Many of the words and phrases used in dentistry may be unfamiliar or confusing.  Please refer to our dental dictionary to better understand your oral health care.  To learn more about dental care in Murray, Utah, and make your appointment with Dr. Morgan Smith and Associates, please contact Smith Family Dental at 801-266-4427.

Abscess
A collection of pus in the mouth, which usually forms as a result of infection.

Abutment
A tooth or tooth structure which is responsible for the anchoring a bridge or a denture.

Amalgam
A silver filling material. Amalgam consists of a compound of several types of metals, including mercury.

Anesthetic
A special type of medication which causes temporary numbness or loss of feeling, allowing you to receive your treatment in comfort.

Anterior
The front position.

Apex
The end of the root.

Asepsis
No micro-organism.

Attrition
The gradual wearing down of the teeth due to regular activities, such as chewing.

Avulsed
A tooth that is completely knocked out of the mouth, usually due to injury.

Bitewing
A type of dental X-ray taken with the teeth bite together. Bitewing X-rays work to detect cavities in between teeth and height of bone support.

Bleaching
The whitening of the teeth.

Bridge
A prosthesis which is fixed inside the mouth to replace missing teeth. Bridges are usually recommended when one or several teeth in a row are missing.

Bruxism
The grinding and clenching of teeth.  This may occur at any time, but is more common while asleep.

Canine
The third tooth from the middle of the jaw. They are the longest teeth in the human mouth, and there are four canines in your mouth.

Canker sore
An ulceration with yellow base and red border in mouth. It can be caused by trauma or herpes simplex virus.

Caries
Tooth decay; often used to refer to more serious forms of decay.

Cavity
A hole on the tooth; tooth decay.

Cast
A model of teeth.

Cementation
The process of “gluing” or fixing an appliance/prosthesis to the tooth/area which requires treatment.

Chlorhexidine
An anti-microbial agent. It is available in many forms such as gels and rinses. It is an effective agent in controlling gum diseases.

Clasp
A metal arm extended from a removable partial denture. It helps to hold onto natural tooth structure and anchors the denture in your mouth.

Cold sore
An ulcer or blister on the lip. A form of herpes simplex.

Composite
White dental fillings, usually made of a combination of resin, porcelain, and other tooth-colored materials.

Cross-bite
An abnormal bite relationship of upper and lower jaw. The lower teeth/tooth align toward the check/ lip side more than the upper teeth/tooth.

Crown
A crown like a “cap” on a tooth. It covers the tooth partially or totally above the gum to restore its function and outlook. Crowns may be made of porcelain, plastic, or metal.

Decay
A soft substance caused by the bacterial demineralization of enamel and dentin; an infection within a tooth.

Dentistry
A branch of medicine that involves diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of any disease concerning teeth, oral cavity, and associated structures.

Dentition
The position, type, and number of teeth in upper and lower jaw.

Denture
An artificial appliance used to replace missing teeth and their neighboring structures. There are many different types of denture to satisfy different treatment requirements and patient preferences, including immediate dentures, complete dentures, partial dentures, temporary dentures, and implant-supported dentures.

Denturist
The person who specializes in fabricating dentures. Denturists are not responsible for making any type of diagnosis or carrying out treatments (e.g. removing teeth).

Desensitization
A procedure to reduce the sensitivity of teeth.

Diagnosis
The process of identifying dental disease.

Diastema
The space between two adjacent teeth.

Distal
A direction indication in the mouth. It indicates the direction away from the middle of the jaw.

Edentulous
No teeth.

Endodontics
One of the nine recognized fields of dental specialty.  Endodontics involves the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and other problems involving the dental pulp (nerves of the tooth).

Eruption
The process of the tooth appearing in the mouth.

Excision
The action of cutting something off.

Extruded
When a tooth is partially knocked or pushed out of the socket.

Filling
A restoration used to repair the minor damage, such as that caused by cavities.  Fillings may be made of composite material or amalgam.

Flipper
A temporary denture to replace missing teeth during the waiting period for long term treatment.

Floss
A thread inserted and moved between teeth to clean below the gum line and between the teeth.

Fluoride
A naturally occurring mineral that works to strengthen your tooth enamel against decay.  It is found in many foods and most water supplies.

Fluoride Treatment
A preventive treatment to strengthen your tooth enamel against decay.  Fluoride treatments are usually provided as gels or rinses.

Fracture
When a cusp of a tooth becomes weakened, a fracture may result. It is possible for the crack to extend further into the root and damage to the pulp is commonplace.

Framework
A metal skeleton of a removable partial denture to support the false teeth and the plastic attachments.

Gingivitis
The mildest form of gum disease: inflammation of gum. The earliest sign is bleeding gum.

Hemorrhage
Bleeding

Hemostasis
The stop of bleeding.

Impaction
A condition where a tooth is not able to come in normally, or is stuck underneath another tooth or bone. This is common with wisdom teeth (third molars) and with canines.

Implant
A screw-like post that is placed in the jawbone to replace your missing tooth and support a crown, denture, or bridge.

Impression
A mold of your teeth taken to aid in creating an oral appliance.  Impressions may be made with a jelly-like material or taken digitally.

Incisal
The cutting edge of front teeth.

Incisor
The four upper and lower front teeth.

Inlay
A restoration (usually made of gold, ceramic, or composite material) fabricated in the lab that is cemented to the tooth to restore function and appearance.  Inlays are recommended when you require more treatment than a filling, but less than a crown.

Interproximal
The space between two adjacent teeth.

Lingual
The tongue side of the teeth.

Mesial
The side of the tooth towards the middle of the jaw.

Molar
The last three upper and lower teeth on both sides of the mouth.

Mouth Guard
An appliance worn in your mouth.  There are many types of mouth guards available, from athletic guards to prevent injury to night guards to manage bruxism or other conditions.

Nightguard
A type mouth guard worn at night.  Night guards may be used to prevent damage from bruxism, or as part of a snoring or sleep apnea treatment.

Occlusal
The biting surface of the back teeth.

Occlusion
The way how the upper and lower teeth close together.

Onlay
A restoration covers the entire biting surface of a tooth. Onlays are created in dental labs, and are often recommended by dentists as a more conservative treatment than a dental crown.

Open bite
The situation where the upper teeth not able to contact the opposing lower teeth.

Orthodontics
One of the nine fields of dental specialty.  Orthodontics involves the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of irregular bites and facial abnormalities or imbalances.

Overbite
The overlap of upper teeth and lower teeth when they close together.

Overhang
The portion of filling material that hangs beyond the border of the cavity.

Palate
The roof of the mouth.

Panoramic X-Ray
A type of X-ray used for the wide view of upper and lower jaw and their associated structures.

Perforation
An opening on a tooth or other oral structure.

Periapical
The surrounding of the bottom of the root of a tooth.

Periodontics
One of the nine fields of dental specialty.  Periodontics involves the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of periodontal (gum) disease and related problems, as well as implant dentistry.

Permanent teeth
The adult teeth.  Permanent teeth usually begin to erupt at about age 6.

Pin
A piece of “nail-like” metal. It usually is used for better retention of a filling.

Polish
A process to make your tooth, filling, or denture smooth and glossy.

Pontic
The false tooth in a bridge or denture to replace the missing tooth.

Post
A big pin which can be made with different materials such as metal or carbon. Its function usually is to support a big buildup on a tooth.

Posterior
Located at the back.

Pre-authorization
An approval from the particular authority (usually an insurance company in dentistry) before any action (treatment) is carried out.

Pre-medication
Medication taken before treatment.

Premolar
The two teeth located in front of the molar.

Prescription
A written statement (from a doctor to a pharmacist) regarding the type, the amount, and use of a medication for a patient. In dentistry, a prescription can also be a written statement for preparation of an appliance from a dentist to a lab technician.

Primary teeth
Baby teeth. Primary teeth begin developing before birth, and typically begin erupting 6-12 months after birth.  Children should meet with a dentist no later than 1 year of age for a checkup.

Prophylaxis/prophy
Teeth cleaning and polishing to prevent cavities, decay, disease, and other problems.

Prosthesis
An artificial tooth or appliance used to replace missing teeth and associated structures.

Prosthodontics
One of the nine recognized fields of dental specialty.  Prosthodontics involves the diagnosis, treatment planning, and creation of artificial tooth replacements or appliances.

Pulp
The innermost part of a tooth, containing nerves and blood vessels.

Pulpectomy
The removal of the entire pulp within a tooth.

Pulpotomy
The removal of the top part of the pulp inside a tooth.

Radiograph
The full name of an X-ray.

Recall
The regular checkup and teeth cleaning appointment.

Recementation
The process of re-gluing or re-fixing an appliances or dental prosthesis back into place after it has come loose or fallen out.

Restoration
Any treatment used to restore the normal function of a tooth or teeth.  Common restorations include fillings, crowns, bridges, inlays, and onlays.

Retainer
An orthodontic appliance used following brace or other treatment to maintain the position of the teeth and jaw.

Retreatment
The process of repeating the root canal treatment.

Root
The bottom part of tooth. It anchors the tooth to its supporting units.

Root canal
The canal that runs inside the root of the tooth. It contains the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth.

Root canal treatment
A treatment performed to remove decay, infection, and inflammation within the root canals.

Root planing
The action of cleaning the root area of teeth.

Rubber dam
A rubber sheet that fits around teeth. It isolates the treatment area from the rest of the oral cavity.

Scaling
The action of cleaning teeth below the gum line to remove harmful bacteria and debris.

Sealant
A thin layer of plastic-like material covering the grooves and pits on a tooth.  Sealants block out plaque, bacteria, and food debris to prevent cavities.

Sedation

Medication used to help patients stay calm and relaxed during their appointments.  Common forms of sedation dentistry include nitrous oxide (laughing gas), oral sedation, and IV sedation.

Space Maintainer
An appliance to hold the space between the teeth open in preparation for the permanent tooth.  Space maintainers are often recommended when a tooth falls out or is removed too early.

Splint
An appliance or a material to prevent movement of a mobile part.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)
The joint that connects the upper and lower jaw.

Torus
An outgrowth of bone. It usually develops on the roof of the mouth or around the premolar area on the lower jaw.

Veneer
A shell of tooth-colored material (usually made of porcelain, composite materials, or ceramics) that attaches to the front of the tooth. Veneers are a cosmetic treatment designed to improve the appearance of your teeth and smile.

Wisdom tooth
The eighth (also the last) tooth from the middle of the jaw. Also known as third molars.

Xerostomia
Dry mouth.