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Abrasion – Loss of tooth structure caused by a hard toothbrush, poor brushing technique, or Bruxism (grinding or clenching the teeth)

Abscess – A localised infection in the bone or soft gum tissues, usually at the end of the root tip

Abutment – The natural tooth that holds in place a fixed or removable bridge

Air Abrasion – Tiny particles of aluminium oxide blasted in a stream of water at the tooth to remove the decayed debris and ruined enamel of cavities

Allergy – Unfavourable systemic response to a foreign substance or drug

Alveolar Bone – The jaw bone that anchors the roots of teeth

Amalgam – The most common material used for fillings, also referred to as mercury or silver

Analgesia – Relives the sensation of pain without losing consciousness.

Anaesthesia – means ‘loss of sensation’. Medications that cause anaesthesia are called anaesthetics. Anaesthetics are used to induce sleep, which prevents pain and discomfort and enables a wide range of medical procedures to be performed. General Anaesthesia induces sleep and Local Anaesthesia induces loss of sensation of the soft tissues (numbness)

Anterior Teeth – The six upper or six lower front teeth

Antibiotic – A drug that stops or slows the growth of bacteria

Apex – The tip of the root of a tooth

Apicectomy – Surgical removal of the root tip to treat a dead tooth

Arch – Describes the alignment of the upper or lower teeth

Attrition – Loss of structure due to natural wear

Autoclave – A device that has a chamber where instruments are placed and steam under pressure is injected, in order to complete sterilization

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Base – Cement placed under a dental restoration to insulate the nerve chamber


Bicuspid or Pre-Molar – Fourth and fifth tooth from the centre midline; on the left and right side and upper and lower position of the jaw.

Biopsy – Removal of a small piece of tissue for microscopic examination

Bite – The way in which the upper and lower teeth meet when closing the teeth together.

Bite Wings – X-rays used to detect caries (tooth decay). The teeth bite together to show the upper and lower teeth’s biting surfaces on the same film.

Bleaching – Chemical or laser treatment of natural teeth for whitening effect

Bonding – The covering of a tooth surface with a composite resin, to correct stained or damaged teeth

Braces – Devices used by Orthodontists to gradually reposition teeth.

Bridge – Prosthetic (false) teeth or row of teeth that spans between two natural teeth

Bruxism – Involuntary, “nervous” grinding of the teeth while the patient is asleep

Buccal – Refers to the cheek side of back tooth.

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Calcium – Chemical element needed for healthy teeth, bones and nerves


Calculus – Hard residue, commonly known as “tartar”, that forms on teeth due to inadequate plaque control, often stained yellow or brown

Canker Sore – (Aphthous ulcer) is a painful, open sore in the mouth. Canker sores are white or yellow and surrounded by a bright red area

Cantilever Bridge – fixed Bridge that attaches to adjacent teeth only on one end

Cap – Common term used for dental crown

Cavities – are small holes in the teeth that need to be filled

Cementum – the bonelike tissue that forms the outer surface of the root of the tooth

Clasp – Device that holds a removable partial denture to stationary teeth

Cleaning – Removal of plaque and tartar from teeth, generally above the gum line

Composite Filling – A tooth-coloured filling that looks like a natural tooth

Cosmetic Dentistry – Treatments performed to enhance appearance (e.g., bleaching, veneers)

Crown – A porcelain or gold cover for a decayed, damaged, or discoloured tooth

Cross Bite – Lower teeth are outside the upper teeth when biting teeth together.

Curettage – Removal of diseased tissue from a periodontal pocket

Cuspids – The large pointed teeth at the corners of the mouth, also known as canines or ‘eye teeth’

Cusps – The raised round parts on the chewing surface of the teeth

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Decay – Destruction of tooth structure caused by acid produced by bacteria

Deciduous Teeth – Commonly called “baby teeth”, the first set of (usually) twenty teeth

Dentin – Inner layer of tooth structure, immediately under the surface enamel

Dental Floss – A waxed or unwaxed piece of nylon string that is inserted between the teeth and moved in an up/down fashion for the removal of plaque or other food deposits

Dental Implant – Usually a titanium cylinder surgically placed in the bone of the upper or lower jaw to provide support for a dental restoration (crown) or appliance (bridge)

Dentition – The arrangement of natural or artificial teeth in the mouth.

Denture – Removable (partial or complete) set of artificial teeth

Diastema – a Gap or pace between the teeth. It appears most often between the two upper front teeth

Distal – The tooth surface facing toward the back of the mouth

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Edentulous – All the teeth are missing in either the upper or lower jaw

Enamel – The hard tissue covering the portion of tooth above the gum line. The hardest substance in the body

Endodontics – The speciality of dentistry concerned with the treatment of the dental pulp or nerve of the tooth. The most common procedure is a root canal

Endodontist – A specialist who treats injuries, diseases and infections of the tooth pulp

Erosion – Tooth erosion is caused by acidic foods and drinks ‘dissolving’ away the surface of the tooth.

Extraction – Removal of a tooth

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Facial – Refers to the cheek (lip) side of a front (or back) tooth.

Filling – Material used to fill a cavity or replace part of a tooth.

Fissures – little grooves and dips (pits and fissures) in the surface of the tooth

Fluoride – A chemical compound used to prevent dental decay, utilised in fluoridated water systems and/or applied directly to the teeth.

Fraenum – Muscle fibres covered by a mucous membrane that attaches the cheek, lips and or tongue to associated dental mucosa.

Fraenectomy – The removal of a fraenum.

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Gingivae – The soft tissue that covers the jawbone. Also referred to as the gums.

Gingivectomy – The surgical removal of gingiva (gum).

Gingivitis – An inflammation or infection of the gingiva (gum tissue); the initial stage of gum disease.

Gingivoplasty – A surgical procedure to reshape or repair the gingiva (gum).

Graft – A piece of gum tissue or synthetic material placed in contact with tissue to repair a defect or supplement a deficiency.

Gum – “Gingivae.” The soft tissue that covers the jawbone.

Gum disease – An inflammation or infection of the gingiva (gum tissue); the initial stage of periodontal disease.

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Halitosis – (Bad Breath) an unpleasant odour emitted from the mouth

Hypersensitivity – Typically refers to tooth pain that is caused very easily and with a stimulus that normally would elicit no feeling.

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Immediate denture – A denture constructed for immediate placement after removal of teeth.

Impacted tooth – An unerupted or partially erupted tooth that will not fully erupt because it is obstructed by another tooth, bone or soft tissues.

Implant – An artificial device, usually made of a metal alloy or ceramic material that is implanted within the jawbone as a means to attach an artificial crown, denture, or bridge.

Incisal edge – The biting edge of front teeth.

Incisors – The four front teeth referred to as central and lateral incisors, located in the upper and lower jaws and used to cut and tear food. The central incisors are the two teeth in the middle of the mouth and the lateral incisors are next to the central incisor, one on each side.

Indirect pulp cap – A procedure in which the nearly exposed pulp is covered with a protective dressing to protect the pulp from additional injury and to promote healing and repair via formation of secondary dentin.

Inlay – A strong, durable material made outside the mouth, in a dental laboratory,  used to replace part of a tooth (can be metallic or tooth-coloured) and is cemented or bonded once it is constructed.

Interproximal – The area between two adjacent teeth.

Intracoronal – The area inside the crown of a tooth.

Intraoral – The inside of the mouth.

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Labial – The area pertaining to or around the lip.

Lingual – The area pertaining to or around the tongue. Also referring to the tongue-side

Local anaesthetic – The injection given in the mouth to numb the areas where a tooth or area requires a dental procedure. Often referred to as Novocain.

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Malocclusion – The improper alignment of teeth.

Mandible – The lower jaw.

Maryland Bridge – The name that has become synonymous with any resin bonded fixed partial denture (bridge). Typically, a Maryland Bridge does not require as much shaping for the anchor teeth like a conventional bridge.

Mastication – The act of chewing.

Maxilla – The upper jaw.

Mesial – Refers to the side of tooth, between teeth, facing towards the front of the mouth

Molars – The broad back teeth, used for grinding food are considered the largest teeth in the mouth. In adults there are a total of twelve molars (including the four wisdom teeth, or third molars), three on each side of the upper and lower jaws. Ideally, a healthy mouth usually does not include wisdom teeth.

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Nitrous oxide – A controlled mixture of nitrogen and oxygen gases (N2O) that is inhaled by the person in order to decrease sensitivity to pain and/or anxiety. Also referred to as laughing gas.

Night guard appliance – A removable acrylic appliance to minimise the effects of grinding the teeth (bruxism) or joint problems TMJ).

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Occlusal surface – The chewing surface of the back teeth..

Occlusion – Any contact between biting or chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth.

OPG – (Orthopantomogramme) A full-mouth X-ray that records the teeth and the upper and lower jaws on one film.

Onlay – A restoration produced in a dental laboratory made of metal or porcelain that replaces one or more of the cusps (highest points of the tooth’s biting surface).

Oral surgery – The removal of teeth and the repair and treatment of other oral problems.

Orthodontics – A specialised branch of dentistry that corrects malocclusion and restores the teeth to proper alignment and function. There are several different types of appliances used in orthodontics, one of which is commonly referred to as braces.

Overbite – Refers to the vertical overlap of teeth. Everyone has an overbite, what varies is how much. (Class 1 Upper and lower teeth bite edge to edge – Class 2 Upper teeth protrude over lower teeth – Class 3 Upper teeth bite inside lower teeth)

Overjet – Refers to the horizontal overlap of teeth. Everyone has an overjet, what varies is how much. A substantial overjet is sometimes referred to as “buck” teeth.

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Palate – The hard and soft tissues forming the roof of the mouth.

Palliative – Treatment that relieves pain but is NOT curative.

Paediatric dentistry – The specialised branch of dentistry that deals solely with treating children’s dental disease.

Partial denture – A removable appliance (Prosthesis) that replaces missing teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.

Periapical – The area that surrounds the root tip of a tooth.

Pericoronitis – An inflammation of the gum tissue around the crown of a tooth.

Periodontal – Relating to the tissue and bone that supports the tooth

Periodontal disease – The inflammation and infection of gums, ligaments, bone, and other tissues surrounding the teeth. Gingivitis (gums) and periodontitis (gums and bone) are the two main forms of periodontal disease. Also called gum disease or pyorrhoea.

Periodontal pocket – The pocket that forms when the gum detaches itself from the side of the tooth. It is caused when disease and infection destroy the ligament that attaches the gum to the tooth and the underlying bone.

Periodontal surgery – A surgical procedure involving the gums and jawbone.

Periodontics – The dental specialty that deals with and treats the gum tissue and bone that supports the teeth.

Periodontist – Dental specialist with expertise in surgically treating the effects of periodontal disease.

Periodontitis – Inflammation of the supporting structures of the tooth, including the gum, the periodontal ligament, and the jawbone.

Periradicular – The area which surrounds a portion of the root of the tooth.

Permanent teeth – The thirty-two adult teeth that replace the baby, or primary teeth. Also known as secondary teeth.

Pit – A recessed area found on the surface of a tooth, usually where the grooves of the tooth meet. Commonly accompanied by the word ‘Fissures’

Plaque – A sticky white gelatinous coating containing saliva, food particles, and bacteria that attaches to the tooth surface both above and below the gum line. When left on the tooth it can promote gum disease and tooth decay, and calcifies into calculus or ‘Tartar’

Pontic – An artificial tooth used in a bridge to replace a missing tooth.

Premolar – The third and fourth tooth from the centre of the mouth between the canines ‘eye teeth’ and molars

Prophylaxis – Teeth cleaning – the scaling and polishing procedure performed to remove calculus, plaque, and stains from the crowns of the teeth.

Prosthesis – The technical term for some artificial part. A partial denture is called a removable prosthesis. A bridge is called a fixed prosthesis.

Prosthodontics – The dental specialty dealing with the replacement of missing teeth and other oral structures.

Pulp – The hollow chamber inside the crown of the tooth that contains its nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue.

Pulpectomy – Removal of the entire pulp from the canals in the root.

Pulpitis – An often painful inflammation of the dental pulp or nerve.

Pulpotomy – The removal of a portion of the tooth’s pulp.

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Quadrant – The dental term for the division of the jaws into four parts. There are four quadrants in the mouth. Two upper and two lower quadrants, both divided at the midline of the mouth.

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Receding gums – A condition characterised by the abnormal loss of gum tissue due to infection or bone loss.

Replantation – The return of a tooth to its socket.

Resorption – The breakdown or dissolving of a hard structure like bone or tooth.

Restoration – Any material or device used to replace lost tooth structure (filling, inlay/onlay, and crown) or to replace a lost tooth or teeth (bridge, dentures, complete or partial).

Retainer – A removable dental appliance, usually used in orthodontics, that maintains space between teeth or holds teeth in a fixed position until the bone solidifies around them. Also a technical term for bridge anchor or abutment.

Retrograde filling – A method of sealing the root canal by preparing and filling it from the root tip, generally done at the completion of an Apicectomy.

Root – The part of the tooth below the crown, normally encased in the jawbone. It is made up of dentin, includes the root canal, and is covered by cementum.

Root canal – The hollow part of the tooth’s root. It runs from the tip of the root into the pulp.

Root canal therapy – The process of treating disease or inflammation of the pulp or root canal. This involves removing the pulp and root’s nerve(s) and filling the canal(s) with an appropriate material to permanently seal it.

Root planing – The process of scaling and planing (smoothing) exposed root surfaces above and below the gum line to remove all calculus and plaque.

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Scaling – A procedure used to remove plaque, calculus and stains from the teeth.

Sealant – A composite material used to seal the decay-prone pits, fissures, and grooves of teeth to prevent decay.

Socket – The hole in the jawbone into which the tooth fits.

Space maintainer – A dental appliance that fills the space of a lost tooth or teeth and prevents the other teeth from moving into the space.

Stainless steel crown – A pre-made metal crown, shaped like a tooth that is used to temporarily cover a seriously decayed or broken down tooth. Used most often on children’s teeth.

Sub gingival scaling – The removal of calculus and plaque found on the tooth below the gum line.

Supra gingival scaling – The removal of calculus and plaque found on the tooth above the gum line.

Systemic – Relating to the whole body.

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Tartar – Hard residue, also known as “calculus” that forms on teeth due to inadequate plaque control; often stained yellow or brown.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) – The connecting hinge mechanism between the upper jaw and the base of the skull – the jaw joint.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome – The problems associated with TMJ, usually involving pain or discomfort in the joints and ligaments that attach the lower jaw to the skull or in the muscles used for chewing.

Third molar – The last of the three permanent molar teeth, also called wisdom teeth. There are four third molars, two in the lower jaw and two in the upper jaw, one on each side. Some people are born without third molars, and not everyone that has wisdom teeth has four of them.

Torus – A bony elevation or protuberance of normal bone. Usual locations are the middle of the roof of the mouth and on the tongue-side of the lower jaw bone.

Trismus – a sustained spasm of the jaw muscles.

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Veneer – An artificial filling material, usually plastic, composite, or porcelain, that is used to provide an aesthetic covering over the visible surface of a tooth. Most often used on front teeth.

Volatile Sulphur Compounds – Family of odorous gases which cause Halitosis – Bad Breath

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Wisdom teeth – The last tooth on the right and left, upper and lower side of the jaw.

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X-ray – Dental x-rays are used to detect cavities, and also for examining the supporting jawbone and surrounding structures.