Curious about dentistry? At the Penerley Road Dental Practice, we’ve compiled an A-to-Z of everything you need to know about oral health!



An infection of the tooth, soft tissue or bone, which can include pus and swelling of the gum tissue surrounding a tooth. Tooth decay, tooth trauma or open cavities are the main causes of abscesses, which require immediate treatment by a dentist to stop the infection spreading.


The tooth or tooth structure on either side of a missing tooth used as an anchor to support a fixed or removable dental bridge.


A common mixture of metals containing silver, tin, copper and zinc in combination with mercury used to repair cavities.


The medication which produces a partial or complete loss of sensation (and thus, of pain), along with partial or complete unconsciousness.


Pain relief without the loss of consciousness.


Root end surgery involving the removal of the tip of the root of a tooth performed to treat a dead tooth.

Arch wire

A metal wire attached to dental brackets to help teeth move into the desired position.


The loss of tooth structure (mainly enamel and dentin) due to activities such as chewing, teeth grinding or clenching of the jaw.


Baby bottle mouth

Term used by some dentists to describe the mouth of a child that is put to bed frequently with a bottle of juice or sweetened milk, resulting in tooth decay.


The fourth and fifth teeth from the centre to the back of the mouth, in front of the molars, that are used for chewing. They only have two cusps or pointed areas, whereas molars have four. Adults have eight bicuspids, two in front of each group of molars.


The relationship of the upper and lower teeth upon closure.


A cosmetic dental procedure consisting of a chemical or laser treatment that uses peroxide to produce a whitening effect on teeth.


A process in which tooth-coloured materials are bonded to the tooth (covering its surface) in order to repair or improve the appearance of a badly stained, broken or chipped tooth.

Bone resorption

A decrease in the amount of jaw bone supporting the roots of tooth, which is usually a result of gum disease or tooth loss.


Orthodontic devices placed in the teeth to gradually straighten and or reposition them.


A custom dental appliance permanently cemented onto adjacent teeth to replace one or more missing teeth.


The grinding, clenching or gnashing of the teeth, commonly during sleep, resulting in jaw disorders, jaw pain, soreness, earaches, headaches, damaged teeth and other problems. It can lead to sleeping, eating and TMJ (temporomandibular joint) problems.



An element needed for the development of healthy teeth, bones and nerves.


Also known as tartar, calculus is a hard, calcium-like deposit that forms on teeth due to inadequate plaque control, often stained yellow or brown.


A small, narrow opening inside the root of a tooth.


Common name for a dental crown.


Clinical name for cavities or tooth decay, which occur when plaque combines with the sugars and the starches of food. This combination produces acids that attack the enamel and which can be prevented by brushing and flossing daily.


A model of the teeth.


A hole in the tooth caused by decay.


The hard tissue that covers the roots of teeth.


A tooth coloured restorative material composed of plastic with small glass or ceramic particles. It is usually used for tooth-coloured fillings with a curing or hardening light.


The abnormal bite relationship of upper and lower jaw where the lower teeth or tooth align toward the cheek or lip side more than the upper teeth or tooth.


(1) The top portion of a tooth above the gum line that is covered by enamel.
(2) A custom-made dental restoration covering that fits over a whole tooth after the dentist has prepared it. It is usually made of porcelain fused to metal to withstand biting pressure.


The pointed tip on the biting surface of a tooth.


The third tooth from the centre to the back of the mouth. Front teeth with one rounded or pointed edge used for biting, also known as canines.



The destruction of tooth structure caused by toxins produced by bacteria. This can be prevented by brushing twice a day and flossing daily.

Dental bridge

A dental appliance cemented onto adjacent teeth to replace one or more missing teeth.

Dental implant

A metal device usually made out of titanium which is surgically placed into the jawbone to replace a missing tooth. It is designed to act as the tooth root and can anchor an artificial tooth or teeth such as a crown, bridge or denture.

Dental impressions

Process of creating an accurate cast of the mouth, teeth, gums and jaw, used by a dental lab to create custom restorations, bleaching trays and mouth guards.


The position, type and number of teeth in the upper and lower jaw.


An artificial object to replace missing teeth and their neighbouring structures. Dentures can be immediate, complete or partial and over dentures or temporary, depending on the requirements of every patient.

Dry mouth

Also known as xerostomia, it is a condition in which the flow of saliva is reduced and there is not enough saliva to keep the mouth moist. It can be the result of certain medications, diseases, medical treatments or nerve damage, dehydration, tobacco use and surgical removal of the salivary glands. It can lead to several dental problems such as decay, gum disease and gingivitis.

Dry socket

Also known as alveolar osteitis, it is a common complication that occurs when a blood clot has failed to form in an extracted tooth socket or when the existing blood clot has been dislodged, after a tooth has been removed. Without the blood clot, the bone and nerves of the tooth are exposed, causing severe pain.



The hard, calcified tissue that covers and protects the outside portion of tooth that lies above the gum line. It is the hardest substance of the human body.


The field of dentistry concerned with the biology and pathology of the dental pulp and root tissues of the tooth as well as with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries to these tissues.


The wearing away of tooth enamel as a result of exposure to acid.


The emergence of the tooth from its position in the jaw.


The removal of a tooth.



A material used to replace an area of the tooth where decay has been removed and a cavity remains. The most common fillings are amalgam or silver fillings and composite or tooth-coloured fillings.


A thread-like material used to clean between teeth.


A mineral used to strengthen teeth enamel and prevent decay. It is naturally ingested through food or water and available in most toothpaste, as well as applied by dentists through a gel or liquid when required. The correct use of fluoride reduces cavities and tooth decay.


General dentist

The primary care dental provider, who diagnoses, treats and manages overall oral health care needs.


An early stage of gum disease that can be treated and reversed when diagnosed early. Its symptoms are inflamed, red, swollen and puffy gums that bleed easily when touched or brushed. If treatment is not received, it can lead to periodontitis, a more severe stage of gum disease, which leads to tooth and bone loss.

Gum recession

The exposure of dental roots due to shrinkage of gums as a result of abrasion, periodontitis or surgery.



Bad breath of oral or gastrointestinal origin.


A dental professional who uses preventive, therapeutic and educational methods to control oral disease.


A sharp, sudden pain in teeth when exposed to hot, cold, sweet, sour, salty, chemical or mechanical stimuli.


Impacted tooth

A tooth that is totally or partially below the gum line and is not able to erupt properly. It can push other teeth together or damage the bony structures supporting the adjacent tooth, making it necessary to be surgically removed. Third molars or wisdom teeth are the most commonly impacted teeth.


A mould made of the teeth and soft tissues.


The four upper and four lower front teeth (excluding the canines) primarily used for biting and cutting.


A procedure similar to filling which works entirely within the cusps on the chewing surface of teeth.


Jaw or Jawbone

The hard bone that supports the face and includes the alveolar bone, which anchors the teeth. The upper jaw is named maxilla and the lower jaw, mandible.


Laughing gas

Also known as nitrous oxide, it is a gas combined with oxygen to produce a calming effect and a sense of wellbeing when inhaled.


The side of the tooth that faces the tongue.

Local anaesthetic

An injection given in the mouth by a dentist in order to numb the area before undergoing a dental procedure.



The misalignment of the teeth of jaws which results in a “bad bite”.


The lower jaw.


The upper jaw.


The last three upper and lower teeth on both sides of the mouth.

Mouth guard

A soft-fitted device that is inserted into the mouth and worn over the teeth to protect them against impact or injury, or against teeth grinding.



The tissue that conveys temperature, sensation and position information to the brain

Night guard

A removable appliance that fits over the teeth and it is used to prevent wear and temporomandibular damage caused by grinding, clenching or gnashing of teeth during sleep.

Nitrous oxide

Gas combined with Oxygen to produce a calming effect and a sense of wellbeing when inhaled. Mostly provided to help patients relax during dental treatments.



The relationship of the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed together.


A restoration made of metal, porcelain or acrylic that covers one or more biting surfaces of teeth.

Open bite

The situation where the upper teeth are not able to contact the opposing lower teeth.

Oral and maxillofacial surgery

Surgical procedures on the oral cavity including extractions, removal of cysts or tumours and repair of fractured jaws.

Oral cavity

The mouth.

Oral hygiene

Process of keeping cleanliness of the teeth and related structures.

Oral surgeon

Also known as a maxillofacial surgeon, an oral surgeon is trained to diagnose and treat defects, injuries and diseases of the mouth, jaw, teeth, gums, neck and soft tissues of the head.


A special field in dentistry which involves the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of bite abnormalities or facial irregularities.

Over denture

A denture that fits over the residual roots or the dental implants.


The overlap of upper and lower teeth when they close together.



The hard and soft tissue forming the roof of the mouth.

Partial denture

A removable appliance that replaces some teeth in the upper or lower jaw.

Paediatric dentistry

The dental speciality focussed on the treatment of infants, children and young adults.

Periodontal ligament

The connective tissue surrounding the tooth, covering the cementum, which connects the tooth to the jawbone and holds it in place


A speciality of dentistry which focuses on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the tissues supporting teeth.


The tissue that lines the socket into which the root of the tooth fits.

Permanent teeth

The teeth that replace the primary teeth. There usually are 32 adult teeth in a complete dentition.


The soft and sticky substance that accumulates on the teeth from food debris, bacteria and saliva. It can be removed by brushing and flossing and maintaining a good oral hygiene. If it is not removed, it can form tartar and lead to gum disease and tooth decay.


The false tooth in a bridge or denture that replaces the missing tooth.


A tooth coloured material which takes the appearance of enamel.


A thin metal rod inserted into the root of a tooth after root canal treatment, providing retention for a capping that replaces lost tooth structure.

Pregnancy gingivitis

A condition caused by increased hormone levels that can cause swollen, red and tender gums, along with bleeding gums when touched or brushed.

Primary teeth

The first set of 20 temporary teeth forming the primary dentition, which is replaced by the permanent dentition gradually between 6 and 12 years of age.


A fixed or removable appliance used to replace missing teeth.


The living part of the tooth, located inside the dentin and which contains the nerve tissue and blood vessels that supply nutrients to the tooth.



Also known as X-ray; the projection of an image into a photographic film using radiation.


Also known as odontoplasty, enameloplasty, stripping or slenderising, it is a procedure in which small amounts of tooth enamel are removed to change a tooth’s shape, surface or length.


A natural process in which a tooth’s minerals are restored or replaced. It reverses the process of decay resulting from demineralisation.


A replacement for lost tooth structure or teeth, be it dentures, bridges, fillings, crowns or implants of any kind.


A usually removable orthodontic appliance which is supposed to be worn after the removal of dental braces to stop teeth from returning back to their original positions and misaligning.


The tooth structure that connects the tooth to the jaw.

Root canal

Also known as root canal therapy, it is a dental procedure meant to fix a tooth by removing its pulp chamber and filling it with a suitable filling material. It is usually performed when the tooth cannot be filled or restored by any other procedure because the decay has reached the nerve of the tooth or it has become infected.

Rubber dam

A rubber sheet that fits around teeth to isolate the treatment area from the rest of the oral cavity.



The clear, lubricating fluid in the mouth containing water, enzymes, bacteria, mucus, viruses, blood cells and undigested food particles.


The act of performing non-surgical, deep cleaning to remove plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line.


A clear and protective coating that is applied to the biting surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from decay by shielding against bacteria and plaque. It is most commonly placed on children’s permanent teeth because of their proneness to cavities.


A medication used to reduce pain and anxiety on patients.

Soft palate

The back one-third of the roof of the mouth composed of soft tissue.

Space maintainer

A dental device that holds the space lost through premature loss of primary teeth.


Extrinsic stains are those located on the outside of the tooth surface that can usually be removed by polishing the teeth with an abrasive cleaning paste. They are usually caused by external substances (tobacco, coffee, tea, food). Intrinsic stains are permanent and irremovable, caused by the ingestion of certain materials or by chemical substances during the development of the teeth, as well as by the presence of caries.



Also known as dental calculus, it is a hard deposit that adheres to teeth producing a rough surface that attracts plaque.

Teeth whitening

A chemical or laser process to recover the brightness and natural colour of teeth.


A yeast infection in the oral cavity caused by the fungus Candida Albicans.


Temporo-Mandibular Joint Dysfunction – symptoms of which include jaw pain, jaw clicking or grating, facial pain, headaches, neck pain and grinding or clenching of teeth. A common cause of TMD is grinding or clenching of teeth, which can lead to tooth wear or chipping.

Tooth erosion

The wearing away of tooth enamel due to exposure to acid.

Tooth sensitivity

The pain or discomfort when teeth are exposed to sweets, hot or cold. Discomfort can also appear when brushing and flossing.


The placing of a natural tooth in an empty socket.


An injury caused by external force, chemical, temperature shock or poor tooth alignment.

Trench mouth

A painful and severe gum infection occurred due to high bacteria levels in the mouth, usually from poor oral hygiene. It can also be caused from lack of sleep, stress and poor nutrition.


Under bite

The protrusion forward of the lower jaw causing it and its teeth to extend out beyond the upper teeth.

Unerupted tooth

A removable appliance that replaces some teeth in the upper or lower jaw.A tooth which hasn’t pushed through the gum and taken its correct position in the dental arch.



A thin shell, custom made from porcelain or composite and cemented to the front of the tooth to hide dental problems including crooked, discoloured or chipped teeth, or unsightly gaps.


Wisdom teeth

The third and last molars, which usually erupt between the ages of 18 to 25.



The projection of an image onto photographic film using radiation.