Glossary of Dental Health Terms
bicuspid: the fourth and fifth teeth from the center of the mouth to the back of the mouth; these are the back teeth that are used for chewing and have only have two points (cusps). Adults have eight bicuspids (also called premolars), two in front of each group of molars.
biofeedback: a relaxation technique that involves learning how to better cope with pain and stress by altering behavior, thoughts, and feelings.
biopsy: removal of a small piece of tissue for diagnostic examination.
bite: relationship of the upper and lower teeth upon closure (occlusion).
bite-wing: a single X-ray that shows upper and lower teeth teeth (from crown to about the level of the supporting bone) in a select area on the same film to check for decay in between teeth.
bleaching: chemical treatment of natural teeth that uses peroxide to produce the whitening effect.
bonding: a process by which dental materials are mechanically attached to teeth; this would include composite resin, porcelain, and metal.
bone resorption: decrease in the amount of bone supporting the roots of teeth; a common result of periodontal (gum) disease.
braces: devices (bands, wires, ceramic appliances) put in place by orthodontists to gradually reposition teeth to a more favorable alignment.
bridge: stationary dental prosthesis (appliance) fixed to teeth adjacent to a space; replaces one or more missing teeth, cemented or bonded to supporting teeth or implants adjacent to the space. Also called a fixed partial denture.
bruxism: grinding or gnashing of the teeth, most commonly during sleep.
calcium: an element needed for the development of healthy teeth, bones, and nerves.
calculus: hard, calcium-like deposits that form on teeth due to inadequate plaque control, often stained yellow or brown. Also called "tartar."
canker sore: sores or small shallow ulcers that appear in the mouth and often make eating and talking uncomfortable; they typically appear in people between the ages of 10 and 20 and last about a week in duration before disappearing.
cap: common term for a dental crown.
caries: tooth decay or "cavities;" a dental infection caused by toxins produced by bacteria.