Abutment: The natural teeth that holds a fixed or removable bridge in place.
Air Abrasion: A device that uses tiny particles of aluminum oxide blasted in a stream of air at the tooth to remove the decayed debris and ruined enamel of cavities. This procedure usually eliminates the need for anesthesia, though it is not usable for all procedures where a drill has normally been used.
Amalgam: The most common filling material used for fillings, also referred to as mercury or silver, which are often contained in the mixture. Alternatives are composite resins, and gold or porcelain inlays. See “Mercury / Amalgam Fillings”
Anterior: An adjective used to describe things pertaining to your Centrals, Laterals and Cuspids (your front teeth).
Aspirator: A tube like a straw which the dentist puts in your mouth to suck up all the saliva.
Bite: The way the mouth closes, or the way in which the upper and lower teeth meet.
Bleaching: A process of whitening teeth that uses special compounds usually containing hydrogen peroxide. Sometimes lasers are used in conjunction with these compounds. The over-the-counter whitening products are not the prescription strength that dentists use and are therefore less effective.
Bonding: The covering of a tooth surface with a composite resin to correct stained or damaged teeth. Normally if there is enough healthy natural tooth material, otherwise porcelain veneers or crowns would be used.
Bruxism: Involuntary, “nervous” grinding of the teeth while the patient is asleep. Can eventually cause headaches, TMD, loss of tooth surface and cracking. Treatment includes a nightguard custom-made by a dentist from impressions made of the patient’s teeth.
Calculus: (Also called tartar.) Calcified plaque that forms from mineral salts in the saliva and deposits on the teeth. Removed in the course of a prophylaxis, or dental cleaning. Some toothpaste’s claim to reduce tartar accumulation, but only regular dental checkups and professional cleanings can prevent this accumulation from causing gum disease and tooth loss.
Cap: A porcelain or gold cover for a decayed, damaged, brittle, or discolored tooth. (Also called a crown.)
Cavity: A decay lesion or hole in a tooth, usually caused by a diet which includes sugar, which allows bacteria to grow and secrete acid onto the enamel of the tooth.
Composite Filling: A tooth-colored filling composed of a polymer material that looks like a natural tooth. Used instead of metal amalgam. Alternatives are gold or porcelain inlays. See “Mercury / Amalgam Fillings”
Deciduous Teeth: A child’s first set of twenty teeth that are eventually replaced by permanent teeth. (Also known as primary or baby teeth.) See “Eruption Order”
Denture: A removable set of artificial teeth. Dentures may be partial, that is, replacing only a section of teeth, or full, which would replace the entire upper or lower sections of teeth. Dentures are most often created by a prosthodontist. An alternative to dentures is dental implants. See “Implants”
Diastema: The space between teeth, most often referring to the top two center teeth.
Enamel: The highly calcified covering over the outside of the tooth. It is the hardest substance in the body.
Erupt, Eruption: When a new tooth comes in, the tooth is said to erupt when the tooth breaks through the surface of your gums, so you can see the tooth in your mouth. See “Eruption Order”
Extraction: The removal of a tooth that is severely decayed, broken, loose, or causing crowding.
Fluoride: A chemical solution or gel which you put on your teeth. The fluoride hardens your teeth and prevents tooth decay. See “Fluoride”
Filling: Restoring lost tooth structure with amalgam, metal, porcelain, or composite resin. Used as part of the treatment of cavities. See “Mercury / Amalgam Fillings”
General Anesthesia: A controlled state of unconsciousness or “deep sleep,” accompanied by a partial or complete loss of pain sensation, as well as protective reflexes, and including a loss of ability to independently maintain a breathing airway and respond purposefully to verbal or physical stimulation. Must be administered by a licensed anesthesiologist.
Gingivitis: The inflammation of your gums caused by improper brushing. The first sign of periodontal gum disease.
Halimeter: An instrument used in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic halitosis. See “Halitosis.”
Halitosis: Bad breath. We offer treatment programs for halitosis that are more effective than over-the-counter remedies. See “Halitosis.”
Heat Sterilization: A procedure that involves a chamber into which instruments are placed and which raises the temperature for a period of time to kill all microorganisms. OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) standards require all dentists to use heat sterilization for dental instruments.
Impacted Tooth: A tooth that fails to erupt properly and remains fully or partially embedded and covered over by bone or gum tissue. This most often occurs with wisdom teeth. If not removed, impacted teeth can cause pain, headaches, infection and malocclusion.
Implant: A fixed replacement for a missing tooth. The procedure involves the implanting of a metal shaft, usually titanium, implanted in the jawbone. A prosthetic (artificial) tooth is then affixed to this shaft, providing a strong permanent replacement for a lost tooth. Implants also prevent the gradual loss of bone material in the jaw that occurs over time with the use of dentures. See “Implants”
Lasers: Dental lasers are a family of instruments, some used for oral surgery, some to cure (harden) restorative tooth materials and enhance tooth bleaching, and others to remove tooth structure to eliminate disease. Lasers are also sometimes used to treat gingivitis (gum disease). New lasers are constantly being developed and refined, and can sometimes eliminate the need for drilling.
Local Anesthesia: Relieves the sensation of pain in a localized area. Done topically or by injection. Other forms of pain management include H-wave, DentiPatch, I.V. sedation, general anesthesia and nitrous oxide.
Molars: The back teeth that are designed for grinding food before swallowing. See “Eruption order”
Mouthguard: A removable appliance used to protect teeth from injury during athletic activities. Most effective when created by a dentist who takes exact impressions of the user’s teeth to make the guard.
Nightguard: A removable acrylic appliance used to minimize the effects of grinding the teeth (bruxism) or joint problems (TMD), usually worn at night. The appliance is created by a dental laboratory using exact impressions of the patient’s teeth taken by a dentist.
Nitrous Oxide: Colorless, sweet-tasting gas with a pleasing smell when inhaled (also called “laughing gas”), used to help patients relax during treatment. While not technically a form of anesthesia, the distraction and relaxation of the patient usually helps to reduce the discomfort of the procedure.
Onlay: A gold or porcelain inlay extended to cover the cusps for protection of the tooth, leaving more natural tooth than a crown.
Oral Sedation: Any substance taken orally (i.e., a pill or liquid) to reduce anxiety and relax the patient. Used in conjunction with some form of anesthesia during dental procedures.
Oral Surgery: Surgery of the mouth including removal of teeth, particularly wisdom teeth.
Orthodontics: Dental specialty that treats misalignment and malocclusion of teeth. Treatment usually consists of braces or a retainer. A variety of procedures and braces are now available.
Orthodontist: A dental specialist who corrects irregularities of the teeth primarily through the use of braces or a retainer.
Partial Denture: A removable appliance (prosthesis) that replaces some of the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw, as opposed to a full denture, which replaces all the upper or lower teeth. Affixed to a natural tooth (abutment). An alternative to a partial denture is a dental implant. See “Implants”
Pediatric Dentistry: Dental specialty focusing on treatment of children’s teeth.
Plaque: A sticky substance that forms on the surface of the teeth and harbors bacteria growth and acid formation beneath its surface, causing tooth decay. Plaque build-up can irritate the gums and cause gum disease. Treated by regular dental cleanings, or prophylaxis, performed by a dentist or dental hygienist.
Porcelain Veneers: Plastic or porcelain facing which is bonded directly to a tooth to improve its appearance, producing a very natural appearance.
Prophylaxis: (Also called a “prophy” for short.) The professional cleaning and removal of plaque, stains, and calculus on the teeth, performed by a dentist or dental hygienist. Ideally performed at least every six months.
Root Canal: A procedure used to save an abscessed tooth in which the pulp chamber is cleaned out, disinfected, and filled with a permanent filling. Generally performed by an Endodontist. See “Root canals”
Root Planing: Deep cleaning of the teeth to remove hardened plaque below the gum line. This periodontal procedure is usually performed one quadrant at a time, usually by a periodontist or periodontal assistant.
Root Resection: The removal of the root of a tooth while retaining the crown.
Scaling: A treatment for gum disease involving removal of hardened plaque (tartar or calculus) from teeth. Performed by a dental hygienist during a prophylaxis (dental cleaning), or in more extreme cases by a periodontist.
Sleep Apnea: A disorder, which is potentially fatal, in which a person who is asleep may stop breathing multiple times for more than 10 seconds. A general dentist or an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon treats this disorder.
Sterilization: The process of eliminating bacteria and viruses from tools, surfaces and equipment. OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) has specific standards for sterilization in all dental offices.
Tartar: Also called calculus. Calcified plaque that forms from mineral salts in the saliva and deposits on the teeth. Removed in the course of a prophylaxis, or dental cleaning. Some toothpaste’s claim to reduce tartar accumulation, but only regular dental checkups can prevent this accumulation from causing gum disease and tooth loss.
Veneers: Plastic or porcelain facing which is bonded directly to a tooth to improve its appearance, producing a very natural appearance.
Whitening: A process of whitening teeth that uses special compounds usually containing hydrogen peroxide. Sometimes lasers are used in conjunction with these compounds. Over-the-counter whitening products are not the prescription strength that dentists use and are therefore less effective.
Wisdom Teeth: The third set of molars, the last teeth to come in. For many people, wisdom teeth become impacted and must be removed by oral surgery.
X-ray: Radiation used for diagnostic purposes to photograph the bone tissue of the tooth above and below the gum line. See “Digital X-rays“