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Glossary of Dental Terms


(From the IDA website)


abscess A local infection resulting in the collection of pus under pressure. A dental abscess may be caused by severe decay, trauma, or gum disease and will be characterised by swelling and pain. If an abscess ruptures, it will be accompanied by sudden relief from pain and a foul taste in the mouth.


The teeth on either side of a missing toothAbutments are the part of the bridge used to support the replacement of the missing teeth (pontics).


Silver filling. Amalgams are usually placed on the back teeth (posterior teeth).


Relieves the sensation of pain.



X-ray that shows the upper and lower teeth's biting surfaces on the same film. This x-ray shows the portion of the teeth above the gumline.


A fixed appliance (prosthesis) that replaces missing teeth. A bridge is a series of crowns (abutments and pontics).


Clenching or grinding of the teeth.



The sticky film on your teeth (plaque) that has hardened (calcified). Also known as tartar.


The narrow chamber inside the root of the tooth that contains the nerve and blood vessels.

Canine Tooth

The third tooth from the centre of the mouth to the back of the mouth. Also known as the 'eye tooth'; These are the front teeth that have one rounded or pointed edge used for biting.

Caries (Dental)

The clinical name for dental decay.

Composite (Resin) Restoration

The technical name for a 'white filling'. Although used primarily at the front of the mouth, these fillings are increasingly being placed in molar teeth because of advances in material technology.


A porcelain, or gold cover for a decayed, damaged, brittle, or discolored tooth that has a strong base and roots.


Surgical scraping of bacteria from the soft tissue.


The high points on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (posterior teeth).


Deciduous Teeth

The baby teeth. Also known as the 'milk teeth'. There are twenty deciduous teeth.


A removable appliance (prosthesis) that replaces all of the missing teeth in either the upper or lower jaw. Usually made of plastic or metal.


Dental Treatment Benefit Scheme also known as the PRSI scheme managed by the Department of Protection. Under this Scheme PRSI payers are entitled to receive one free annual oral examination.


Dental Treatment Services Scheme. The HSE manages this Scheme which offers medical card holders free routine dental care from contracting private dental practitioners.



All the teeth are missing in either the upper and / or lower jaw.


The hard, outer shiny layer of the tooth. Certain conditions including grinding habits, a very acidic diet and brushing too hard can wear the enamel away leading to sensitive teeth.

Extraction (Exodontia)

The removal of teeth that are severely decayed, broken, lose, or causing crowding.


The treatment of diseases or injuries that affect the root tip or nerve of the tooth. The most common procedure is a root canal treatment.


Full Mouth Radiographs

X-rays showing all the teeth. Includes 14 periapicals and 2 or 4 bitewings. Also known as a complete series.


General Anaesthesia

Relieves the sensation of pain on the whole body. General anesthesia renders you unconscious.


The clinical term used to describe the gums.


Inflammation of the gums characterised by redness, bleeding and swelling. In certain instances, the condition may also cause pain (e.g. ANUG).



An unerupted or partially erupted tooth that will not fully erupt because it is obstructed by another tooth, bone, or soft tissue.


A post that is implanted in the jaw bone. A crown, bridge or denture may then be retained by the implant.


The central and lateral incisor, those are the first and second teeth from the centre of the mouth to the back of the mouth. These are the front teeth with the flat edges for biting and cutting.


A laboratory processed restoration made of metal, acrylic, composite or porcelain. This filling does not involve the high points of the tooth (cusps).


Local Anaesthetic

Relieves the sensation of pain in a localized area.



The Lower Jaw.


The Upper Jaw.

Molar Tooth

The first, second and third molars, those are the sixth, seventh and eighth teeth from the centre of the mouth to the back of the mouth. The back teeth with the large chewing surface on top. They have 4 points (cusps).


Night Guard Appliance

A removable acrylic appliance to minimize the effects of grinding the teeth (bruxism) or joint problems (T.M.J.). Usually worn at night to prevent the grinding of teeth or relieve joint pain.



The chewing surfaces of the back tooth.


A laboratory processed restoration made of metal, porcelain or acrylic that replaces one or more of the highest points of the tooth (cusps).

Oral Surgery

Surgery of the mouth.


Orthodontics is one of the specialised fields of dentistry. It is concerned with the growth and development of the dentition and the treatment of irregularities which can occur.



Abbreviation for a Periapical Radiograph (X-ray).


Paedodontics is one of the specialised fields of dentistry. It is the practice of dentistry on children.


Roof of the mouth.


Commonly known as an OPG. An x-ray taken outside of the mouth that shows all the teeth on one film.

Partial Denture

A removable appliance (prosthesis) that replaces some of the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.

Periodontal Charting

Measures the depth that the gums have detached from the side of the tooth forming a pocket (perio pocket).


The treatment of diseases of the gum or bone (supporting structure).

Periodontal Pocketing

The pocket that forms when the gums detach from the side of the tooth.

Permanent Molars

The adult first and second molars, they are the sixth and seventh teeth from the centre of the mouth to the back of the mouth. Does not include the third molar (wisdom tooth).


A sticky, bacteria laden film on the teeth. If it is not removed by brushing it can harden into calculus.


The part of a bridge that replaces the missing tooth or teeth.


The first and second bicuspids, those are the fourth and fifth teeth from the centre of the mouth to the back of the mouth. These are the back teeth that are used for chewing, they only have two points (cusps).


Procedures performed to prevent decay and gum disease.

Primary Teeth

See 'Deciduous Teeth'.


Cleaning the teeth. Also known as a prophy.


A fixed or removable appliance to replace missing teeth. Example: bridges, dentures and partials. Sometimes single crowns are considered prosthetics.


Dealing with the replacement of missing teeth.



One of the four equal sections of the mouth. The upper right, upper left, lower right or the lower left.



Procedures performed to restore the missing part of the teeth.

Root Canal Treatment (RCT)

The nerve of the tooth is removed from the canal inside the root and replaced with a filling material.

Root Planing

Deep cleaning of the teeth to remove calculus below the gumline.


Sealant (Fissure Sealant)

Clear or coloured application of resin placed over the biting surface of the tooth to help prevent decay. Most commonly placed on newly erupted first permanent molar teeth.



Temporo (temporal bone), mandibular (lower jaw). This is the connecting hinge between the lower jaw and base of the skull. Also known as TMJ.

Treatment Plan

A list of procedures and related costs recommended to treat patient's dental needs.



A porcelain facing placed on an anterior tooth. With the recent boom in esthetic dentistry, veneers are commonly being used to improve smiles.


Wisdom Teeth

The third molar, this is the eighth tooth from the centre of mouth to the back of the mouth. Wisdom teeth are often impacted (obstructed from erupting) and have to be extracted.

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