Glossary of Dental Health Terms
impacted tooth: a tooth that is partially or completely blocked from erupting through the surface of the gum. An impacted tooth may push other teeth together or damage the bony structures supporting the adjacent tooth. Often times, impacted teeth must be surgically removed.
implant: a metal rod (usually made of titanium) that is surgically placed into the upper or lower jawbone where a tooth is missing; it serves as the tooth root and anchor for the crown, bridge, or denture that is placed over it.
impression: mold made of the teeth and soft tissues.
incision and drainage: surgical incision of an abscess to drain pus.
incisors: four upper and four lower front teeth, excluding the cuspids (canine teeth). These teeth are used primarily for tearing and cutting.
inlay: similar to a filling but the entire work lies within the cusps (bumps) on the chewing surface of the tooth.
jawbone: The hard bone that supports the face and includes alveolar bone, which anchors the teeth.
leukoplakia: a white or gray patch that develops on the tongue or the inside of the cheek. It is the mouth's reaction to chronic irritation of the mucous membranes of the mouth.
malocclusion: "bad bite" or misalignment of the teeth or jaws.
mandible: the lower jaw.
maxilla: the upper jaw.
mercury: a metal component of amalgam fillings.
molars: three back teeth in each dental quadrant used for grinding food.
mouth guard: a device that is inserted into the mouth and worn over the teeth to protect them against impact or injury.
muscle relaxant: a type of medication often prescribed to reduce muscle contractions, thus relieving pain.
nerve: tissue that conveys sensation, temperature, and position information to the brain.
nerve (root) canal: dental pulp; the internal chamber of a tooth where the nerves and blood vessels pass.
night guard: a removable appliance that fits over the upper or lower teeth used to prevent wear and temporomandibular damage caused by grinding or gnashing of the teeth during sleep.
nitrous oxide: a gas (also called laughing gas) used to reduce patient anxiety.