Glossary of Dental Health Terms
saliva: clear lubricating fluid in the mouth containing water, enzymes, bacteria, mucus, viruses, blood cells and undigested food particles.
salivary glands: glands located under tongue and in cheeks that produce saliva.
scaling and root planing: a deep-cleaning, nonsurgical procedure whereby plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line are scraped away (scaling) and rough spots on the tooth root are made smooth (planing).
sealants: a thin, clear or white resin substance that is applied to the biting surfaces of teeth to prevent decay.
sedative: a type of medication used to reduce pain and anxiety, and create a state of relaxation.
soft palate: the back one-third of the roof of the mouth composed of soft tissue.
space maintainer: dental device that holds the space lost through premature loss of baby teeth.
stains: can be either extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic stain is located on the outside of the tooth surface originating from external substances such as tobacco, coffee, tea, or food; usually removed by polishing the teeth with an abrasive prophylaxis paste. Intrinsic stain originates from the ingestion of certain materials or chemical substances during tooth development, or from the presence of caries. This stain is permanent and cannot be removed.
stomatitis: an inflammation of the tissue underlying a denture. Ill-fitting dentures, poor dental hygiene, or a buildup of the fungus Candida albicans can cause the condition.
supernumerary tooth: an extra tooth.
tartar: common term for dental calculus, a hard deposit that adheres to teeth; produces rough surface that attracts plaque.
teething: baby teeth pushing through the gums.
temporomandibular disorder (TMD)/temporomandibular joint (TMJ): the term given to a problem that concerns the muscles and joint that connect the lower jaw with the skull. The condition is characterized by facial pain and restricted ability to open or move the jaw. It is often accompanied by a clicking or popping sound when the jaw is opened or closed.
thrush: an infection in the mouth caused by the fungus Candida.
tooth whitening: a chemical or laser process to lighten the color of teeth.
topical anesthetic: ointment that produces mild anesthesia when applied to a soft tissue surface.
transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): a therapy that uses low-level electrical currents to provide pain relief. In dentistry, TENS is one type of therapy that can be used to relax the jaw joint and facial muscles.
transplant: placing a natural tooth in the empty socket of another tooth.
trauma: injury caused by external force, chemical, temperature extremes, or poor tooth alignment.
trigger-point injections: a method of relieving pain whereby pain medication or anesthesia is injected into tender muscles called "trigger points." In dentistry, this can be used in individuals with temporomandibular disorders.
ultrasound: a treatment in which deep heat is applied to an affected area to relieve soreness or improve mobility. In dentistry, ultrasound can be used to treat temporomandibular disorders.