Glossary of dental terminology you need to know

Confused by the dental terms you hear at your dental appointment? There are many words dental professionals use that someone outside of the field may not understand. Not to mention, the dictionary of dental terms has grown significantly in recent years!

We created a quick and easy glossary to help you out.


Abscess: Local inflammation (chronic or acute), usually filled with pus; a sign of infection and tissue decay

Abutment: Implant fixture or tooth used to support the prosthesis

Alveolar: Reference to jaw bone where teeth are attached

Anesthesia, general: Medically induced unconsciousness during which patients are asleep and cannot be roused by/feel pain

Anesthesia, local: Numbing sensation in one part of the mouth by using gels or injection


Bicuspid: Premolar tooth

Bonding: Process of joining fillings, dentures, and other oral appliances to teeth

Bridge: Tooth replacement prosthetic; may or may not be removable by a patient

Bruxism: Condition of grinding teeth or clenching teeth; can occur while awake or asleep


Calculus: Mineralized substance deposited on roots of teeth, crowns, and prosthetic devices like implants

Cavity: Space/hole in a tooth caused by decay or abrasion of the tooth

Crown: Prosthetic made of metal, ceramic, or polymers to restore the missing structure of teeth


Decay: Decomposition/erosion of the surface of a tooth

Dentin: Hard tissue forming a majority of the tooth structure

Denture: Partial or complete replacement for natural teeth


Enamel: Thin, hard covering surrounding the dentin composed mostly of calcium; hardest tissue in the human body

Evulsion: Tooth becoming dislodged/falling out of its socket due to decay or trauma (also called avulsion)

Extraction: Removal of whole or part of tooth/teeth


Filling: Plastic, porcelain, metal, or alloy used to ‘fill’ gaps in teeth or lost tooth structure


Gingivitis: Inflammation of gum or gingival tissue due to the accumulation of plaque on the surface of the teeth


Imaging: Capturing images of teeth and jawbone to diagnose and plan procedures; includes MRIs, CAT scans, photographs, radiographs, X-rays, and more

Impacted tooth: A tooth that will erupt or has erupted partially into the side of another tooth, bone, or tissue

Implant: Artificial root implanted into the jaw bone; supports artificial teeth/prosthetics

Incisor: Teeth located at the front of the mouth on upper and lower jaws; used for cutting


Malocclusion: Misalignment between biting/chewing surfaces of teeth on upper and lower jaws

Mandible: Low jaw

Maxilla: Upper jaw

Molar: Teeth behind premolars; used for grinding and chewing


Palate: Roof of the mouth comprised of hard and soft tissues

Periodontitis: Inflammation of gingival tissue or tissue supporting tooth causing pockets and alveolar bone loss (also called periodontal disease)

Plaque: Soft and sticky yellow substance comprised of bacteria and bacterial secretions; causes teeth yellowing, gingivitis, and periodontitis

Prophylaxis: Removal of calculus, plaque, and stains from teeth


Root canal: Pulp cavity inside the root of the tooth; also refers to procedure removing nerve and pulp of tooth and cleaning of the cavity


Scaling: Procedure to remove plaque, deposits, and stains on teeth

Splint: Used to support and hold oral structures in place

Succedaneous tooth: Permanent tooth that replaces primary ‘baby’ teeth (deciduous)

Supernumerary teeth: Extra or unerupted teeth that resemble the shape of normal teeth


Unerupted tooth: A tooth that has not penetrated/started to penetrate in the mouth


Veneer: Thin covering applied to the surface of the tooth; restores discoloured, damaged, and uneven teeth


Want another term explained? If you want any other dental terminology added to this list, write to us. At Dawson Dental we believe information is essential. Our dental professionals take care to explain procedures thoroughly to patients. Speak to an experienced dentist about your oral concerns.