Quick guide to dental terms

Confused by dental jargon? We've got just what you need...

Read on for a quick A-Z of essential dental terms. For further info you can explore our ‘Know your mouth’ section here.

Select a letter below to find out more about the terms


Busting dental jargon

A quick guide to essential dental terms.
A - Air Abrasion and Amalgam Fillings
Air Abrasion
An alternative to the traditional drill, air abrasion works like a sandblaster to wear away tooth decay with compressed air and an abrasive powder.

Amalgam Filling
A durable filling made from a combination of metals, including silver, mercury, and copper.

B - Bridges
A fixed partial denture that is held in place by neighbouring teeth.

C - Caries, Composites and Crowns
Otherwise known as ‘cavities’ or tooth decay, caries is caused by plaque acids that gradually decay the teeth.

Resins used in dentistry for tooth coloured fillings or as adhesives.

A crown completely caps a damaged tooth or implant. This treatment helps to improve the strength of a tooth, but often involves wearing away some of the natural tooth tissue.

E - Endodontics
A branch of dentistry concerned with root canal treatment and providing root fillings.

F - Fissure Sealant
Fissure Sealant
A coating applied to the top (biting) surface of the tooth to help prevent cavities from developing, usually applied to children’s teeth.

G - Gingivitis
Early stage, reversible gum disease caused by a build-up of plaque, which can irritate the gums and cause inflammation.

I - Impacted tooth, Implant, Impression and Inlay
A false tooth and root, often made of titanium.

An imprint of teeth and gums made to assist in making dentures, braces and other dental work.

An indirect filling fitted to a cavity in a tooth and cemented into place.

M - Malocclusion
An uneven bite resulting from the upper or lower jaw being in the wrong position.

O - Occlusion and Onlay
The overall contact between the upper and lower teeth – your bite.

Bigger than an inlay, an onlay will cover the top (biting) surface of the tooth.

P - Pericoronitis, Periodontitis, Periodontology, Pits and Plaque
Swelling and pain caused by food and bacteria collecting under the gum edge of a wisdom tooth that is partially coming through.

A more serious form of gum disease, which can affect the tissue that connects tooth to the tooth socket and the jaw bone itself, and can lead to tooth loss.

A branch of dentistry that studies the supporting structures of the teeth, including gums, bones and ligaments.

Tooth surfaces are not always smooth and can have pits and grooves; these areas are more difficult to clean and therefore may be more prone to cavities.

A colourless, sticky film that forms on the teeth. It’s the main cause of tooth decay and gum disease and can harden into tartar if it’s not removed on a daily basis.

R - Root Canal Treatment
Root Canal Treatment
A dental procedure to treat infection in the dental pulp at the centre of the tooth. Bacteria are removed from the root canal system, the root is filled and the tooth is topped with a filling or crown.

T - Tartar
Plaque that has hardened on the teeth or at the gum line. Tartar needs to be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist.

V - Veneers
Veneers are thin layers of porcelain or a composite material which are made to fit over the front surface of the teeth to improve the colour, shape and position of your teeth.

W - Wisdom teeth
Wisdom Teeth
Additional molars which start to develop at the back of the mouth in adults typically between the ages of 17 and 25.