Common Dentist Terminology
Dental Terminology Long Beach CA

Dental Glossary

Common Dental Terms Used by Your Long Beach Dentist

We understand that what you and your Long Beach dentist know about dentistry differs. We use dental terms all day, every day. You don’t because you don’t have to! When you come into our state-of-the-art Long Beach dental practice or read one of our dental blogs, some of the terminologies might seem confusing. Therefore, we’ve created this guide to help you understand some common dental terms that your Long Beach cosmetic dentist and their dental team use regularly.

Long Beach Dental Glossary


Abrasion -

Enamel wear caused by factors other than chewing/grinding your teeth, such as biting your nails or chewing on pen caps.

Abscess -

A swollen bump on your gum tissue that is filled with exudate (pus). If the abscess is not drained or treated with antibiotics it will continue to swell and become increasingly painful. An abscess is caused by a bacterial infection in a tooth or the gums.

Abutment -

Used when referencing a dental bridge or implant. The abutment is a support structure that supports a fake tooth (pontic) of a bridge. It is also an attachment that connects a dental implant with its prosthesis (often, a dental crown).

Advanced Periodontitis -

This is the final stage of gum disease in which the bone and fibers that help support your teeth are destroyed. Your teeth may feel looser or may shift, affecting your bite. Tooth removal may be necessary if an aggressive treatment isn't successful.

Air Abrasion -

The process of blasting abrasive air at parts of a tooth that need to be removed. Air abrasion may remove the need for an anesthetic.

Amalgam Filling -

A type of filling material that was the go-to for over 150 years because it was inexpensive and long-lasting. Unfortunately, it’s made of mercury (in addition to copper, tin, and silver), which can be toxic. Most dentists now use composite filling material instead.

Anterior Teeth -

Front teeth – the six upper and six lower front teeth, which are your central and lateral incisors and your canines.

Apicoectomy -

When the traditional form of root canal treatment isn't successful, this surgical procedure works to seal off the root tip.

Attrition -

A process whereby tooth structure is lost due to wear and tear.


Baby Teeth -

Sometimes referred to as primary teeth or deciduous teeth, these are the first set of teeth you are born with.

Bicuspids -

Located in front of the molars and after the cuspids, these teeth have two cusps and help you chew your food. Also known as premolars.


A tissue sample to check for oral diseases like cancer.

Bite -

The position your teeth take when they are clenched together. Sometimes known as an occlusion.

Bitewings -

A type of dental x-ray. These are the x-rays you’ll likely have most frequently. They allow us to see in between both the upper and lower posterior (back) teeth.

Bleeding Gums -

Although it is normal to experience some occasional bleeding after flossing or brushing your teeth, persistent bleeding should be investigated. Frequent bleeding gums may be a sign of inflammation or gingivitis.

Bonding -

A procedure in which composite filling material is placed on the lingual (tongue), buccal (cheek), or labial (lip) surface of the tooth (as opposed to the biting surface). Bonding can fill a cavity left by dental decay or repair a tooth so that it’s aesthetically pleasing. It’s often used to cover stains, minor cracks, abrasion, and erosion.

Bridges -

A removable type of denture that bridges the gap between one or more missing teeth. A bridge is supported by natural teeth or implants.

Bruxism -

Clenching and grinding your teeth. Most often done at night or unconsciously during the day when under stress or feeling anxious.


Calculus -

Also known as tartar, it is what plaque is referred to once it calcifies and hardens. Calculus cannot be removed by a toothbrush or floss – only with professional dental hygiene tools.

Canines -

The third tooth from the center of your mouth that's used to bite food. Also known as a cuspid.

Caries -

Dental decay.

Cavities -

A type of tooth decay that occurs when bacteria create acid from sugar.

Closed Bite -

Sometimes referred to as a deep bite, this occurs when the lower teeth are covered by the upper ones when biting down.

Composite Filling -

Made from a mixture of fine glass and plastic particles to create a strong filling that's the same color as teeth.

Coronal Polishing

After a professional dental cleaning, the dental hygienist or a qualified assistant will polish your teeth using a rubber cup filled with coarse polishing paste.

Cosmetic Dentistry -

The line of dentistry that's dedicated to improving a person's oral health, appearance, and smile.


A type of malocclusion in which the teeth in the upper arch fit inside the lower arch, instead of sitting on top of the lower arch. A single tooth or multiple teeth can fit together in a crossbite.

Crowding -

When there are too many teeth within an area of your mouth. This is treated by an orthodontist.

Crowns -

A dental prosthesis that fits over your natural tooth. Necessary to restore a cracked tooth or one that’s had extensive decay. Also known as a “cap.”

Cuspids -

Also known as canines, these are the teeth used for biting through food and are third from the center.


Decalcification -

Also referred to as demineralization. It is when the tooth loses calcium, weakening it and making it more susceptible to dental decay and damage.

Deciduous Teeth -

Also known as baby teeth, these are the first set of teeth you are born with.

Dental Implant -

Used to create a mount for replacement teeth, a dental implant is a surgically-positioned metal frame or post that's inserted into the jawbone underneath the gum.

Dentin -

The second layer of the tooth. This layer is protected by the incredibly strong enamel because this layer is very porous and therefore, not as strong, and more susceptible to damag

Dentures -

Removable replacements for missing teeth. Designed to be comfortable and look natural, dentures are available in partial or full sets.

Digital X-rays -

An instant tool that requires no waiting or developing of the radiographs. Digital x-rays may also be colorized, magnified, and have their density manipulated to provide more in-depth information to dentists. They also significantly reduce radiation exposure.


Edentulous -

Missing all the teeth on a single arch. A patient is considered fully edentulous if they are missing all their teeth on both arches.

Enamel -

The exterior of the tooth that's hard and white and protects the dentin beneath.

Endodontics -

A subspecialty of dentistry that focuses on the treatment of the root of a tooth. A dentist that specializes in endodontics is referred to as an endodontist.

Endodontist -

A specialist dentist who treats infections, diseases, and injuries of the root tip or pulp of a tooth.

Erosion -

A chemical acid process in which the enamel of the tooth is worn away. This acid may come from your diet or it may be gastric.


Fixed Appliances

A dental prosthesis that is bonded or cemented to the teeth, like dental bridges.

Fluoride -

Found in toothpaste, this natural mineral (derived from water and also the Earth's crust) helps harden enamel and prevent cavities.

Fluorosis -

When the enamel of the tooth becomes discolored, causing brown stains, pitting, or white lines/specks on the teeth. This is harmless but you may wish to undergo a cosmetic treatment for it.


Gingivitis -

The first stage of gum disease, marked by puffy, red gums. Some soreness may occur, as can light bleeding while brushing/flossing.

Gum Disease -

Caused by acids, plaque bacteria, and certain foods, gum disease can lead to inflamed gums and may affect the supporting bone and teeth.

Gum Recession -

When the roots of your teeth are exposed due to your gums receding. Often caused by surgery, periodontal disease, or abrasion.


Halitosis -

Bad breath.

Hygienist -

A professional and licensed person who takes x-rays, cleans teeth, and provides other essential dental care services.


Impacted Tooth -

Teeth that don’t have enough room to fully develop or come into the mouth completely.

Implant -

A replacement for lost teeth or a support for dentures whereby an artificial root is placed into the gum. A denture, bridge, or crown is then placed over the implant to restore your tooth function and smile.

Incisors -

Your four front teeth (on the top and bottom) that are used to bite and slice.


In between the teeth.



Referring to the lips. It can reference the lips themselves or the surface of the tooth that faces/touches the lips.

Laser Gum Surgery -

A whole host of gum diseases can be treated with dental lasers. Gum tissue is restored without the need for surgery, stitches, or incisions.


Referring to the tongue. It can reference the tongue itself or the surface of the tooth that faces/touches the tongue.


Malocclusion -

A poor or misaligned bite.

Mandible -

Your lower jawbone.

Maxilla -

Your upper jawbone.

Molars -

Your teeth at the rear that have several cusps at the top to help grind and chew food.


Nerve -

Found in the center of your tooth and forming part of the tooth pulp, the nerve senses pain.


Occlusal -

The biting surfaces of your teeth.

Occlusion -

Also known as your “bite.” This is how your teeth fit together. Your dentist and orthodontist want you to have or achieve proper occlusion as it protects your teeth, as well as your jaw joints and facial muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Oral Cancer -

Most frequently found inside the mouth, this is a type of cancer that causes sores that won't heal and tend to bleed.

Oral Hygiene -

The daily care required to keep your mouth and teeth healthy. Eating the right foods, flossing regularly, brushing your teeth twice a day, and visiting your dentist all play vital roles in good oral hygiene.

Orthodontics -

The subspecialty of dentistry that focuses on achieving ideal occlusion.

Orthodontist -

A dentist who specializes in irregularities of the teeth and face.

Overbite -

A type of malocclusion in which your top front teeth jut out in front of your lower front teeth. “Bucktooth” is a lay term for moderate to severe overbites.


Palate -

The soft and hard tissue that forms the roof of your mouth.

Periodontal Disease -

Another name for gum disease.

Periodontitis -

If gingivitis is left untreated it becomes periodontitis. It can destroy bone and tissue, causing tender, swollen, and painful gums. It may even lead to tooth loss.

Plaque -

The white/yellow, sticky substance that builds up on your teeth after you eat.

Porcelain Veneers -

Used to treat discolored, chipped, broken, worn, or crooked teeth, or for cosmetic enhancement, porcelain veneers are bonded to your original teeth to restore and enhance their function and appearance.


Your back teeth, including the molars and bicuspids.

Premolars (Bicuspids) -

The four teeth (on the top and bottom) that are in front of your molars. They are used for chewing, not biting.

Prophylaxis (Prophy)

A professional dental cleaning. A hygienist thoroughly cleans plaque and calculus from your teeth and below the gum line to help prevent gum disease.

Pulpitis -

Inflammation of the dental pulp (nerve).



A dental x-ray. Types of radiographs include periapicals (to see the roots of the teeth), bitewings (to see between the teeth), and panoramic x-rays (to see all the teeth and surrounding structures, such as the jawbones and sinuses).

Recession -

A condition typically caused by gum disease in which your gums pull away from your teeth. Left untreated, it can result in bone loss and even tooth loss.


Resurfacing the inside of an ill-fitting, existing denture to make it fit more securely.

Retainer -

After treatment with braces, you'll need to wear a retainer to help maintain the new position of your teeth. Even after your bite is corrected, your gums and bones need more time to stabilize.

Root Canal -

A chamber within the roots of the teeth that houses the pulp/nerve. Root canal treatment is when the nerve is removed, the canals are cleaned, and then they’re filled with a protective material called gutta-percha.


Scaling and Root Planing -

Scaling is the removal of plaque, tartar, and stain from the teeth. It is done at every cleaning appointment.
Scaling and root planing are also referred to as a “deep cleaning.” Once the scaling is completed below the gumline, the hygienist will plane – or smooth – the roots to make it harder for plaque to build up on those surfaces.

Supernumerary Teeth -

Extra teeth. When you are born with either over 32 teeth or you have more than the normal number of a certain type of tooth (incisor, canine, bicuspid, etc.).


Tartar -

When plaque hardens on the tooth or underneath the gum line, it forms tartar. If left untreated, it may cause damage to the gums and teeth.

Temporary Crown -

While a permanent crown is made for you, a temporary one made of stainless steel or acrylic may be put in its place.

Temporary Filling -

After decay is removed from your tooth, a temporary filling is used. These are often made of gold, amalgam, or composite resin.

Temporomandibular Joint

The joint that connects your lower jawbone (maxilla) to your skull. The joint acts like a hinge, allowing your lower jaw to move forward and back, as well as side to side.

Tooth Decay -

Where the tooth enamel is eroded by acid, resulting in demineralization. If left untreated, it may work its way toward the pulp of the tooth.

Tooth Sensitivity -

When your teeth become sensitive to pain, often due to dentin being exposed by periodontal disease or receding gums.

Tooth Whitening -

Helps to remove discoloration and stains, lightening the teeth back to their original color. This is an ongoing process that requires regular maintenance to keep the teeth white.


Underbite -

A type of malocclusion in which the lower front teeth extend beyond the upper front teeth.

Unerupted Tooth -

A tooth that hasn't moved into the correct position and remains concealed within your gum.


Veneers -

Used to improve the appearance of abnormally-spaced, misaligned, worn-down, stained, or chipped teeth, veneers are thin shells that cover the original tooth. They are made of porcelain and are bonded to the teeth.


Wisdom Teeth -

The third molars. They are the last teeth to erupt (come into the mouth), typically between the ages of 17 and 25. Most people have four wisdom teeth – two on the upper and two on the lower. However, some people don’t develop all (or any) of their wisdom teeth.


X-Ray/Dental X-Ray -

An image of your teeth that allows your dentist to see what they can’t see when they do an oral evaluation, including inside the bone, under the gums, inside the teeth, and in between them.

We’re Here To Answer All Your Dental Questions

Do you have questions about your dental treatment or the information you’ve read in one of our blogs? We’re here to help! Contact our team today at (562) 373-0026.