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Enamel: The hard, calcified, outside layer of a tooth.

Gingivitis: Inflammation of the gums that surround teeth.

Halitosis: Bad breath caused by certain foods or beverages, poor dental hygiene, dry mouth, tobacco, or an underlying health condition.

Impacted tooth: A tooth -- often a wisdom tooth -- that is partly or completely blocked from surfacing. A tooth may be blocked by another tooth, bone, or soft tissue.

Implant: A device that is surgically placed in bone to support a prosthesis. Because it's fused to the bone, an implant provides a stable support for individual replacement teeth, bridges, or dentures.

Malocclusion: Misalignment of teeth and jaws.

Palate: The hard and soft tissues that make up the roof of the mouth.

Plaque: A soft, sticky film of bacteria that accumulates on teeth. Unless teeth are regularly cleaned with brushing and flossing, plaque releases acids that attack tooth enamel and can eventually result in cavities.

Pulp: The tissue inside the center of the tooth, which contains blood vessels and nerves.

Retainer: A custom device made of plastic and/or metal, and used to stabilize the position of teeth, often after braces are removed.

Root canal: Treatment of infected or traumatized pulp, which runs down through the root. A root canal involves removal of the diseased or injured pulp to prevent infection and tooth loss. Then the dentist cleans and seals off the chamber within the root of the tooth, and places a crown over the tooth to strengthen it.

Scaling: A procedure used to remove plaque, calculus, or stains from the teeth.

Sealant: A thin bonded coating applied to the chewing surfaces of back or molar teeth to protect them from decay.

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder): A condition that may cause jaw, facial, head, or neck pain. It can also cause a clicking or popping sound when opening the mouth. TMD may result from stress and teeth grinding, injury, arthritis, or other diseases.

Veneer: A thin tooth covering placed on the front sides of teeth to improve gaps or cover stained, badly shaped, or crooked teeth. A veneer may be made of porcelain, ceramic, composite, or acrylic resin.

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