Glossary of Dental Terms



A root or implant that supports crown and bridgework.

Toward the Front

Amalgam (Dental Amalgam, Silver, “Mercury Fillings”)
“An alloy of silver and other metals (tin, copper and zinc) with mercury.”2 The mercury is part of a compound that is harmless, just as hydrogen gas (which is dangerously explosive) is part of water—also harmless.

Bleaching is a process that whitens teeth, and removes or lightens stains and discolorations. External Bleaching whitens the outer surfaces of the teeth. Internal Bleaching whitens root canal treated teeth that have discolored from the inside.

Restorations consisting of a resin that contains a high concentration of a filler such as glass or quartz.2

Bridgework is the connection of individual crowns (splinting) to form a single restoration. A bridge often connects crowns of teeth where roots are missing.

An extra pontic tooth added to an abutment (supporting tooth) just like a marquis is added to the support columns of a building.

See Crowns

A thin covering over the root surface that embeds the periodontal fibers connecting the tooth to the surrounding bone.1

Ceramic (Porcelain) Restorations
“A refractory material made by heating a mixture of kaolin, feldspar, quartz and metallic oxides”2 Ceramic restorations can be created by a milling machine from a ceramic block (CAD-CAM or CEREC), by firing clay-like materials in an oven or by fusing the material to a metallic understructure.

Copper bands are tubes made of copper that come in different sizes. These tubes can be adapted to the tooth structure to take an impression of the entire root surface down to the bone or to make a temporary that grips the root surface and fits like a permanent restoration.

See Esthetic Dentistry

A crown is a restoration that completely covers the tooth structure in three dimensions. Crowns can be made of metal (gold), acrylic, composite resin or combinations of these materials.

Dental Enamel
“A Hard Structure Covering the Crown of the tooth. It is the hardest tissue in the body and is composed almost entirely of inorganic salts (97%). The function of the enamel is to resist abrasive wear”1

Dental Erosion
“A progressive smooth wearing of the tooth structure generally at the gingivolabial or buccal level [outer surface of the teeth near the gum]. This lesion, which may be wedge- or cup-shaped, is characterized by a smooth, hard, highly polished surface, increased sensitivity and no evidence of bacterial action.”1

“The dentin is a calcified tissue forming the main bulk of the tooth. It consists of about 67% inorganic salts and is penetrated by tubules containing protoplasmic process coming from cells (odontoblasts) in the pulp. It is theses protoplasmic processes within the dentinal tubules that may transmit a sensation of pain to the nerves in the pulp when they are irritated by the action of bacteria, chemical or thermal changes.”1

See Full Dentures or Partial Dentures

Endodontics (Root Canal Therapy)
“The branch of dentistry that is concerned with preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries to the dental pulp and the soft tissues and bone surrounding the tip of the root.”5

Esthetic (Cosmetic) Dentistry
Dentistry that is created to improve or enhance the appearance of a patient. Esthetic dentistry is plastic surgery of the mouth. Ideal dentistry should always be esthetic, but never at the expense of oral health. Often times what is considered esthetic (beauty) is in “the eyes of the beholder.” Rebecca Smith correctly concludes that “making teeth attractive is a complex process involving many considerations and, for the dentist, technical skills, as well as artistic judgement.”5

Evidence-Based Dentistry
The ADA defines evidence-based dentistry as follows: ”Evidence-based dentistry (EBD) is an approach to oral health care that requires the judicious integration of systematic assessments of clinically relevant scientific evidence, relating to the patient’s oral and medical condition and history, with the dentist’s clinical expertise and the patient’s treatment needs and preferences.”

Fit of Dental Restorations
Fit is the passive, accurate adaptation and complete seating of dental restorations over the prepared teeth without rocking or see-saw movements on pressure. Just because a restoration “goes on” does not mean that it fits. Gaps between the restoration and the tooth structure can lead to inflammation of the tissues and recurrent decay.

Bridgework that is permanently cemented—i.e. not removable by the patient.

A prosthesis that replaces the teeth and supporting structures for an entire arch (upper or lower).

Gum Disease (gingivitis)
Inflammation of the gingiva (gums: “the dense fibrous tissue, covered by mucous membrane, that envelops the alveolar processes of the upper and lower jaws and surrounds the necks of the teeth)”.3

Immediate Denture
A Denture that is inserted in the mouth at the time that all remaining teeth are extracted.

Dental Restorations—removeable or fixed bridgework that connect to implant fixtures placed in the bone.

Fixtures made of almost pure titanium that are inserted into the bone to replace teeth and support bridgework.

See Crowns

See Veneers

Metal Free Dentistry
Metal-free dentistry generally refers to restorative dentistry that consists of all-ceramic or composite bonded materials

The science involved in the preservation of the health of the oral tissues. It includes the measures that patients carry out for the prevention of oral diseases.2

“the close apposition of new and reformed bone in congruency with the fixtures [implants]…so that a direct structural and functional connection is established, capable fo carrying normal physiological loads without excessive deformation and without initiating rejection mechanisms.”4


“A type of prosthesis that supplies one or more artificial teeth and adjacent tissues in a partially edentulous arch [area where teeth are missing]. The partial denture may be put in place or removed at will by the patient”2

Periodontal Disease (Periodontitis)
“Rigg’s Disease; stomatitis ulcerosa chronica: a disease of the Periodontium, evidence by inflammation of the gingivae [gums] resorption of the alveolar bone [the bone that surrounds the teeth], degeneration of the periodontal membrane [the ligament that connects the tooth to the bone], migration of the epithelial attachment [the ligament that connects the tooth to the bone] apically [toward the end of the root], and formation of periodontal pockets” [spaces between the tissue and the root surface that can harbour plaque, calculus and bacteria]. 3

A tooth that does not have the support of a root or an implant.

See Ceramic Restorations

Toward the Back

The Precision Attachment

is a precision-machined male and female (key and lock) housing that connects a removable partial denture to fixed bridgework. (Link to for more information).

The object of all dental care is to prevent future problems—dental decay and periodontal disease. Home care and routine hygiene visits are an important part of maintaining good oral health.

The soft tissue that fills the central cavity of the tooth. The pulp is a reminent of the formative organ of the tooth and sends protoplasmic receptors of pain and temperature into the dentinal tubules in the main body of the tooth.1

The retreating of the gums and underlying bone so that root structure is exposed to the oral cavity.

Recurrent Decay
Tooth Decay (Dental Caries) that recurs on teeth that have been restored with fillings, crowns or bridgework.

See Partial Dentures

Dental care that restores structure, function and appearance to dentition that has been damaged due to disease or trauma.

Teeth can be saved if the roots below the gum are sound and have good bony support. Many practitioners consider teeth that have no crowns (the part of the tooth seen above the gum) hopeless. However, the absence of a crown does not mean that these teeth can’t be saved.

Temperomandibular Joint Dysfunction Syndrome (TMJ)
A set of symptoms relating to diseases of the temperomandibular joints (“jaw joints”) The symptoms are manifested in associated nerves, muscles and nearby structures, as well as the jaws and teeth.

Restorations made out of acrylic or composite resin that are worn during the time that final or permanent restorations are being fabricated. Temporary restorations are blueprints for the permanent ones and they should be esthetic, comfortable, function properly and promote health..

Dental Caries (Tooth Decay, “Cavities”)
“A progressive lesion of the calcified dental tissues (enamel, dentin or cementum) characterized by loss of tooth structure resulting from a solution of the inorganic and digestion of the organic tooth substances.”1 Progressive decay of tooth structure can lead to bacterial infection of the pulp tissue that lies the central cavity of the tooth.

Tooth Decay
See Dental Caries

Thin coverings of acrylic, composite resin or porcelain that are bonded to teeth or dental restorations.

See Bleaching