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Dental Glossary

A dental glossary is an alphabetical list of the most important terms used by your dentist and dental care team, with an explanation of its meaning. As dentistry uses specialised and sometimes difficult words to describe dental issues, treatments and procedures, the definition of dental terms used by your oral health carers will help you better understand the exact meaning of any dental condition you may suffer, as well as what is involved in treatments and dental procedures.

The Glossary of Dentistry from Bupa gives you explanations to all important dental terminologies. Learn more about cosmetic treatments or surgical implants, general dentistry, orthodontic procedures or any aspect of dentistry of your concern by consulting this brief dictionary of dental terms.

Abrasion
The wearing out of tooth structure due to rubbing and scraping, generally because of incorrect brushing methods, hard bristled tooth brushes or teeth grinding habits. Abrasion is not caused by chewing.

Abscess
An infection of tooth, soft tissue or bone, which can include pus and swelling of the gum tissue surrounding a tooth. Tooth decay, tooth trauma or open cavities are the main causes of this infection, which can spread throughout the mouth and body if not treated.

Abutment
The tooth or tooth structure on either side of a missing tooth used as an anchor to support a fixed or removable dental bridge.

Acid etch
A dentistry procedure where a tooth’s surface is etched with an acidic component in order to place brackets or to perform any other type of dental bonding.

Alveolar bone
The bony structure of the jaw that surrounds, supports and anchors the roots of the teeth. Loss of alveolar bone is associated with severe gum disease.

Alveolar Osteitis
Also known as dry socket, alveolar osteitis is an inflammation of the bone occurred when a tooth is extracted and the protective blood clot becomes dislodged, leaving the bone and tooth nerves exposed.

Alveolar process Or Alveolar bone
It is the part of the jaw that contains the tooth sockets.

Amalgam
A common mixture of metals containing silver, tin, copper and zinc in combination with mercury used to repair cavities.

Anaerobic bacteria
The bacteria generally associated with periodontal disease and which don’t need oxygen to grow.

Anaesthesia
The medication which produces a partial or complete loss of sensation (and thus, of pain), along with partial or complete unconsciousness.

Analgesia
Pain relief without the loss of consciousness.

Antibiotic
A drug used to stop or slow the growth of bacteria.

Antiseptic
A chemical agent that can be applied to living tissues in order to eliminate germs.

Apex
The tip of the root of a tooth.

Aphthous Ulcer
Also known as canker sore, it is a type of mouth ulcer that presents as a painful open sore inside the mouth (inside the cheeks, lips, on or under the tongue, the roof of the mouth or the gums) or the upper throat. This break in the mucous membrane is usually white, yellow or light grey and sometimes surrounded by a red border.

Apicoectomy
Root end surgery consisting in the removal of the tip of the root of a tooth performed to treat a dead tooth.

Appliance
A removable dental restoration or orthodontic device.

Arch
The alignment of the upper or lower teeth.

Arch wire
A metal wire attached to dental brackets to help teeth moved into the desired position.

Articulator
A mechanical device used in dentistry to allow the orthodontist to carefully look at a patient’s bite and to assist in the fabrication of dentures, crowns, bridges, inlays, onlays and orthodontic appliances.

Asepsis
The state of being free from disease-causing bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, or preventing contact with micro-organisms.

Aspirator
A straw-like tube used in dentistry to remove saliva of the mouth during the performance of a dental procedure.

Attrition
The loss of teeth structure (mainly enamel and dentin) due to activities such as chewing, teeth grinding or clenching of the jaw.