Dental Glossary

Dentists and Hygienist have a language all their own. This guide breaks down the professional terminology into everyday language.


  • Abscess

    When the inside of the mouth gets hurt or irritated, bacteria may enter and cause an infection. Sometimes you will see a painful swelling filled with pus (a thick, yellowish fluid). If the pus cannot drain out, the area will get more swollen and painful. This is known as an abscess. The abscess forms a barrier around the infection. This is one way that the body tries to keep a bacterial infection from spreading.

  • Acid Reflux

    Is also referred to as GORD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), a chronic digestive disease that can erode the teeth and irritate the lining of the oesophagus. GORD occurs when stomach acid flows into the oesophagus and enters the mouth, possibly causing damage to the enamel of the teeth.

  • Acidic Foods

    Highly acidic foods can cause tooth erosion (dental erosion), which is the irreversible loss of tooth structure. These foods include soft drinks.

  • Acrylic Resin

    A hard, glassy form of plastic often used with other materials to create fillings and dentures.

  • Advanced Periodontitis

    In this final stage of gum disease, the fibers and bone supporting the teeth are destroyed, which can cause teeth to shift or loosen. This can affect the bite and, if extensive treatment cannot save them, teeth may need to be removed.

  • Amalgam

    An inexpensive filling material made from silver, tin, zinc, copper and mercury. Mercury is nearly 50 percent of the mixture. This material is strong, but can tarnish or corrode over time.

  • Anaesthesia

    A numbing agent that dulls pain in all or part of the mouth during dental work. This drug is injected into the cheek or gums and can last for hours.

  • Arterial Plaque

    Arterial plaque, also known as clogged arteries, develops from a fatty buildup called plaque in the inner walls of the arteries of the heart. Bacteria that form at the gumline and on the teeth may enter the blood stream during chewing, oral hygiene care (brushing/flossing) or a professional cleaning appointment. These bacteria can become incorporated into arterial plaque. Published clinical studies have found that plaque in the heart arteries can lead to a heart attack or stroke and it is of vital importance to clean the mouth effectively to reduce this contributing factor.

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  • Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

    A form of tooth decay caused by frequent sucking on a baby bottle. When a child is allowed to sip a baby bottle throughout the day or is put to bed with a bottle containing anything other than water, the sugars and carbohydrates in fluids provide an unending source of food for the bacteria that cause cavities.

  • Baby Teeth

    Baby teeth are referred to as primary teeth. These teeth begin to erupt in the mouth between 6 months and 1 year of age. The Australian Dental Association recommends that children visit their dental practitioner after the first tooth erupts in the mouth. The dental practitioner can check a baby's teeth to evaluate if tooth decay has occurred. It is also important that the dental practitioner reviews brushing instructions with the parents to make sure the teeth are healthy and clean. When the baby teeth are lost between 6 years and 12 years of age, permanent teeth will replace the baby teeth.

  • Bad Breath

    Foul-smelling breath, usually caused by the breakdown of strong-smelling food. Other culprits include poor dental hygiene, dry mouth, disease, infection, tobacco use and severe dieting.

  • Bicuspid

    Also called premolars, these teeth have two pointed cusps on their biting surface. The premolars are for crushing and tearing.

  • Bite, Occlusion

    The overall alignment of teeth. This includes how the upper and lower jaw and associated teeth fit together and the spacing between teeth and in relation to other oral structures. Most irregularities can be fixed through orthodontics for comfort or appearance.

  • Bleaching

    There are many options for whitening the teeth to help remove extrinsic and intrinsic stains from substances such as coffee, tea, wine or tobacco. These whitening procedures may include using whitening toothpastes (for example, Colgate® Optic White) to start and then at-home bleaching or in-office bleaching as other options to enhance the teeth and smile.

  • Bleeding Gums

    Gums may bleed after brushing or flossing, but this bleeding is not normal. If bleeding occurs when you brush your teeth or floss, this could be a sign of gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, which is caused by the development of plaque biofilm. It is recommended that you see your dental practitioner for an oral examination and professional cleaning.

  • Bonding

    Bonding is the joining of a tooth-colored composite resin (plastic) filling or veneer to a tooth to repair a decayed, chipped, fractured or discoloured tooth structure.

  • Braces

    An appliance used to move teeth gradually into their proper alignment. Brackets with attached wires are bonded to the teeth and tightened over time to align the teeth. Braces are usually adjusted monthly to bring about the desired results, which may be achieved within a few months to a few years.

  • Bridges

    A fixed appliance made to replace one or more missing teeth. Bridges can be supported by natural teeth, implants or a combination of teeth and implants.

  • Brushing

    Brushing twice a day for at least two minutes helps to remove food particles and plaque that can damage teeth and gums over time.

  • Bruxism

    The grinding or clenching of teeth, sometimes during sleep. Many believe this grinding is caused by stress or anxiety, but it can also occur due to misaligned teeth, disease or medicines.

  • Burning Mouth Syndrome

    A painful oral condition that affects the tongue, gums, lips, inside of the cheeks and roof of the mouth. The cause of primary burning mouth syndrome may be related to problems with taste and sensory nerves and the cause of secondary burning mouth syndrome could be related to nutritional deficiency, dry mouth, allergies to foods or flavouring and certain medications.

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  • Calcium

    Calcium, like vitamin D and other vitamins and minerals, is essential to good oral health and body health. Calcium can be found naturally in dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, and can be taken as a supplement to prevent osteoporosis.

  • Canines

    Sometimes called cuspids, these teeth at the front of the mouth have a pointed tip and are used for tearing food.

  • Cap

    A cap is a tooth-shaped cover placed over a tooth that is badly damaged or decayed. A cap is made to look like the tooth. Many people call it a crown.

  • Cast Gold

    A gold alloy used to replace or fill teeth.

  • Cavities

    Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that break down sugar into acid. Early decay can be prevented with fluoride. Once decay becomes more extensive and a cavity forms, a filling will be needed to restore the tooth.

  • Cavity Prevention

    Regular and thorough toothbrushing with a fluoride toothpaste will decrease plaque buildup on the surface of your teeth and provide fluoride to strengthen the teeth. Foods and carbohydrates that are high in sugar content increase the risk of developing cavities because the plaque bacteria will use them as food to produce acids that can dissolve tooth enamel and dentine (tooth tissue).

  • Ceramics

    Porcelain, most commonly used for inlays/onlays and crowns. Ceramics are tooth-colored, aeshetically pleasing restorative materials.

  • Cleaning

    Check-ups almost always include a complete cleaning from a dental practitioner. Using special instruments, a dental practitioner will remove deposits from around and below the gumline, removing built-up plaque and tartar that can cause gum disease, cavities, bad breath and other problems. The dental practitioner may also polish and floss your teeth.

  • Cleft Palate

    This occurs when structures of the palate have not properly closed, leaving an opening in the roof of the mouth. The cause of clefts is not fully understood but may be related to genetic inheritance from one or both parents or environmental issues during pregnancy, such as smoking, alcohol or drug use, consumption of prescription medications, virus exposure or nutritional deficiency.

  • Cold Sore

    Cold sores a are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). This virus is passed from person to person by saliva (either directly or by drinking from the same glass or cup) or by skin contact. Cold sores usually appear as clusters of tiny blisters on the lip.

  • Composite Resin

    A mixture of plastic and fine glass particles used for fillings. This filling type is midrange in price, tooth-colored and fairly strong.

  • Connective Tissue Graft

    A connective tissue graft is recommended by the dentist when a person has gum recession (gums are lower on the tooth surface) and the right conditions to support a graft of this kind. The graft tissue is removed from the roof of the mouth and then placed onto the tooth or teeth that have gum recession and then stitched into place. This procedure is usually performed by a periodontist, a dental specialist who treats the gums and underlying bone of the teeth in the mouth.

  • Cosmetic Dentistry

    This form of dentistry improves the appearance of teeth. This includes procedures like whitening, tooth coloured restorations and orthodontics.

  • Cracked Tooth Syndrome

    Cracks that are too small to show up on X-rays. Sometimes the cracks are under the gum. The tooth may hurt sometimes when biting or chewing.

  • Crowns

    A crown is a tooth-shaped cover placed over a tooth that is badly damaged or decayed. A crown is made to look like the tooth. Many people call it a cap. A crown is also the name for the enamel covered portion of a tooth.

  • Cuspids

    These teeth near the front of the mouth are shaped like points (cusps) and are used for tearing food. They are also called canines.

  • Cyst

    A cyst is a thin, fluid-filled sac that can appear on the gum tissue, roof of the mouth, lips or around the root of a tooth. A cyst may go away on its own or may have to be evaluated by a dentist or specialist to determine if it should be removed by surgery.

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  • Dental Composites

    A synthetic resin used to restore teeth, these composites may include a mixture of plastic and glass fiber and adhere to teeth.

  • Dental Implant

    Dental implants are metal posts that are surgically positioned into the jawbone beneath the gums. Once in place, they allow the dentist to mount replacement teeth onto them.

  • Dental Sealants

    Dental sealants are plastic coatings that are usually placed on the chewing (occlusal) surfaces of the permanent back teeth - the molars and premolars - to help protect them from decay.

  • Dentine

    The porous layer of the tooth that protects the nerve. When this layer is exposed , tooth sensitivity may result.

  • Denture Adhesives

    Denture adhesives are used to secure the denture into place in the mouth to prevent it from slipping or moving. A variety of denture adhesives are available as pastes (cream/gel form), powders or wafers. Adhesives are not ususally necessary for most denture wearers. Talk to your dentist to determine if denture adhesives are right for you.

  • Dentures

    Replacements for missing teeth that can be taken out and put back into the mouth. Available in full or partial sets, today's dentures look natural and feel comfortable.

  • Diabetes

    A disorder that inhibits the body's ability to use blood sugar. Research shows that there is an increased prevalence of gum disease among people with gum disease.

  • Diastema

    A space or gap between two teeth. It appears most often between the two upper front teeth. However, gaps can occur between any two teeth.

  • Distal Cavities

    An area of tooth decay that occurs on the back surface of your tooth away from the middle portion of the tooth surface. These types of cavities often occur on a part of a tooth that faces an adjacent “mesial” tooth surface. The terms “distal” and “mesial” denote the location of a cavity relative to the front of the jaw. “Distal” means toward to the back, and “mesial” means toward the front of the tooth.

  • Dry Mouth

    Dry mouth (xerostomia) is the condition of not having enough saliva to keep the mouth wet. Without enough saliva, tooth decay or other infections can develop in the mouth. You also might not get the nutrients you need if you cannot chew and swallow certain foods.

  • Dry Socket

    Painful exposed bone in the space where an extracted tooth used to reside. This occurs when a blood clot forms in the socket, then breaks down or is dislodged. A dentist should be contacted if you believe you have a dry socket.

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  • Eating Disorders

    These types of disorders can cause serious challenges to a person’s everyday diet (overeating or not eating enough food) and are most common in teenagers and young adults. Anorexia (extreme thinness) and bulimia (frequent occurrences of eating large amounts of food and then regurgitating) are the two most common eating disorders. They can cause serious tooth erosion of the enamel (outside layer of the tooth) and dentine (second layer of the tooth) and dental cavities in the mouth. Frequent vomiting causes stomach acid to cover the teeth and wear the enamel and possibly the dentine away. Additionally, high intake of carbohydrates can lead to tooth decay. Studies report that individuals with these eating disorders may also have poor oral hygiene and gingivitis (inflammation of the gums).

  • Enamel

    Tooth enamel is the hardest and most highly mineralised substance of the body, and is one of the four major tissues that make up the tooth. It is the normally visible dental tissue of a tooth and is supported by the underlying dentine.

  • Endodontics

    The branch of dentistry that deals with diseases of the tooth's pulp. A dentist specialising in endodontics performs surgeries such as root canal treatment.

  • Erosion

    Wearing away of the enamel due to a chemical acid process. This acid could be gastric or from diet.

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  • Facial Cavities

    Facial cavities are areas of tooth decay that occur on tooth surfaces that face the cheeks and/or lips in your mouth.

  • Fever Blister

    Fever blisters and cold sores and are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).

  • Fillings

    A way to restore a tooth damaged by decay back to its normal function and shape. When a dentist gives you a filling, he or she first removes the decayed tooth tissue, cleans the affected area, and then fills the cleaned out cavity with a filling material.

  • Flavonoids

    Flavonoids are antioxidants that help to slow the progression of oxidation and protect the cell membrane from free radicals that promote cancer and can damage cells. Flavonoids also have anti-inflammatory benefits.

  • Flossing

    Using a special thread-like material to remove plaque and food particles in places where a toothbrush cannot easily reach — under the gumline and between your teeth. Because plaque buildup can lead to tooth decay and gum disease, daily flossing is highly recommended.

  • Fluoride

    A natural mineral found in water and Earth's crust. Helps prevent cavities by hardening the enamel.

  • Fluorosis

    White or brown spots on the enamel caused by consuming too much fluoride while teeth are forming. Fluorosis does not develop after teeth have erupted and is a purely cosmetic condition.

  • Folic Acid

    Folic acid is a water-soluble B vitamin usually seen in green leafy vegetables, peas, nuts and fruits. It is a necessary vitamin to help in the formation of healthy cells in the body.

  • Fractures

    Tooth fractures can involve the tooth (enamel and dentine are affected) or the root of the tooth. In a tooth fracture, a composite filling or a crown may be needed to resolve the problem. Less serious fractures are small cracks in the enamel and may not result in pain or sensitivity, but they may become larger over time. In the case of a root fracture, the pulp may be affected and the tooth may need to be extracted. See a dentist immediately for an oral evaluation.

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  • GORD

    GORD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a chronic digestive disease that can erode the teeth and irritate the lining of the oesophagus. Many people refer to it as acid reflux. During acid reflux episodes, small amounts of stomach acid travel into your mouth and can damage the enamel (outer layer of the tooth) as well as the dentine (layer of tooth under the enamel).

  • Gingival Hyperplasia

    Gingival hyperplasia is a condition in which the gum tissue may become overgrown in the mouth. It is usually caused by medication. People who have a history of seizures and are taking certain medication(s) may have the side effect of gingival hyperplasia.

  • Gingivitis

    Inflamed gum tissue caused by bacteria in dental plaque. Mild gingivitis causes little or no pain. You might not notice it. If left unchecked, however, it can become severe. In some people, gingivitis develops into periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss.

  • Gingivoplasty

    Gingivoplasty is a surgical procedure conducted by a periodontist to reconture the gum tissue to normal size and function. It is usually recommended for people who have teeth that are too small or too wide or who have a “gummy smile.” This type of gum surgery is used to reshape gum tissue around the teeth to make them look better from an aesthetic perspective.

  • Gum Disease

    An inflammation of the gum tissue that can extend to the supporting bone of the tooth. Plaque bacteria and host response to this bacteria contribute to the development of gum disease.

  • Gum Recession

    Gum recession occurs for many reasons. It may result from periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease when supporting bone is lost. The gum tissue pulls away from the teeth and may expose the roots below. This often leads to increased tooth sensitivity. Gum recession can also be caused by brushing the gum tissue too hard.

  • Gumline

    Where the tooth and the gums meet. Without proper brushing and flossing, plaque and tartar can build up at the gumline, leading to gum disease.

  • Gums

    Gums are the soft tissue that surround the teeth and cover the upper and lower jaw bones in the mouth. When healthy, the gum tissue is usually pink. When inflammation occurs, the tissue may become red and inflamed and bleed.

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  • Halitosis

    The professional term for bad breath. Can be caused by poor dental hygiene, infection, diet, dry mouth or illness.

  • Hormone Levels

    Changes in hormone levels can cause oral health issues of the gum tissue when plaque biofilm is present in the mouth. During menstruation, pregnancy and menopause, oral health will be affected by hormonal fluctuation. To lower your risk of gum disease and other complications during these instances, practise good oral hygiene (toothbrushing and flossing) and schedule regular dental visits to ensure your teeth and gums are healthy.

  • Hygienist

    A licensed dental professional, trained to clean teeth, take x-rays and perform other services.

  • Hyperglycemia

    Hyperglycemia is known as high blood sugar and occurs when the body has too little insulin or is unable to use it properly. The symptoms of hyperglycemia are high blood glucose levels, high levels of sugar in the urine, frequent urination, dry mouth and an increase in thirst. It is important to see your physician to have a complete blood workup to assist in diagnosis and determining treatment. Hyperglycemia also affects the oral cavity by causing an increase in the risk of infections.

  • Hypersensitivity

    Painful tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet and acidic foods and drinks. Typically caused by exposed root areas of the tooth.

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  • Impacted Tooth

    Teeth that fail to emerge through the gums, or emerge only partially. This usually occurs with wisdom teeth between 17 and 21 years old.

  • Impacted Wisdom Tooth

    An impacted wisdom tooth (third molar) occurs when there is not enough room for the tooth to erupt in the mouth. Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt in adults aged 17-21. An impacted wisdom tooth can lead to complications — more specifically, pain and damage to the surrounding teeth — if left untreated.

  • Impression

    A mould of the teeth typically used to create orthodontic appliances, crowns, veneers, mouthguards, etc. Your dental practitioner uses a soft material that sets into a gel to make a copy of the teeth, which is sent to the dental technician.

  • Incisors

    The sharp, chisel-shaped front teeth (four upper, four lower) used for cutting food.

  • Infant Sore Gums

    Babies suffer from sore gums during the teething process that begins at about 6 months of age. The signs of teething include drooling, irritability, and sore and tender gums. You can ease the pain and discomfort by massaging your baby’s gums gently with a moistened gauze pad or a damp washcloth. The baby can gnaw on a chilled rubber teething ring for relief.

  • Invisalign Braces

    Invisalign appliances are a new, innovative way to straighten teeth without the silver brackets and bands. They are clear aligner trays that are worn in the mouth. These aligners are placed over the teeth and can be worn during the day and night. They correct orthodontic problems by moving the teeth into correct alignment.

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  • Laser Gum Surgery

    Dental lasers are used for a variety of gum disease treatments. Patients can have their gum tissue treated without incisions, stitches or traditional gum surgery. Lasers can help to reduce pocket depth, can lengthen a tooth or crown and help to reshape the gum tissue.

  • Lingual Cavities

    Tooth decay that occurs on the inside surface of the tooth, facing the tongue.

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  • Mandible

    The medical term for the lower jaw that connects to the temporal bone just below the ear.

  • Menopause

    Menopause is a normal condition that occurs in women around the age of 50. Menopause affects the body in a number of ways, including the mouth. Menopausal women may experience an alteration in taste, burning sensation and decreased saliva flow . Menopausal women may develop osteoporosis (loss of bone density) and the relationship between bone loss and a woman's risk for periodontal disease is being studied.

  • Mesial Cavities

    Mesial cavities are tooth decay forming on the surface of teeth closest to the middle of the front of the jaw. These types of cavities often occur on a part of a tooth that faces an adjacent distal tooth surface.

  • Molars

    Rear teeth used for grinding. These teeth have several cusps on the biting surface.

  • Mouth-Body Connection

    The idea that what goes on in the mouth can affect the health of the body. An immune system weakened by disease can affect the health of the mouth, for example.

  • Mouth Guards

    An appliance placed around the teeth like a tray to protect the teeth, jaw, lips and tongue. It may also reduce the rate and severity of concussions.

  • Mouthwash

    There are many types of over-the-counter and prescription mouthwashes available on the market. These types of mouthwashes may contain fluoride to fight tooth decay, antibacterial ingredients to fight plaque and gingivitis, and other ingredients that can reduce tartar formation or whiten the teeth.

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  • Nerve

    An element of the tooth pulp that senses pain. The nerve fibers are in the centre of the tooth.

  • Night Guard

    A plastic appliance used at night to prevent tooth grinding. A dentist can custom-make a guard if you experience grinding problems.

  • Nitrous Oxide

    Nitrous oxide is a colourless, sweet-smelling anaesthetic gas that is inhaled in combination with oxygen to help relax anxious dental patients. Nitrous oxide is referred to as conscious sedation. Dental patients may experience a tingling in the arms or legs but will feel calm and relaxed during a dental procedure. Patients will not go to sleep, but will be able to hear and respond to any dental professional requests or questions during their dental procedure.

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  • Oestrogen levels

    Changes in hormone levels can cause oral health problems for women. During puberty, gums can become more easily inflamed. During menstruation, some of the same symptoms can occur in addition to the development of ulcers. During pregnancy, the increased level of progesterone can cause pregnancy gingivitis. Finally, during menopause, women may experience an alteration in taste, burning sensation and decreased saliva flow.

  • Oestrogen Replacement

    Research shows that after menopause, women are affected by a decrease in oestrogen in their bodies, making them susceptible to osteoporosis. Research suggests a link between osteoporosis and loss of bone in the jaw. Women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to experience tooth loss than women who do not have osteoporosis.

  • Oral Bacteria

    The human mouth contains many different types of oral bacteria, both good and bad organisms. Some bacteria in the mouth perform important functions that help keep your mouth healthy. Unfortunately, some bacteria can also damage teeth and gums. Two strains of bacteria found in the mouth are particularly destructive: streptococcus mutans and lactobacilli. When these and other types of bacteria are allowed to flourish, they produce acid that causes tooth decay. Other oral bacteria involved in periodontal disease are aggregati bacter actinomycetemcomitans, prophyromonas gingivalis, and bacteriodes forsythus. It is very important to brush and floss teeth daily to prevent damage to teeth and gum tissue caused by oral bacteria that grow in the mouth.

  • Oral Cancer

    A form of cancer usually found on the inside of the mouth. This cancer is characterised by red or white patches on oral soft tissues, ulcers or sores that will not heal and sometimes bleed.

  • Oral Hygiene

    Daily oral care for the health of the mouth and teeth. Good oral hygiene includes brushing, flossing, eating healthy foods and regular trips to the dentist.

  • Oral Piercing

    A form of self-expression characterised by the piercing of tongue, lips or cheeks with jewellery. These piercings carry risks beyond normal ear piercing. These piercings can fracture the tooth structure and cause the gums to recede. Infections can occur after the initial piercing and cause swelling, bleeding and pain. Piercings also encourage the buildup of plaque bacteria, leading to gingivitis.

  • Orthodontics

    Orthodontics is a specialty field of dentistry that diagnoses and treats irregularities of the teeth and face, including the position of teeth and jaws. Orthodontic care involves the use of appliances.

  • Orthodontist

    A dentist specialising in the field of orthodontics who treats irregularities in the teeth and face. An orthodontist will diagnose and create appliances for the teeth to correct these irregularities.

  • Overbite

    A condition, sometimes called "buck teeth," in which the upper front teeth lie too far forward (stick out) over the lower teeth. This can be corrected by an orthodontist.

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  • Partial Dentures

    Partial dentures are worn by people who have lost one or more teeth. The replacement teeth are attached to a metal framework covered by a plastic pink base colored to look like the gum tissue. Partial dentures usually attach to existing natural teeth with metal clasps.

  • Pericoronitis

    Pericoronitis is inflammation and swelling of gum tissue around erupting wisdom teeth causing pain. It is important to rinse the teeth with warm salty water, and an antibiotic may be recommended for this condition.

  • Periodontal Disease

    Ranges from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth.

  • Periodontal tissues

    The soft and hard tissues that surround and support the teeth in the jawbone. They include the gums (gingiva) that cover the bone of the jaw and support the tooth structure inside the alveolar bone, the periodontal ligament (fibers that keep the teeth attached to the jaw), and the bone (alveolar) in which the teeth are placed, nourished and protected.

  • Periodontitis

    A serious condition characterised by inflamed gums and loss of support for the tooth. Periodontitis destroys periodontal ligament and bone. This disease could eventually lead to tooth loss.

  • Piercings

    Tongue, lip and mouth piercings can cause a number of oral health problems. These piercings can fracture the tooth structure and cause the gums to recede. Infections can occur after the initial piercing and cause swelling, bleeding and pain. Piercings also encourage the buildup of plaque bacteria, leading to gingivitis.

  • Pit and Fissure Cavities

    Pit and fissure cavities are tooth decay that form in the narrow grooves, pits and fissures of the premolar and molar teeth on the biting surfaces. Because of the way these teeth are shaped, it is often difficult to clean their narrow grooves thoroughly, and bacteria often collect in these areas. Thorough toothbrushing should be conducted carefully to remove food debris and bacterial plaque formation.

  • Plaque

    Invisible masses of bacteria that live in the mouth and stick to the teeth. Plaque can lead to cavities, gum disease and destroy gum tissue and teeth.

  • Pocket Depth

    Dental professionals define “pocket depth” as the crevice or space between the gums and teeth. Normal healthy gums usually have a pocket depth of 1 to 3 millimeters as measured by a dental professional using a periodontal probe. Gum tissue that is inflamed or swollen may be 4 millimeters and if bone has been lost , pockets can measure 5 millimeters or more

  • Porcelain

    A filling material that can be matched to the colour of the tooth and resists staining.

  • Porcelain Crown

    A tooth-shaped cover placed over a tooth that is badly damaged or decayed. Porcelain crowns are made, before placement, in a laboratory and matched to the appearance of teeth.

  • Premolars

    Also referred to as bicuspids, these teeth have two points and are used for crushing and tearing. Premolars are located directly ahead of the molars.

  • Pulp

    The soft tissue in the center of all teeth, where the nerve tissue and blood vessels are. If tooth decay reaches the pulp, you usually feel pain.

  • Pulpitis

    Pulpitis is inflammation or infection of the pulp (nerve), which is the inner structure of the tooth containing the nerves and blood vessels. Pulpitis can range from mild to severe.

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  • Remineralization

    Regaining the minerals lost from the enamel crystals through the enamel surfaces. These minerals are lost through bacteria feeding on sugars in the mouth and creating acids. Fluoride assists the remineralisation process.

  • Retainer

    A removable appliance worn to maintain the position of teeth after treatment is completed and braces are removed. Once the bite has been corrected, bone and gums need more time to stabilise around the teeth.

  • Root

    The part of the tooth that is embedded in bone. The root makes up about two-thirds of the tooth and holds the tooth in place.

  • Root Canal Treatment

    A treatment to remove damaged or diseased tooth pulp from the pulp chamber and root canal. Once removed, the remaining space is cleaned and the tooth is sealed off.

  • Root Planing

    Smoothing the tooth's root surfaces to make it more difficult for plaque to accumulate. This typically follows scaling to treat periodontal disease.

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  • Saliva

    Also called spit, this substance helps in digestion, protects teeth and prevents infection. Saliva also makes it possible to chew and swallow food.

  • Scaling

    A technique for removing plaque, biofilm and tartar from teeth and below the gumline. This can help reverse the effects of gum disease.

  • Sealants

    Plastic coatings that are placed on the chewing (occlusal) surface of the back teeth — the molars and premolars — to help protect them from decay.

  • Sjogren’s Syndrome

    Sjogren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which the white blood cells attack the moisture-producing glands in the body. It is most often seen in women and causes dry eyes, dry mouth and swollen salivary glands, and people can suffer from joint pain, swelling and stiffness as well.

  • Smokeless Tobacco

    The two main types of smokeless tobacco are chewing tobacco (loose leaf, plug or twist) and snuff (finely ground tobacco that can be dry, moist or packaged). Smokeless tobacco can cause leukoplakia, a precancerous lesion of the soft tissue of the mouth. (It looks like a white patch on the inside cheek and cannot be scraped off).

  • Smooth Surface Cavities

    This is tooth decay that appears on smooth flat surfaces of teeth. As bacteria start to demineralise the enamel, white-spot lesions occur and if this continues, a cavity may form.

  • Soft Drinks

    Drinks containing sugar and/or carbonation and acidic products. These include juice drinks and sports drinks. Drinking soft drinks increases the risk of tooth decay and has been linked to obesity. Milk and water are healthy alternatives.

  • Space Maintainers

    An appliance used when a baby tooth is lost too early. This device helps keep room for the permanent tooth to enter.

  • Stomach Acid

    Acid from the stomach may be released and go up through the oesophagus and into the mouth, which is known as acid reflux. Stomach acid can dissolve the enamel of the teeth. People who experience this may suffer from loss of tooth enamel and sensitive teeth.

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  • Tartar

    Plaque that has hardened on the teeth. Tartar can form around and underneath the gumline and damage the teeth and gums.

  • Teething

    The period of time when a baby's primary teeth erupt. During the first few years of life, all 20 teeth will erupt through the gums, which can cause irritability and discomfort.

  • Temporary Crown

    Temporary crowns are made of acrylic or stainless steel and perform the functions of your natural tooth while a permanent crown is being made. Temporary crowns can be made by the dentist and for permanent crowns the dentist will send to a dental laboratory for manufacture.

  • Temporary Filling

    A dentist may occasionally place a temporary filling in place after tooth decay has been removed from a tooth.

  • Temporomandibular Syndrome

    A disorder in which the chewing muscles and joint connecting the upper and lower jaware not working properly. This can cause headaches, clicking sounds, pain and locked jaw. Also known as TMJD.

  • Thrush

    Thrush is a fungal infection that appears as red or white patches that develop in the mouth. Thrush usually occurs on the tongue and inner side of the cheeks, but may spread to the roof of the mouth, gums, tonsils or even the back of the throat. Symptoms include white lesions that resemble cottage cheese, loss of taste, bleeding if the lesion is scraped or rubbed, and pain and cracking at the corners of the mouth.

  • Thumb-sucking

    Thumb-sucking is a normal habit for toddlers and children. They may suck on their thumbs, fingers and dummies. Thumb-sucking may cause problems in the growth and alignment of the teeth if carried on for too long. Parents should consult with their dental professional to determine steps to wean their child off of thumb-sucking during the ages 2 to 4.


    A disorder in which the joint connecting the upper and lower jaw and the chewing muscles are not working properly. This can cause headaches, clicking sounds, pain and locked jaw.

  • Tongue Cleaning

    While a toothbrush can be used, tongue scrapers are much more effective to literally scrape away plaque, food debris and bacteria from the tongue. Colgate has developed a tongue cleaner on the back of its Colgate® 360°® toothbrush to help the public to clean their tongue effectively and help to provide a whole mouth clean.

  • Tooth Avulsion

    Dental avulsion is the complete displacement of a tooth from its socket in the alveolar bone as a result of trauma. The treatment for permanent (adult) teeth consists of replantation back into the tooth socket, immediately if possible. Primary (baby) teeth should not be replanted due to the risk of damaging the permanent tooth germ.

  • ToothDecay

    Tooth decay, also known as caries, is caused by bacteria that break down sugar into acid. Early decay can be prevented with fluoride. Once decay becomes more extensive and a cavity forms, a filling will be needed to restore the tooth.

  • Tooth Discolouration

    The change in the colour of the teeth resulting from external stains, internal colouring or age-related changes.

  • Tooth Extraction

    The removal of a tooth from the tooth socket. Extractions are performed for a wide variety of reasons, but most commonly to remove teeth which have become unrestorable through tooth decay, periodontal disease or dental trauma.

  • Tooth Mobility

    Tooth mobility is the term for a loose tooth. The most common cause is gum disease which slowly leads to the loss of bony support around teeth. Smoking is a major risk factor for gum disease. Other causes of tooth mobility include trauma, tooth grinding and abscesses. Loose teeth can make chewing food difficult. In some cases, a dental practitioner may determine that the loose tooth needs to be extracted.

  • Tooth Sensitivity

    Tooth sensitivity, also known as dentine hypersensitivity, is a short, sharp tooth pain caused by exposure of the dentine layer of the tooth. The pain occurs when teeth are exposed to hot, cold or sweet food and drinks or cold air.

  • Tooth Whitening

    A process for lightening teeth and removing stains and discolouration.

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  • Ulcers

    Mouth ulcers are swellings, spots or sores on the mouth, lips or tongue. They are very common, occurring in association with many diseases and by many different mechanisms, but usually there is no serious underlying cause. The two most common causes of oral ulceration are local trauma and aphthous ulcers - a condition characterised by recurrent formation of oral ulcers for largely unknown reasons.

  • Underbite

    A condition where the lower teeth are too far forward or the upper teeth are too far back. This can be corrected by an orthodontist.

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  • Veneers

    Thin shells of porcelain bonded to the front of the teeth to improve appearance. These can be used to fix chipped, stained, misaligned, worn-down or abnormally spaced teeth.

  • Vitamins

    Vitamins and minerals are essential for overall health including the teeth. Ask your dental practitioner or health professional about a balanced diet and the need for vitamin supplementation.

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  • Whitening Gels

    Whitening gels are bleaching gels that are applied to the surface of teeth. Gels are available for use in different application methods including pens, strips or for use in mouth trays.

  • Whitening Toothpaste

    Whitening toothpastes contain mild abrasives for stain removal. They may also contain bleaching agents for enhanced whitening. Colgate® Optic White toothpastes are daily anti-cavity fluoride toothpastes that remove stains and whiten teeth with regular use.

  • Wisdom Teeth

    Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the final molars to emerge at the back of the mouth at about 17-21 years of age. Often, there is not enough space in the mouth for the wisdom teeth to fully erupt into the dental arch which may result in localised gum swelling and food impaction. See your dental practitioner for advice about wisdom teeth.

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  • X-ray

    A type of energy that passes through soft tissues and is absorbed by dense tissue. Traditional and digital x-rays are both commonly used by dental professionals to assess the teeth, roots and jaws.

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