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Glossary of Dental Health Terms

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abscess: an infection of a tooth, soft tissue, or bone.

abutment: tooth or teeth on either side of a missing tooth that support a fixed or removable bridge.

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Healthy Teeth, Healthy Heart?

Paying attention to your dental hygiene and health -- especially your gums -- may pay you back with more than a gleaming, healthy smile and manageable dental bills. It may keep your heart healthy too. However, experts emphasize that the keyword is may. Cardiologists and periodontists, the dentists who treat gum disease, have long debated the link between dental health and heart disease. But the issue still isn't completely resolved, says Robert Bonow, MD, past president of the American Heart Association...

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acrylic resin: the plastic widely used in dentistry.

ADA Seal of Acceptance: a designation awarded to products that have met American Dental Association's criteria for safety and effectiveness and whose packaging and advertising claims are scientifically supported.

adjustment: a modification made upon a dental prosthesis after it has been completed and inserted into the mouth.

air abrasion/micro abrasion: a drill-free technique that blasts the tooth surface with air and an abrasive. This is a relatively new technology that may avoid the need for an anesthetic and can be used to remove tooth decay, old composite restorations and superficial stains and discolorations, and prepare a tooth surface for bonding or sealants.

alveolar bone: the bone surrounding the root of the tooth, anchoring it in place; loss of this bone is typically associated with severe periodontal (gum) disease.

amalgam: a common filling material used to repair cavities. The material, also known as "silver fillings," contains mercury in combination with silver, tin, copper, and sometimes zinc.

anaerobic bacteria: bacteria that do not need oxygen to grow; they are generally associated with periodontal disease (see below).

analgesia: a state of pain relief; an agent for lessening pain.

anesthesia: a type of medication that results in partial or complete elimination of pain sensation; numbing a tooth is an example of local anesthesia; general anesthesia produces partial or complete unconsciousness.

antibiotic: a drug that stops or slows the growth of bacteria.

antiseptic: a chemical agent that can be applied to living tissues to destroy germs.

apex: the tip of the root of a tooth.

appliance: any removable dental restoration or orthodontic device.

arch: a description of the alignment of the upper or lower teeth.

baby bottle tooth decay: decay in infants and children, most often affecting the upper front teeth, caused by sweetened liquids given and left clinging to the teeth for long periods (for example, in feeding bottles or pacifiers). Also called early childhood carries.

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How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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