Dental Glossary

Amalgam fillings (silver-mercury)

Are a mixture of different metals such as 65% silver, 6% copper, 2% zinc, and 25% tin, bound with elemental mercury. Trituration is the process of mixing these alloys together with mercury. The mercury makes up between 45-50% of the mixture and acts as a glue that binds these metals into a hard stable substance that can last for decades.

Bleaching (tooth whitening)

Process of brightening or whitening stained, discolored, or dull teeth with an in-office power bleaching method, or dentist-supervised, at-home whitening systems.

Bonding (composite resin bonding)

Process by which enamel-like resin is bonded to a tooth's surface, sculpted to an ideal shape, hardened, and polished. This is the technique used for both front and back fillings.

Bridge

A bridge is a custom device anchored to neighboring teeth that replaces one or more missing teeth. When a lost tooth is replaced with bridgework, the teeth on either side of the missing one must be prepared as crowns which will serve as abutments to hold the replacement teeth in place.

Composite Resin

Tooth-colored filling material made of resin reinforced with silica or porcelain particles.

Cosmetic contouring (Tooth re-shaping)

Re-shaping the natural teeth to make them straighter or more youthful in appearance.

Cosmetic dentistry

Field of dentistry dedicated to the art and science of enhancing a person's smile, overall appearance, and oral health.

Cosmetic Imaging

A digital way to see a simulation of what your smile could look like after treatment.

Crown

A crown, sometimes called a cap, is a tooth like covering placed over a carefully prepared existing tooth. Most crowns are made of porcelain, a stain resistant material that closely replicates the appearance and function of your natural teeth. Used to strengthen, restore or improve the appearance of your natural tooth a crown is placed on an individual tooth much like a thimble over your finger. Crowns are also used to support teeth when there is no longer sufficient tooth structure left to place a filling.

Dentin

Layer of tooth structure under the enamel. Exposed dentine is the main cause of tooth sensitivity.

Diastema

Space between two teeth, usually the front two teeth.

Enamel

Hard, white outer layer of the tooth that covers and protects the dentin.

Endodontics

See root canal treatment.

Fissure sealants

A thin plastic protective film painted on the chewing surfaces of back teeth. Children receive the greatest benefit from sealants as the chewing surfaces of a child's teeth are most susceptible to cavities and the least benefited by fluoride.

Fluoride treatment

Fluoride treatments help to strengthen the teeth externally, while the supplements are more helpful for the internal development of the teeth. As the teeth do get topical (external) benefit from fluoride-containing toothpastes, the over-the-counter (non prescription) fluoride rinses are generally not necessary. Dentists may recommend these rinses for children that, for a variety of reasons, may be especially prone to developing cavities. The non prescription rinses are also helpful in adults who are cavity prone.

Gum (periodontal) disease

Also known as gingivitis or periodontitis. You may not realize that red or bleeding gums, tooth sensitivity and bad breath are warning signs of gum disease, a serious infection that, left untreated, can lead to tooth loss.

Gum Re-shaping

Excessive or uneven gums can be corrected with a simple cosmetic surgical procedure or gingivoplasty resulting in a more even, pleasing smile.

High lip line

Where the widest smile reveals the gum tissue above the teeth.

Hygienist

As licensed oral health professionals, dental hygienists focus on preventing and treating oral diseases, both to protect teeth and gums, and also to protect patients' total health.

Incisor

Central or lateral front teeth with cutting edges (4 upper and 4 lower).

Inlay

Porcelain, resin, or gold filling (made to fit a prepared cavity) bonded in place to help restore a decayed or broken tooth.

Implant

A dental implant is quite simply a titanium tooth root. This provides the support a crown needs to withstand the pressures of chewing. Implants help reverse the negative impact of missing teeth in a variety of ways, restores and maintains the natural bite, prevents unnatural stress on the other teeth, keeps opposing teeth in their proper place, prevents tilting and shifting of adjacent teeth and enhances your smile, speech and chewing function.

'Instant' orthodontics

The art of using ceramic veneers to 'instantly' (sometimes even within one week) align crooked teeth.

Laminates or veneers

Thin, custom-made moldings that cover the fronts of unattractive teeth. They are crafted from lifelike, high-tech materials to portray a bright, natural smile. If you are looking to improve your smile, custom-fitted veneers can provide the answer.

Low lip line

Where the widest smile barely reveals the bottom edges of the upper front teeth.

Malocclusion

A bad bite caused by incorrect positions of the upper or lower teeth.

Midline

An imaginary vertical line that divides the face into equal parts.

Occlusion

Please see TMJ/TMD

Onlay

Porcelain, resin, or gold filling that protects a tooth by covering the chewing surface.

Oral Hygiene

Proper oral hygiene, including flossing at least once a day and brushing twice daily, is just as important as ever to help you keep your teeth and gums healthy, along with regular (four monthly) dental hygiene appointments.

Orthodontics

Addressing a variety of cosmetic and functional problems this specialized branch of dentistry deals with straightening teeth. Through the use of specially designed and fitted appliances constant and gentle pressure is put on the teeth causing them to move into the desired position.

Partial denture

Removable dental appliance that replaces some of the natural teeth.

Periodontal treatment

Treatment for gum disease. Often performed by gum and implant specialist or periodontist.

Porcelain

Ceramic, tooth-colored material that fuses at high temperatures to form a hard, enamel-like substance.

Resin-bonded bridge

Thin metal or glass fiber-reinforced bridge requiring slight or no reduction of anchor teeth. Also called a Maryland bridge it is usually used a provisional restoration.

Root canal treatment (Endodontics)

Inside your tooth, running like a thread through the root, is the pulp. When the pulp is diseased or injured, the pulp tissue dies. If you do not remove it, your tooth gets infected and this causes intense pain and can lead to a dental abscess. After the dentist removes the pulp, the root canal is cleaned and sealed off to protect it. Then a crown is placed over your tooth to help make it stronger.

Rubber dam

Thin rubber sheet applied to teeth in order to control moisture during dental procedures. It also forms a protective barrier for the patient when silver-mercury fillings are removed.

Sedation (drug)

A small pill is taken before seeing the dentist. This little pill works rapidly to create a relaxed state and although you are in a sleep-like state, you are responsive. It is essential that someone escorts you home. For more challenging cases the services of a specialist anaesthetist are available for intra-venous sedation.

Sedation (drug-free)

Acupuncture and Reiki are used to induce a relaxed state and decrease anxiety.

TMJ/TMD

If a patient's teeth don't fit and slide together in harmony, one or more of the head and neck muscle groups may begin to suffer from fatigue. This may be felt as headaches, eye pain, shoulder pain. Stress levels are known to make matters worse.

Veneers (porcelain or composite)

Are thin, custom-made moldings that cover the fronts of unattractive teeth. They are crafted from lifelike, high-tech materials to portray a bright, natural smile. If you are looking to improve your smile, custom-fitted veneers can provide the answer.

Walking bleach

Method used to lighten a tooth that has darkened after root canal treatment. The whitening agent is placed inside the tooth and is active 24 hours per day.

Whitening

People with stained or dull teeth will benefit from whitening - a safe, effective means to whiten stained, discolored or dull teeth (or even a single tooth). In-office and supervised at-home whitening systems are available. At-home systems should be individually fitted and monitored by your cosmetic dentist.

Wisdom tooth removal

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars are the last teeth to erupt. This occurs usually between the ages of 17 and 25. If these impacted teeth are in an abnormal position (a dentist can show you this on an x-ray), their potential for harm should be assessed. When a wisdom tooth is partially erupted, food and bacteria collect under the gum causing a local infection. This may result in bad breath, pain, swelling Once the initial episode occurs, each subsequent attack becomes more frequent and more severe. Impacted wisdom teeth are almost certain to cause problems if left in place. This is particularly true of the lower wisdom teeth.