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; they 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.
bleaching: chemical or laser treatment of natural teeth that uses peroxide to produce the whitening effect.
bonding: the covering of a tooth surface with a tooth-colored composite to repair and/or change the color or shape of a tooth, for instance, due to stain or damage.
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.