Glossary of Dental Health Terms
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.
cementum: hard tissue that covers the roots of teeth.
clasp: device that holds a removable partial denture to stationary teeth.
cleaning: removal of plaque and calculus (tarter) from teeth, generally above the gum line.
cleft lip: a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip that appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip. This separation often extends beyond the base of the nose and includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or upper gum.
cleft palate: a split or opening in the roof of the mouth.
composite resin filling: tooth-colored restorative material composed of plastic with small glass or ceramic particles; usually "cured" or hardened with filtered light or chemical catalyst. An alternative to silver amalgam fillings.
conventional denture: a denture that is ready for placement in the mouth about eight to 12 weeks after the teeth have been removed.
cosmetic (aesthetic) dentistry: a branch of dentistry under which treatments are performed to enhance the color and shape of teeth.
crown: (1) the portion of a tooth above the gum line that is covered by enamel; (2) dental restoration covering all or most of the natural tooth; the artificial cap can be made of porcelain, composite, or metal and is cemented on top of the damaged tooth.
cuspids: the third tooth from the center of the mouth to the back of the mouth. These are the front teeth that have one rounded or pointed edge used for biting. Also known as canines.