy

The treatment of disease states by the local or systemic administration of antibodies.


Bonding is the process in which tooth colored materials (composite resin) are adhered (bonded) to the tooth. This is a procedure that can be used to repair or improve the appearance of a tooth that has been badly stained, broken or chipped.


A dental appliance that is permanently cemented onto adjacent teeth to replace one or more missing teeth. More from the American Dental Association.


Custom-made covering that fits over your whole tooth after the dentist has prepared it. A crown is made out of porcelain that has been fused to metal to withstand biting pressure. More from the American Dental Association.


Decay is the destruction of tooth structure. Decay occurs when plague, the sticky substance that forms on teeth, combines with the sugars and / or starches of the foods that we eat. This combination produces acids that attack tooth enamel. The best way to prevent tooth decay is by brushing twice a day and flossing daily. More from the American Dental Association.

Dental Exams

An inspection of the teeth and surrounding soft tissues of the oral cavity. Generally a slender steel instrument with a flexible, sharp point is used to probe the minute indentations on tooth surfaces for signs of demineralization and caries development. Fillings are also inspected, and a radiographic record of the teeth is usually made. Sometimes a periodontal probe into the soft-tissue sulcus around each tooth is needed to measure the depth of each sulcus and to explore for calculus and root defects. The exam includes an inspection of the floor of the mouth, all surfaces of the tongue, the salivary glands and ducts and the lymph nodes of the neck.


A partial or complete set of artificial teeth for either the upper or lower jaw. More from the American Dental Association.

Digital X-rays

Digital X-rays (radiographs) is a form of X-ray imaging where digital sensors are used instead of traditional photographic film. Advantages include time efficiency through bypassing chemical processing, ability to digitally transfer and enhance images, a wider dynamic range and an ability to apply special image processing techniques that enhance the overall display of the image. More from the American Dental Association.


Tooth extraction is the removal of a tooth from its socket in the bone. More from the American Dental Association.


The material used to replace an area of the tooth where decay has been removed and a cavity remains. The two common types of fillings are amalgam (silver) and composite (tooth-colored). More from the American Dental Association.


Fluoride is a mineral that helps prevent tooth decay. It occurs naturally in all water sources. Studies show that fluoride reduces cavities in people of all ages and is effective and safe when used correctly. The correct use of fluoride has been said to have dramatically reduced tooth decay over the past few decades. More from the American Dental Association.


An implant is a metal device designed to replace missing teeth. The device is usually made out of titanium and is surgically placed into the jawbone where the tooth is missing. Unlike a dental bridge, an implant is permanent. A dental implant is designed to act as the tooth root and can anchor an artificial tooth or teeth such as a crown, bridge or denture. More from the American Dental Association.

Invisalign Orthodontics

Custom-fabricated aligners (retainers) used for straightening teeth. These aligners are designed to gradually realign teeth and are meant to replace traditional braces. Cosmetically, invisible retainers are more appealing because they are difficult to notice, making them particularly popular among adults who wish to straighten their teeth without the use of traditional metal braces. Such retainers are easily removed during eating and tooth brushing. More from Invisalign.

Night Guards

A removable, custom-fitted plastic appliance that fits between the upper and lower teeth to prevent them from grinding against each other.

Oral Cancer

A malignancy of the lips, tongue, floor of mouth, salivary glands, buccal mucosa, gingiva, palate.  Most oral cancers are linked to tobacco use and/or smoking, and tend to spread rapidly. High risk factors for oral cancers include: alcohol abuse, poor dental and oral hygiene, chronic irritation (rough teeth, dentures, etc.). Oral cancers may begin as leukoplakia or mouth ulcers. More from the American Dental Association.

Symptoms include:

  • Ulcer or sore in your mouth
  • Red or white patch in your mouth
  • Unexplained pain in your mouth or ear
  • Unexplained lump in your neck
  • Sore or painful throat
  • Croaky voice or difficulty swallowing
Oral Hygiene

The practice of keeping the mouth clean and healthy by brushing and flossing to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

Periodontal Splinting

The ligating, tying, or joining of periodontally involved teeth to one another to stabilize and immobilize the teeth.

Prophylaxis (Prophy)

The removal of calculus (tartar), dental plaque, and stains from the teeth (above the gum line).


An orthodontic appliance (usually removable) that is supposed to be worn after your orthodontist removes your braces. When braces are removed, the teeth have a tendency to want to return back to their original positions. Retainers prevent this from happening.

Most upper retainers are made of wire and hard plastic and fit in the roof of your mouth. A lower retainer can be removable or permanently cemented to the lower teeth so that it doesn’t come out.

Root Canal Therapy

A dental procedure to fix a tooth by removing the pulp chamber of the tooth and filling it with a suitable filling material. A root canal is usually performed when the tooth cannot be filled or restored any other way because the decay has reached the nerve of the tooth or the tooth has become infected. More from the American Dental Association.

Scaling & Root Planning

The removal of hard deposits, with metal scalers and curettes, on the root surfaces. The intent is to remove the diseased elements of the root surface, thereby permitting healing and potential reduction in depth of the periodontal pocket.


Sealants are a clear and protective coating that is applied to the biting surfaces of the back teeth. The sealant protects the tooth from getting a cavity by shielding against bacteria and plaque. Sealants are most commonly placed on children's permanent teeth because they are more prone to cavities. More from the American Dental Association.

Sedative Fillings

Temporary restoration intended to relieve pain.

Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD/TMJ)

TMJ disorder, also known as TMD, is the pain or tenderness experienced in or around the temporomandibular joint. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This is the ball and socket joint that connects the lower jaw to the bone on each side of the head. More from the American Dental Association.

Tooth Whitening

Tooth whitening is the process of using bleach or other materials to make teeth look whiter. More from the American Dental Association.

Traumatic Dental Injuries

Dental trauma is injury to the mouth, including teeth, lips, gums, tongue, and jawbones. The most common dental trauma is a broken or lost tooth.


Veneers are a thin shell made out of porcelain or composite material. They are custom made and cemented to the front side of the tooth. A veneer can be used to treat dental conditions such as a slightly crooked tooth, discolored teeth, chipped teeth or they can even be used to cover spaces in between the teeth. More from the American Dental Association.