Glossary - Dental and Oral Health

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Anterior - the front side.

Asymmetry - lacking symmetry; parts of the body are unequal in shape or size.


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Bilateral - affecting both sides.

Bruxism - the condition of incessant grinding and clenching of the teeth, unintentionally, and at inappropriate times.


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Cleft lip - an abnormality in which the lip does not completely form. The degree of the cleft lip can vary greatly, from mild (notching of the lip) to severe (large opening from the lip up through the nose).

Cleft palate - occurs when the roof of the mouth does not completely close, leaving an opening that can extend into the nasal cavity. The cleft may involve either side of the palate. It can extend from the front of the mouth (hard palate) to the throat (soft palate). The cleft may also include the lip.

Composite resins - white fillings, a composite resin is a tooth-colored plastic mixture filled with glass (silicon dioxide) that is used primarily for cosmetic improvements of the smile by changing the color of the teeth or reshaping disfigured teeth.

Condyle - the joint portion of the lower jaw.

Congenital - present at birth.

Congenital anomaly - a health problem present at birth (not necessarily genetic).

Craniofacial - pertaining to the head (skull) and face.

Crossbite - an abnormal bite relation of one or more teeth, in which the tooth (teeth) in one arch (upper or lower) has a more buccal (closer to the cheek) or lingual (closer to the tongue) position than the opposing tooth in the other arch.

Crown - a "cap" that covers a cracked or broken tooth, unfixed by a filling, to approximate its normal size and shape.


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DDS - Doctor of Dental Surgery.

Deciduous teeth - the primary teeth (baby teeth) which are replaced by the permanent teeth.

Dental amalgams - also known as silver fillings, dental amalgams are comprised of a mixture of mercury (45 to 50 percent) and an alloy of silver, tin, and copper (50 to 55 percent).

Dental arch - the horseshoe-shaped sections of the jaws that contain the teeth.

Dental fluorosis - a condition that results from drinking overly fluoridated water that often causes the teeth to become discolored and the enamel of the teeth to look spotted, pitted, or stained.

Dental implants - small dental appliances that are inserted into the upper and lower jaws to replace individual missing teeth to support a denture.

Dental pulp - the soft tissue inside the tooth that contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue.

Dental sealant - a thin, plastic film that is painted on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth - the molars and premolars - to prevent tooth decay.

DMD - Doctor of Dental Medicine.


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Endodontist - also called a pulp specialist, a endodontist has undergone specialized training in performing root canal therapy.

Eruption - when a tooth emerges from the gums.


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Fluoride - a mineral that can be found in water and toothpaste that can help prevent tooth decay.


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Genioplasty - surgery of the chin, whereby its shape or size is altered.


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Halitosis - an oral health condition characterized by consistently odorous breath.

Hard palate - the roof of the mouth.

Hemifacial microsomia (also called Goldenhar syndrome, brachial arch syndrome, facio-auriculo-vertebral syndrome, oculo-auriculo-vertebral spectrum, or lateral facial dysplasia) - a condition in which the tissues on one side of the face are underdeveloped, affecting primarily the ear (aural), mouth (oral), and jaw (mandibular) areas. Sometimes, both sides of the face can be affected and may involve the skull, as well as the face.


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Malocclusion - an orthodontic or orthognathic problem that means "bad bite," including crowded, missing, or crooked teeth, extra teeth, or a misaligned jaw.

Mandible - the lower jaw.

Maxilla - the upper jaw.

Microgenia - a small or underdeveloped chin.

Microglossia - smallness of the tongue.

Micrognathia - abnormal smallness of the lower jaw.


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Occlusion - any contact between the biting and chewing surfaces.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeon - orthopedic facial surgeon who is responsible for treating a wide variety of dental problems - including the removal of impacted teeth  and reconstructive facial surgery (orthognathic surgery).

Oral cavity - relating to the mouth cavity.

Oropharynx - the part of the throat at the back of the mouth.

Orthodontics - the dental specialty that focuses on the development, prevention, and correction of irregularities of the teeth, bite, and jaws.

Orthodontist - a dentist who evaluates the position and alignment of your child's teeth and coordinates a treatment plan with the surgeon and other specialists.

Ostectomy - surgical sectioning of the bone to remove it or reposition it.

Overbite - the up and down (vertical) overlapping of the lower teeth by the upper teeth.


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Pediatric dentist - a dentist who specializes in the oral healthcare of children, from infancy through the teenage years.

Periodontal diseases (also called gum diseases) - serious bacterial infections that destroy the gums and the surrounding tissues of the mouth.

Periodontist - a specialist in the field of dentistry responsible for the care and prevention of gum-related diseases, guided bone regeneration, and dental implants.

Plaque - a thin, sticky film of bacteria.

Plastic/craniofacial surgeon - a surgeon with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of skeletal abnormalities of the skull, facial bones, and soft tissue; will work closely with the orthodontists and other specialists to coordinate a surgical plan.

Porcelain veneers - a ceramic material is bonded to the front of teeth to change the tooth's color, size, and/or shape.

Posterior - referring to the back part of a structure.

Prosthodontist - a dental specialist who has undergone additional training and certification in the restoration and replacement of broken teeth or missing teeth with crowns, bridges, implants, or removable prosthetics (dentures).


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Soft palate - the muscular, movable part of the roof of the mouth.

Speech and language specialist - a professional who will perform a comprehensive speech evaluation to assess your child's communicative abilities and who will closely monitor your child throughout all developmental stages.

Speech disorder - defect or abnormality that prevents an individual from communicating by means of spoken words.


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Temporomandibular joints (TMJ) - the two complex joints that connect the jaw (mandible) to the skull (temporal bone).

Throat disorders - disorders or diseases of the larynx (voice box) or pharynx (extends from behind the nose to the top of the trachea and esophagus).

Tongue - large muscle on the floor of the mouth that manipulates food for chewing and swallowing; the main organ of taste; assists in forming speech sounds.


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Unilateral - affecting only one side.

Uvula - the small, cone-shaped fleshy pendant suspended in the mouth from the middle of the back edge of the soft palate.


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Vocal cords (also called vocal folds) - muscularized folds of mucous membrane that extend from the larynx (voice box) wall; enclosed in elastic vocal ligament and muscle that control the tension and rate of vibration of the cords as air passes through them.

Voice - sound produced by air passing out through the larynx and upper respiratory tract.


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X-ray - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.


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Zygoma - malar bone, cheek bone.