abrasion: Loss of tooth structure caused by a hard toothbrush, poor brushing technique, or Bruxism (grinding or clenching the teeth)
abscess: an infection of a tooth, soft tissue, or bone.
abutment: tooth or implant fixture used as a support for a prosthesis
ADA Seal of Acceptance: a designation awarded to products that have met American Dental Association's criteria for safety and effectiveness and whose packaging and advertising claims are scientifically supported.
adjustment: a modification made upon a dental prosthesis after it has been completed and inserted into the mouth.
air abrasion/micro abrasion: a drill-free technique that blasts the tooth surface with air and an abrasive. This is a relatively new technology that may avoid the need for an anesthetic and can be used to remove tooth decay, old composite restorations and superficial stains and discolorations, and prepare a tooth surface for bonding or sealants.
alveolar bone: the bone surrounding the root of the tooth, anchoring it in place; loss of this bone is typically associated with severe periodontal (gum) disease.
amalgam: a common filling material used to repair cavities. The material, also known as "silver fillings," contains mercury in combination with silver, tin, copper, and sometimes zinc.
anaerobic bacteria: bacteria that do not need oxygen to grow; they are generally associated with periodontal disease (see below).
analgesia: a state of pain relief; an agent for lessening pain.
anesthesia: a type of medication that results in partial or complete elimination of pain sensation; numbing a tooth is an example of local anesthesia; general anesthesia produces partial or complete unconsciousness.
antibiotic: a drug that stops or slows the growth of bacteria.
antiseptic: a chemical agent that can be applied to living tissues to destroy germs.
apex: the tip of the root of a tooth.
appliance: any removable dental restoration or orthodontic device.
arch: a description of the alignment of the upper or lower teeth.
baby bottle tooth decay: decay in infants and children, most often affecting the upper front teeth, caused by sweetened liquids given and left clinging to the teeth for long periods (for example, in feeding bottles or pacifiers). Also called early childhood carries.
bicuspid: the fourth and fifth teeth from the center of the mouth to the back of the mouth. These are the back teeth that are used for chewing; they only have two points (cusps). Adults have eight bicuspids (also called premolars), two in front of each group of molars.
biofeedback: a relaxation technique that involves learning how to better cope with pain and stress by altering behavior, thoughts, and feelings.
biopsy: removal of a small piece of tissue for diagnostic examination.
bite: relationship of the upper and lower teeth upon closure (occlusion).
bite-wing: a single X-ray that shows teeth (from crown to about the level of the supporting bone) in a select area on the same film.
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.
buccal: Referring to the cheek side of back tooth