Dental Terminology El Segundo CA

Dental Glossary

Your El Segundo Dentist’s Guide to Dental Terminology

Does some of the dental terminology used in dentistry or dental resources (like dental blogs) confuse you? You’re not alone. Most of our patients don’t know dental terminology because they didn’t go to dental school.

But we feel that patient education is essential, so that you can understand your dental needs and treatment plan and why we recommend specific services. If you ever have any questions about dental terminology, we encourage you to ask us.

We’ve additionally provided this glossary to help make certain dental terms easier to understand!

El Segundo Modern Dentistry & Orthodontics Glossary


Abrasion -

Enamel wear that is caused by things like biting your nails or using your teeth as tools. Chewing and grinding do not contribute to abrasion.

Abscess -

An infection. You’ll notice a bump on your gum tissue, typically filled with pus. The only way to heal an abscess is with antibiotics and for your El Segundo dentist to treat the cause of the infection (most often, the causes are gum disease or dental decay).

Abutment -

An abutment is the connector piece that supports a fake tooth that is replacing a missing tooth.

Air Abrasion -

Tool that uses high-velocity air particles and an abrasive substance to remove stains or damaged tooth structure.

Amalgam Filling -

Also known as silver filling material. Amalgam is inexpensive and long-lasting but contains mercury, which can be toxic. Most dentists now treat dental decay with composite filling material instead of amalgam.


Bitewings -

Dental x-rays that allow your El Segundo dentist to see in between the upper and lower posterior (back) teeth.

Bonding -

A cosmetic procedure that utilizes composite filling material. Bonding is used to cover stubborn or intrinsic stains and repair minor enamel cracks or damage caused by erosion or abrasion.

Bruxism -

Clenching and grinding your teeth – often done at night or during periods of stress.


Calculus -

Calcified plaque, also known as tartar. Only a dental professional can thoroughly remove calculus.

Canines -

Also known as a cuspid. The “cornerstone” tooth that separates the two incisors from the posterior teeth (molars and premolars/bicuspids) in each quadrant of the mouth.

Caries -

Dental decay. Also known as a “cavity.”

Crossbite -

A type of malocclusion. A single tooth can fit in a crossbite, as can multiple teeth. The upper teeth fit inside the lower arch instead of on top of the lower teeth.

Crown -

A restorative prosthesis that fits over a natural tooth. A crown restores teeth that are cracked, extensively decayed, or fractured. Also known as a “cap.”


Decalcification -

When the teeth lose calcium (demineralization). Mineral loss weakens the tooth, making it more susceptible to dental decay, cracking, and fracture.


Endodontics -

A specialty of dentistry with a focus on treating the root of the tooth. Root canal treatment is a procedure that falls under the category of endodontics.

Edentulous -

An edentulous patient is one that is missing all their teeth. They need full/complete dentures to restore their teeth.


Fixed Appliances -

A restorative dental prosthesis that is either bonded or cemented in place. A dental bridge is a fixed appliance.


Gingivitis -

The first stage of periodontal (gum) disease. Gingivitis is marked by red, puffy gums and light bleeding during brushing or flossing.

Gum Disease -

Also called periodontal disease. The leading cause of tooth loss. It’s an infection of the gums caused by acids, plaque, and bacteria. Gum disease leads to inflamed gums, gum infections, and gum and bone recession. Having gum disease can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Some people have a predisposition to gum disease due to genetics.


Halitosis -

Bad breath.


Impacted Tooth -

A tooth that is stuck in the gums or bone. Sometimes caused by not having enough room along the jawbone or in the mouth to erupt fully.

Incisors -

The four front teeth (four on the top, four on the bottom). They are used to bite and slice into food.

Interproximal -

In between the teeth.


Labial -

Labial = lips. It can reference the lips themselves, or the tooth surfaces that face/touch the lips.

Lingual -

Lingual = tongue. It can reference the tongue itself or the tooth surfaces that face/touch the tongue.


Malocclusion -

A poor bite.

Mandible/Maxilla -

Mandible: Your lower jawbone.

Maxilla: Your upper jawbone.


Occlusal -

The biting surfaces of your teeth.

Occlusion -

How your upper and lower teeth fit together. Also known as your “bite.” Proper occlusion ensures you can chew food thoroughly. Malocclusion, or misalignment of the teeth, can lead to pain and degeneration of the jaw joints and teeth.

Oral Cancer -

Cancer that develops in the mouth, including the lips, vestibules, floor or roof of mouth, throat, cheeks, and gums.

Overbite -

A type of malocclusion that’s also referred to as “buck teeth.” Your top front teeth jut out in front of your lower front teeth more than they should.


Periodontal Disease -

Gum disease.

Plaque -

The sticky substance that builds up on the teeth after eating or during the night.

Premolars (Bicuspids) -

The four teeth (four on top and four on bottom) in front of the molars that are used to help grind down whatever you eat.

Prophylaxis (Prophy) -

A cleaning by an El Segundo dentist or hygienist. The dental professional cleans the plaque and calculus from the teeth and gums. Regular prophylaxis cleanings can help reduce your risk of gum disease.

Pulpitis -

Inflammation of the pulp (nerve) of the tooth.


Recession -

A condition in which the gum tissue pulls away from the teeth. Also referred to as being “long in the tooth.” Recession is most often caused by gum disease, though it can also be caused by smoking and aggressive brushing.

Root Canal -

The chamber within the root of a tooth that holds the pulp (nerve) of the tooth. Root canal treatment is needed when the nerve is infected or traumatized.


Scaling and Root Planing -

Also referred to as a “deep cleaning.” It is used to fight periodontal disease. Scaling is done to remove plaque, tartar, and stains off the teeth and below the gumline. Root planing is the smoothing of the root surfaces, making it harder for plaque and tartar to build up and easier for the gum tissue to heal.

Supernumerary Teeth -

Extra teeth. Typically, people have eight incisors, four cuspids, eight bicuspids, and eight to 12 molars (depending on whether they get their wisdom teeth). The total is 28-32 teeth. Some people develop more teeth than average.


Temporomandibular Joint -

The joints that connect the lower jawbone to the skull. The joint is like a hinge that allows your lower jaw to move so you can easily speak and chew.


Underbite -

A type of malocclusion. The lower jaw protrudes so that the lower front teeth extend beyond the uppers.


Veneers -

A cosmetic procedure to make the teeth appear whiter and straighter and improve the appearance of misshapen teeth. During the veneers procedure, your El Segundo dentist removes some enamel from one or more front teeth. Then, a thin shell of porcelain is placed onto the tooth.


Wisdom Teeth -

The third molars that come in between ages 17 and 25. Many patients choose to have their wisdom teeth removed to avoid oral health complications.


X-Ray/Dental X-Ray -

An image of your teeth (or another part of your mouth) that helps your dentist see the bone, as well as in between and inside the teeth.

We’re Always Happy to Answer Your Dental Questions

Do you have questions about your treatment plan or some of the information in one of our blogs? We’re here to help! Contact our team today at 424-277-2671.