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Dental Glossary

Dental and Oral Health Terms Defined

The dental team at Madison’s TCD provides our patients with easy, stress-free dental procedures and an overall positive experience. We want you to be comfortable and relaxed during your visit, which means keeping you informed about your cosmetic, restorative, or preventative dental work. To make sure all our clients are fully educated about their appointment before we begin, we’ve created a glossary of common dental terms and procedures.

Below are some common terms frequently used in describing dental procedures and oral hygiene. If you have any additional questions about your dental health, don’t hesitate to contact our experienced Madison dentists.

Contact our Madison dental clinic for your oral health concerns, or call us at 608-274-1911.
Abcess
An abscess is an infection of a tooth, tissue, or bone. They can be easily spotted, generating a pink/red color and felt by touching. In dentistry, a …
Abutment
An abutment is used to connect dental implants to crowns or bridges to replace missing teeth. They may be made from a variety of materials for differe…
Abutment Teeth
Abutment teeth are teeth which surround a gap created by a missing tooth. Often, the abutment is used to provide support to dental implants or bridges…
Acid Etching
Acid etching is the use of an acidic substance to prepare the tooth’s natural enamel for the application of an adhesive. The acid roughens the s…
Adjustment
An adjustment is any modification made to artificial structures within the mouth. If you have dental implants, veneers, dentures, or crowns and bridge…
Allowable Charge
Allowable charge is the maximum dollar amount that an insurer will consider reimbursing for a covered service or procedure including any amount that t…
Alveolar Bone
The alveolar bones are ridges with hollow sockets meant to hold teeth. For humans, the maxilla holds the upper teeth while the mandible bone contains …
Amalgam
Silver amalgam is used for filling in cavities. This material has been used for over a hundred years. Recently, composite resin fillings have become m…
American Dental Association
Also known as the ADA, this organization is known for approving dental products for their safety and efficiency. Established in 1859, this non-profit…
Anatomical Crown
The anatomical crown refers to the portion of the tooth that is naturally covered with enamel. This also includes the enamel. The upper portion of the…
Anesthesia
In the event you need to have oral surgery or a potentially painful dental procedure, anesthesia is used as a numbing agent. Most dental anesthesia is…
Annual Maximum (Benefit)
The annual maximum benefit refers to the maximum dollar amount you can receive each year from your insurance provider. While allowable charge operates…
Apex
The apex of a tooth is the tip of its root. This is the terminal end of the root of the tooth, also known as the apex cordis. The plural is the apices…
Artificial Crown
An artificial crown is a crown that covers, replaces, or repairs the anatomical crown. If your tooth is damaged but not lost, a crown can be used to r…
Basic Restorative Services
Basic restorative services include typical dental procedures such as fillings and root canals. Most insurance providers cover this, but coverage can v…
Bi-Annual Cleaning
A bi-annual (twice a year) cleaning is recommended by most dentists. This ensures that plaque which brushing and flossing alone cannot normally remove…
Bitewing
When X-rays are taken of teeth, the images are shown on a bite-wing. This allows dentists to see all of the teeth in relation to one another instead o…
Bleaching
Bleaching is a form of teeth whitening that usually uses a chemical agent. Normal teeth whitening can return stained teeth to their natural color, whi…
Bonded Veneers
Bonded veneers are small pieces of resin that are bonded over your natural teeth. Made of a special resin, bonded veneers closely resemble your natura…
Braces
Braces are an orthodontic procedure where crooked teeth or “bad bites” can be corrected. Braces are often used to improve a patient’…
Bridge
A bridge generally consists of two or more crowns, and is used as a replacement for missing or damaged teeth. A fixed partial denture is an example of…
Bruxism
Bruxism is the condition of clenching or otherwise grinding one’s teeth. Many patients do not know they even have bruxism. Bruxism can be a resu…
Canker Sore
Canker sores are actually small ulcers located inside the mouth. They can last for a few days at a time and are sometimes indicative or larger oral he…
Cavity
A cavity is an area of decay in a tooth which needs to be removed and filled with resin. Also called dental caries, this is a permanently damaged area…
Clenching
Clenching is the grinding or pressing together of one’s teeth. Clenching is often attributed to physical exertion or stress and anxiety. Teeth a…
Coinsurance
Coinsurance is a provision in some insurance plans where the beneficiary shares the cost of covered services. You, as the beneficiary, share the costs…
Complete Denture
A complete denture replaces all of the patient’s natural teeth. Dentures are removable appliances that can replace missing teeth and help restor…
Composite Filling
Composite fillings are made of several different materials, providing a superior bond with the tooth and blending in with the natural color. Most ofte…
Copayment
A copayment is the portion of the fee the beneficiary must pay once the insurance provider has paid its share. This can vary depending on your policy …
Cosmetic Dentistry
Cosmetic dentistry refers to the practice of improving ones dental appearance. This can include veneers, braces, and whitening. Cosmetic dentistry may…
Crown
A crown is an artificial structure covering the remainder of the damaged tooth, repairing its appearance. Crowns can be applied to individual teeth, o…
Decay
Tooth Decay is among the world's most common health problems. Tooth decay leads to cavaties and if they are not properly treated, they get deeper and …
Deciduous (Baby) Teeth
Deciduous teeth are the first set of teeth humans have. These teeth will begin to emerge at a few months of age and will begin to fall out a few years…
Dental Extraction
Extraction is when a tooth is removed due to some sort of damage or impaction. An impacted tooth such as a third molar or “wisdom tooth” i…
Dental Implants
A dental implant acts as a replacement for the root or roots of missing teeth. Implants provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel and…
Dentin
Dentin is located under the enamel of teeth. This inner layer is made up of calcified tissue, enamel, cementum, and pulp.
Dentures
Dentures are a replacement for a patient’s natural teeth. Dentures can be made to replace some or all of a patient’s natural teeth. Most a…
Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is caused by minimal flow of saliva. Certain medication side effects cause dry mouth, which is an uncomfortable feeling. Saliva is needed t…
Dry Socket
A dry socket is a socket which has become inflamed. Dry socket is also known as alveolar osteitis. Alveolar osteitis occurs when the alveolar bone bec…
Edentulous
This is the technical term for being ‘toothless’, or simply having no teeth. Some patients lose their teeth as they get older and have to …
Enamel
Enamel is the hard calcified coating that covers the outside, or crown, of a tooth. It can be worn away by acidic foods and drinks. Once enamel is gon…
Eruption
An eruption is the process of which a tooth pierces through the gum’s surface.The deciduous, or primary teeth appear in babies from 6 months-2 y…
Fillings
A common term used to describe cavity repairs, a filling is made up of several types of materials. Fillings can be made of metals, composites, or porc…
Fixed Partial Denture
A fixed partial denture is the replacement of one or more damaged or missing teeth. A fixed partial denture as a type of bridge. Restore Missing Teet…
Flossing
A process that should be incorporated in your daily dental hygiene routine. Flossing thread, thin or thick, is manually woven in-between each individu…
Flouride
Fluoride is a mineral, found in water and most common toothpastes. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, protecting our pearly whites from cavities and d…
Fluorosis
A condition in which too much fluoride has been ingested and is in the bloodstream. Discoloring, or mottling, along with pitted enamel surface, are si…
Four Life Changing Implants
Four Life Changing Implants are special dental implants capable of replacing all teeth at once, like dentures. Four posts are screwed on the top or b…
Gingivitis
Gingivitis is the inflammation of gum tissue without the loss of connective tissue. Gingivitis usually occurs when plaque extends below the gum line.&…
Gold Fillings
Gold is sometimes used instead of composite resin or silver amalgam for fillings. This option is generally more expensive and does not provide a natur…
Gum Recession
Gums shrink and pull away from teeth, exposing the roots. Being a common oral problem, the recession shouldn’t be ignored. Disease and bacteria …
Halitosis
A condition concerning bad breath, originating from the mouth or gastrointestinal area. 20% of the general population have reported having halitosis, …
Impacted Tooth
An impacted tooth is a tooth that has not erupted (broken through the gum tissue) yet, and is positioned against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue i…
Impression
An impression is made by patients biting into a mold, leaving a literal impression of their teeth and gums behind. The mold is then used by dentists t…
Inlay/Onlay
Inlays and onlays are partial coverings of a tooth. Unlike a crown, which covers the surface of an entire tooth, inlays and onlays are only used for a…
Invisalign
Invisalign refers to a style of braces which consist of plastic aligners. When using Invisalign, a special treatment plan is developed to fix the pati…
Medically Necessary Care
Medically necessary care refers to dental care that is deemed necessary to treat or prevent diseases, illnesses, or other ailments from occurring.&nbs…
Molar
Your molars are your “chewing teeth.” Flat and wide, your molars rest in the back of your mouth and are designed to crush and chew food.&n…
Mouth Guards
Mouth guards are designed to prevent the clenching of teeth. They are usually worn for sporting events where clenching of the teeth is a normal occurr…
Nerve (Root) Canal
The nerve canal is located inside the tooth, which holds the nerve and the dental pulp. The canal flows from the tip of the tooth to the pulp chamber,…
Night Guard
Similar to a mouth guard, night guards are used to prevent teeth grinding when sleeping. They can be custom fit for your mouth for a comfortable fit. …
Nitrous Oxide
A type of gas that is used for sedation in dental work, especially in treatments that causes pain. Given the other name, “laughing gas”, n…
Occlusion
Simply put, occlusion is the term used for contact between upper and lower sets of teeth, meaning mouth is closed. Occlusion occurs when teeth are at …
Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer screening allows dentists to screen for cancer before symptoms become more apparent, and before they become too severe. Oral cancer has se…
Oral Hygiene
Oral hygiene is an essential step in protecting your health. Your mouth is one of the main defense lines for your immune system. Poor dental hygiene c…
Orthodontics
A specialized field of dentistry, orthodontics focuses on correcting teeth which are crooked or otherwise out of alignment. Usually, this involves the…
Overbite
A bite, or occlusion that refers to the vertical overlap of the upper jaw over the lower jaw. People naturally have a bit of an overbite, between 3-5 …
Periodontal Disease
Periodontal diseases are those which affect the gums. Smoking, diet, and a lack of oral hygiene may all cause bacteria to take hold in the gums, leadi…
Permanent Teeth
Permanent or “adult” teeth replace deciduous or “baby” teeth during childhood through to the teenage years. There should be 32…
Plaque
Plaque is a naturally forming buildup of biofilm on teeth. Plaque provides a perfect breeding ground for bacteria to grow and form, leading to tooth d…
Porcelain Veneers
Porcelain veneers are similar to bonded veneers, but are made of porcelain and therefore are stronger and last longer. Porcelain resembles natural ena…
Pulp
Pulp refers to the connective and nerve tissue that contains blood vessels in the roots of teeth. This pulp is protected by your teeth, though it…
Resin Fillings
Dental fillings are used to fill holes in teeth caused by injury or cavities. Over time, fillings materials have changed from gold and silver amalgam …
Restorative Dentistry
Restorative dentistry uses a variety of techniques to treat damaged or unhealthy teeth. This could involve receiving fillings for cavities, installing…
Retainer
A retainer is an appliance designed to help the jaw or teeth to keep their shape after they have been realigned. Most retainers are used after braces …
Root Canal
The root canal refers to the small roots connecting the interior pulp of a tooth to the rest of the root. This part of the tooth is normally well prot…
Root Canal Therapy
Also known as endodontic therapy, root canals are caused when a cavity breaks through a tooth into the pulp or other damage happens to a tooth nerve. …
Saliva
This clear fluid is produced in the mouth, containing bacteria, water, undigested food particles, and viruses. Saliva is super important for keeping o…
Sedation Dentistry
Sedation dentistry is the process of using sedatives to help patients calm down before, during, and after their dental appointments. Different dentis…
Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a potentially life threatening condition where an individual repeatedly stops breathing while they sleep. Apnea literally translates to…
Tartar
When plaque is not removed from teeth, it hardens into dental tartar or calculus. The accumulation of this tartar causes discoloration and disease wit…
Teeth Whitening
Teeth whitening is the process of whitening a patient’s teeth with chemical agents or another system, sometimes UV treatment. Teeth are usu…
Teething
When baby teeth (deciduous) start to emerge, many babies and toddlers experience pain. This is known as the teething process. This can begin as early …
TMJ
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is an important part of your body, connecting the top of your jawbone to the rest of your skull. Common causes of TM…
TMJ Therapy
TMJ therapy is the treatment of jaw pain. TMJ problems can cause a clicking, popping, or general discomfort and pain. TMJ therapy plans from Tota…
Tooth Pain
Tooth pain can be characterized as sensitivity to hot and cold, a sharp toothache, soreness, or sensitivity to touch and constant pain. Tooth pain can…
Veneer
Veneer is used to both protect teeth and make them look better. They are similar to crowns, though they only cover one side of the tooth (crowns cover…
Whitening
Teeth whitening is a procedure to lighten and brighten the color of teeth. Discoloration occurs for many reasons. An in-office procedure at TCD dramat…
Wisdom Teeth
A wisdom tooth is a third molar and the one located the farthest back in the mouth. Due to their location, most wisdom teeth require extraction as the…