Glossary of Dental Terms

Jump to the first letter of the term you’re looking for:

You can also use your web browser’s built-in searching capability to find any word or phrase in this glossary.

tooth anatomy


  • Abfraction: The notch at the gumline of a tooth that is the result of excessive forces placed on that tooth for an extended time. Previously these areas were thought to be areas of abrasion caused by toothbrushing.
  • Abutment: A tooth or implant used to support / anchor a prosthesis (bridge, partial denture, etc.).
  • Abscess: A localized inflammation due to a collection of pus in the bone or soft tissue, usually caused by an infection.
  • Acute: Sudden or severe. Symptoms appear, change, or worsen rapidly. The opposite of chronic.
  • Air Abrasion: The use of finely graded aluminum oxide powder administered under compressed air through a very fine tip. Useful in early small cavities, repair of chips, removal of discoloration and stains – usually does not require anesthesia. Also known as micro air abrasion and kinetic cavity preparation. Sandblasting instead of drilling.
  • Amalgam: A dental filling material, composed of mercury, silver and other metals, used to fill teeth.
  • Alveolitis: Some people will experience localized inflammation and infection in the tooth socket 48 hours after surgery. This has commonly been called a dry socket (alveolitis). It is not dry, however, and the name is derived from the appearance of the socket which is commonly void of a normal blood clot or granulating (healing) tissue. Statistically, it is more common in people older than 25 years and in women. It is also seen more often in people who had to have their tooth removed than people who elected to have them removed. Alveolitis will occur in 1% to 5% of people regardless of the surgeon’s skill or surgical method chosen. A dry socket is typically the result of something that has dislodged the normal blood clot, such as smoking, drinking through a straw, brushing the area, or trying to clean the extraction site.
  • Alveoloplasty: A surgical procedure used to recontour the supporting bone structures in preparation of a complete or partial denture.
  • Anesthetic: A class of drugs that eliminates or reduces pain.
  • Anterior: Refers to the teeth and tissues located towards the front of the mouth (upper or lower incisors and canines).
  • Apex: The tip or end of the root of the tooth.
  • Apicoectomy: The surgical removal of the tip of a tooth root.


  • Bicuspid: A two-cusped tooth found between the molar and the cuspid.
  • Biopsy: A process of removing tissue to determine the absence or existence of pathology.
  • Bitewing x-rays: X-rays taken of the crowns of teeth to check for decay as well as the supporting bone between teeth.
  • Bleaching: The technique of applying a chemical agent to the teeth to whiten them.
  • Bonding: Often considered the same as tooth-colored filling. Technically it is a process to chemically etch the tooth’s enamel to better attach or bond tooth-colored filling material, veneers, or crowns.
  • Bone loss: The breakdown and loss of the bone that supports the teeth, usually caused by infection or long-term occlusal (chewing areas of the teeth) stress.
  • Bridge: A non-removable restoration that is used to replace missing teeth.
  • Bruise: Bruises occur when blood is released from the capillaries and is trapped under the skin.
  • Bruxism: The involuntary clenching or grinding of the teeth.
  • Buccal: Refers to the cheek side of back tooth.


  • Calculus: Plaque bacteria that were never removed completely with brushing and flossing. The hard deposit of mineralized plaque that forms on the crown and/or root of the tooth. Also referred to as tartar.
  • Canine tooth: The second tooth from the big front tooth, commonly called the eye tooth or cuspid.
  • Cap: