Abscess– a swollen area of skin or tissue that fills with pus, caused by a localized infection. In dentistry, an abscess can occur in the mouth’s soft tissue, and inside a tooth.

Abutment – the term used to denote the teeth on either side of a missing tooth.  This term is also used in implant dentistry.


Active Eruption – the emergence of the tooth from its position in the jaw.

Adhesion – the sticking together of unlikely substances.  This term is often used in conjunction with dentures.

Aerobic Bacteria – bacteria which grows in oxygen-rich environments, found outside the sulcus in the oral cavity.

Aesthetic – Aesthetic or cosmetic dentistry is a term that covers a diverse range of dental procedures. It is the intent of aesthetic dentistry to restore teeth to their natural beauty and, therefore, change a person’s attitude toward life. If you have a tooth-colored dental filling or crown, you have experienced cosmetic dentistry without realizing it. The psychological and emotional changes of an enhanced smile can be amazing. Many patientnss smile more often and are ultimately happier. Learn More

Afferent – the nerves that carry sensory messages to the brain.

Agar – a gelatin-like substance obtained from seaweed and used is an impression material.

Alginate – a material used by dentists to take impressions of the teeth and gums.

Alveolar Bone – the bone surrounding the root of the tooth.  The loss or deterioration of this bone is typically associated with severe periodontal (gum) disease.

Alveolar Crest – the highest portion of the alveolar bone.

Alveolar Eminence – the outline of the root and the facet of the bone.

Alveolus in Dentistry – the bone socket in which the root of your tooth sits.

Alveolectomy – an operation in which portions of the alveolar bone are removed.

Alveous – the bone socket in which the root of the tooth sits.

Amalgam – an alloy, also known as a silver filling, in which one of the metals is mercury.  Below are the approximate percentages of the components of amalgam fillings:

Mercury Hg 50%
Silver Ag 35%
Tin Sn 13%
Copper Cu 0-3%
Zinc Zn 0-1%

Anaerobic Bacteria – bacteria that does not need oxygen to grow, usually associated with periodontal (gum) disease.

Anatomical Crown – the portion of the tooth that is covered with enamel.

Anodontia – the developmental absence of teeth.

Anesthesia – is the medication which relieves the sensation of pain. Learn More

Anomalies – dental anomalies are craniofacial abnormalities of form, function, or position of the teeth, bones, and tissues of the jaw and mouth.

Antagonist – a structure that opposes another structure.

Anterior Teeth – the front teeth (incisors and cupids).

Antimicrobial – the destroying or inhibiting of the growth of bacteria.

Antiseptic – a chemical agent that can be applied to living tissues to destroy germs and harmful bacteria.

ANUG – is an acronym for Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis, an acute and very painful condition characterized by severe gingival redness, spontaneous bleeding, and foul breath. Learn More

Apex – the pointed extremity of a structure or the tip of your tooth root.

Apical Foramen – the opening at the end of the root of a tooth through which the tooth receives is nerves and blood supply.

Aphthous Ulcers – a type of mouth ulcer.  The medical terms used to refer to canker sores are “recurrent minor aphthous ulcers” and “recurrent minor aphthous stomatitis.”  Canker sores are the most common type of mouth ulcer.

Archwire– a small strand of wire that is threaded through braces brackets. The wire conforms to the dental arch and helps guide teeth into their proper position or maintain their position

Arch – the curvature of your mouth; both the maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) ridge form a horseshoe-shaped arch.

Articulating Paper – the carbon paper placed between the upper and lower teeth to mark points of contact.

Articulator – a mechanical device used to replicate functional movements of the jaw in a dental laboratory.

Artificial Crown – a fixed restoration of the major part of the entire coronal (crown) of your natural tooth, or the visible portion of the tooth.  Crowns are usually made of gold, porcelain, or a combination of gold, porcelain, and acrylic resin.

Aspirator – a tube which the dentist places in your mouth to remove saliva and debris via suction.  It looks like a straw.

Asymmetry/Symmetry – to be esthetically pleasing, the tooth size, shape, and gum contours should be as close to one side of the mouth as the other.

Athletic Mouth Guards – A mouth guard protects your teeth from impact during sport activities. If properly fitted, it distributes force evenly throughout the entire mouth to prevent head injuries such as broken jaws and concussions. Learn More

Attachment Level – a numerical measure of the amount of attachment of the periodontal ligament (gum) to a tooth.  This number is determined by combining a pocket depth measurement with a measurement of gingival recession.  Attachment level is considered one of the most important measures of the progression of periodontal disease and treatment success.

Attrition – The wearing away of tooth structure through normal use, such as chewing and biting. Attrition is the loss of tooth structure by the mechanical forces of the opposing teeth. Learn More

Axon – the process that carries impulses away from the cell body of a nerve.