Glossary

Online Dental Education Library

Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.

Emergencies
Even though you are careful, you may occasionally damage your appliances. Wires and brackets can become loose or break. Typically, this is not an emergency situation. If the patient is not in discomfort, you can call the office and make an appointment to come in when it is convenient. If the patient is in pain, please call for an immediate emergency appointment.

We want our patients to be informed of problems that may occur and understand how to solve them, at least temporarily, until it is possible to return to our office.

Loose Bracket
If a bracket comes loose from the tooth, call our office so we can determine if an emergency appointment is indicated. If the patient is comfortable and if it will not cause any problems or delay in treatment, additional time can be allowed to reattach the bracket at the next regularly scheduled appointment. If it is causing discomfort, we will schedule an immediate emergency appointment. If the loose bracket is still attached to a wire, leave it in place and apply wax to keep it from moving on the wire if it is bothersome. If the bracket comes completely out, place it in an envelope and bring it to your next appointment.

Broken Archwire
If a main archwire breaks (the one that goes all the way around the outside of your braces), you should leave it in if it is not uncomfortable and seems stable. If it is bothering you, you can do whatever it takes to make it more comfortable until you can visit the office to have the wire replaced. You can try such things as removing the offending piece, clipping an irritating piece with a small wire cutter or nail clipper, tucking the wire under a bracket, etc. Use wax as needed and call our office for an appointment.

Loose Wire
Try to place the wire back in the bracket. Place wax if there is any discomfort and call for an appointment.

Poking Wire
Sometimes a poking wire can be safely turned down so that it no longer causes you discomfort. Try to tuck the wire back in and out of the way with the blunt end of a toothbrush, pencil eraser or some other smooth object. If you are unable to take care of a poking wire, apply wax and call our office for an appointment.

Soreness
Periodic soreness of the teeth or surrounding tissues during treatment is to be expected. If you experience this normal discomfort, it can usually be relieved by rinsing your mouth with a warm salt water solution (one teaspoonful of salt in a cup of warm water). A mild over-the-counter pain reliever (Motrin, Tylenol, etc.) can be taken as directed.

Lost or Broken Retainers
Contact our office as soon as possible to arrange for repair or replacement of the retainer. If the retainer is cracked or has a broken wire but still fits comfortably, you should continue to wear it until you can bring it in for repair or replacement. If, for example, you break or lose your upper retainer, make sure you continue to wear your lower retainer (or vice versa), as this will help reduce the shifting potential of the teeth until you can be seen in our office.

Accidents Involving Teeth
For serious mouth injuries, the patient should initially be seen as soon as possible at the emergency room or by his/her family dentist. Once the initial trauma has been resolved, contact our office for an emergency appointment so we can repair any damage to the appliances and evaluate the affected teeth.

Please Remember
If you are involved with contact sports, we recommend you use a mouthguard. Use only an orthodontic mouthguard (not one you boil and adapt). We will be happy to supply you with one and they are also available wherever mouthguards are sold.

Our office is generally open Monday through Thursday. We can usually get you in to repair a problem quickly. In some instances, we will make you comfortable and then schedule another appointment at a later date if more involved treatment is necessary to remedy the problem. In case of an after-hours emergency, call our office and follow the instructions on the answering machine.

 

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A
Amalgam - Material made from mercury and other alloy mixtures used to restore a drilled portion of a tooth.
Anesthesia - Medications used to relieve pain.
Anterior teeth - Front teeth. Also called incisors and cuspids.
Arch - The upper or lower jaw.
back to top

B
Baby bottle tooth decay - Caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby's mouth.
Bicuspids -A premolar tooth; tooth with two cusps, which are pointed or rounded eminences on or near the masticating surface of a tooth.
Bitewings - X-rays that help a dentist diagnose cavities.
Bonding - Application of tooth-colored resin materials to the surface of the teeth.
Bridge - A prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth cemented or otherwise attached to the abutment teeth or implant replacements.
Bruxism - Teeth grinding.
back to top

C
Calculus - A hard deposit of mineralized substance adhering to crowns and/or roots of teeth or prosthetic devices.
Canal - The narrow chamber inside the tooth's root.
Canines - Also called cuspids.
Canker sore - One that occurs on the delicate tissues inside your mouth. A canker sore is usually light-colored at its base and can have a red exterior border.
Caries - A commonly used term for tooth decay, or cavities.
Cold sore - Usually occurs on the outside of the mouth, usually on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious because it is caused by the herpes simplex virus, and it is usually painful and filled with fluid.
Composite filling - Tooth colored restorations, also known as resin fillings.
Composite resin - A tooth colored resin combined with silica or porcelain and used as a restoration material.
Contouring - The process of reshaping teeth.
Crown - An artificial tooth replacement that restores missing tooth structure by surrounding the remaining coronal tooth structure. It is also placed on a dental implant.
Cusps - The pointed parts on top of the back teeth's chewing surface.
Cuspids - Front teeth that typically have a protruding edge.
back to top

D
Dentin - The tooth layer underneath the enamel.
Denture - A removable set of teeth.
back to top

E
Endodontics - A form of dentistry that addresses problems affecting the tooth's root or nerve.
back to top

F
Fluoride - A harmless over-exposure to fluoride resulting in tooth discoloration.
Fluorosis - A harmless over-exposure to fluoride and resulting sometimes in tooth discoloration.
back to top

G
Gingiva - Another word for gum tissue.
Gingivitis - A minor disease of the gums caused by plaque.
Gum disease - An infection of the gum tissues. Also called periodontal disease.
back to top

I
Impacted teeth - A condition in which a tooth fails to erupt or only partially erupts.
Implant - A permanent appliance used to replace a missing tooth.
Incisor - Front teeth with cutting edges; located in the center or on the sides near the front.
Inlay - An artificial filling made of various materials, including porcelain, resin, or gold.
back to top

L
Laminate veneer - A shell that is bonded to the enamel of a front tooth. The shell is usually thin and made from porcelain resin.
back to top

M
Malocclusion - Bad bite relationship.
Mandible - The lower jaw.
Maxilla - The upper jaw.
Molar - Usually the largest teeth, near the rear of the mouth. Molars have large chewing surfaces.
back to top


N
Neuromuscular Dentistry - Addresses more than the aches and pains felt in and around the neck and head that are associated with your teeth and jaw.

back to top

O
Onlay - A filling designed to protect the chewing surface of a tooth.
Orthodontics - A field of dentistry that deals with tooth and jaw alignment.
Overdenture - A non-fixed dental appliance applied to a small number of natural teeth or implants.
back to top

P
Palate - Roof of the mouth.
Partial denture - A removable appliance that replaces missing teeth.
Pediatric Dentistry - A field of dentistry that deals with children’s teeth
Perio pocket - An opening formed by receding gums.
Periodontal disease - Infection of the gum tissues. Also called gum disease.
Periodontist - A dentist who treats diseases of the gums.
Permanent teeth - The teeth that erupt after primary teeth. Also called adult teeth.
Plaque - A sticky, colorless substance that covers the teeth after sleep or periods between brushing.
Posterior teeth - The bicuspids and molars. Also called the back teeth.
Primary teeth - A person's first set of teeth. Also called baby teeth or temporary teeth.
Prophylaxis - The act of cleaning the teeth.
Prosthodontics - The field of dentistry that deals with artificial dental appliances.
Pulp - The inner tissues of the tooth containing blood, nerves and connective tissue.
back to top

R
Receding gum - A condition in which the gums separate from the tooth, allowing bacteria and other substances to attack the tooth's enamel and surrounding bone.
Resin filling - An artificial filling used to restore teeth. Also called a composite filling.
Root canal - A procedure in which a tooth's nerve is removed and an inner canal cleansed and later filled.
Root planing - Scraping or cleansing of teeth to remove heavy buildup of tartar below the gum line.
back to top

S
Sealant - A synthetic material placed on the tooth's surface that protects the enamel and chewing surfaces.
back to top

T
TMJ - Temporomandibular joint disorder. Health problems related to the jaw joint just in front of the ear.
Tarter - A hardened substance (also called calculus) that sticks to the tooth’s surface.
back to top

V
Veneer - A laminate applied or bonded to the tooth.
back to top

W
Whitening - A process that employs special bleaching agents for restoring the color of teeth.
Wisdom tooth - Third set of molars that erupt last in adolescence.
back to top