Dentistry Terms: Defined

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Dentists tend to use words unfamiliar to the rest of us who didn’t attend dental school along with them, and it can be overwhelming when you have no idea what they are talking about. Here are some dental terms you should know if you don’t want to feel like a tiny fish in a big pond when you go to the dentist office.

Implants: An artificial tooth root that dentists put in the jaw bone. The dentist can put an artificial tooth (or crown) on the implant, or you can use implants to hold bridges or dentures in place.

Enamel: The hard calcified tissue covering the dentin of the crown of the tooth.

Oral Hygiene: Activities you do to keep your mouth clean. These include brushing your teeth, cheeks, tongue, and dentures. They can also include using mouthwash or dental floss, or having a dentist or hygienist clean your teeth.

Gingivitis: Inflammation of gum tissue without loss of connective tissue

Sealant: A thin plastic coating that can be put on the tops of molars and premolars. Sealants get hard and keep food from getting packed in the surfaces of the teeth. They help prevent cavities.

Tooth Decay: A hole in the tooth caused by acid in plaque. The more common name is cavity.

Unerupted: A tooth that has not pushed through the gumline

Veneers: Thin, custom-made shells crafted of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the front side of teeth.

Wisdom Teeth: The last teeth to come in during young adulthood. Also referred to as third molars.

Malocclusion: This term is used to describe teeth that don’t line up correctly in the mouth. They may be too far apart, crooked or may not come together right when you bite down.

*All definitions courtesy the American Dental Association.