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Glossary

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A

ABFRACTION

Wear or notching at or below the gum line of a tooth; often sensitive and accompanied by gum recession.

ABSCESS

A localized inflammation due to a collection of pus in the bone or soft tissue usually caused by a bacterial infection.

ABUTMANT

A tooth or implant used to support a prosthesis. A crown unit used as part of a fixed bridge.

ADA

American Dental Association.

ALGINATE IMPRESSION

A quick setting impression material used to make study models and some dental appliances.

ALVEOLAR BONE

The bone surrounding the root of the tooth (tooth sockets), anchoring it in place; loss of this bone is typically associated with severe periodontal (gum) disease.

AMALGAM

A dental filling material, composed of mercury and other minerals, used to fill decayed teeth. Also known as a silver filling.

ANESTHETIC

A class of drugs that eliminates or reduces pain.  (A reversible loss of sensation)  See local anesthetic.

ANTERIOR

Refers to the teeth and tissues located towards the front of the mouth (upper or lower incisors and canines).

ANTIBIOTIC

A drug that stops or slows the growth of bacteria.

ANTISEPTIC

A chemical agent that can be applied to living tissues to destroy germs.

APEX

The tip or end of the root of a tooth.

APPLIANCE

Any removable dental restoration or orthodontic device.

ARCH

The curve of the row of teeth in each jaw.

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B

BICUSPID

The fourth and fifth teeth from the center 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).  Adults have eight bicuspids (also called premolars), two in front of each group of molars.

BIOPSY

Removal of a small piece of tissue for diagnostic examination.

BITE

Relationship of the upper and lower teeth upon closure (occlusion).

BITE-WING

X-rays taken of the crowns of teeth to check for decay.

BLEACHING

The technique of applying a chemical agent, usually hydrogen peroxide, to the teeth to whiten them. It usually lasts 6-12 months and is easily maintained or retreated.

BONDING

The covering of a tooth surface with a tooth-colored composite to repair and/or change the color or shape of a tooth, for instance, due to stain or damage.

BONE GRAFT

Surgical replacement of bone around tooth roots; sometimes in preparation for a dental implant.

BONE LOSS

The breakdown and loss of the bone that supports the teeth, usually caused by infection or long-term occlusal (chewing areas of the teeth) stress.

BONE RESORPTION

Decrease in the amount of bone supporting the roots of teeth; a common result of periodontal (gum) disease.

BRIDGE

Replacing a missing tooth by placing at least two crowns on adjacent teeth and suspending a false tooth (pontic) in between. It is permanently cemented; also known as a fixed partial denture.

BRUXISM

The involuntary clenching or grinding of the teeth, often done during sleep and related to physical or emotional stress.

BUCCAL

Pertainging to the cheek.

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C

CALCULUS

Hard, calcium-like deposits that form on teeth due to inadequate plaque control, often stained yellow or brown. Also called tartar.

CANINE TOOTH

These are the front teeth that have one rounded or pointed edge used for biting. Also called eye teeth or cuspids.

CANKER SORE

Cold sores or small shallow ulcers that appear in the mouth and often make eating and talking uncomfortable.  They typically last about a week in duration before disappearing.

CANTILEVER EXTENSION

Part of a fixed prosthesis that is supported at one end only.

CAP

Common term for a dental crown.

CARIES

The correct technical term for tooth decay which is the progressive breaking down or dissolving of tooth structure, caused by the acid produced when bacteria digest sugars.

CAVITY

Tooth decay caused by bacteria which, if not treated, can destroy the tooth. Also, the dental term for the hole that is left after the decay has been removed.

CEMENT

A special type of glue used to hold a crown in its place. It also acts as an insulator to protect the tooth’s nerve.

CEMENTUM

Hard tissue that covers the roots of teeth.

CLASP

Device that holds a removable partial denture to stationary teeth.

CLEFT LIP

A physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip that appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip. This separation often extends beyond the base of the nose and includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or upper gum.

CLEFT PALATE

A split or opening in the roof of the mouth.

CLENCHING

The forceful holding together of the upper and lower teeth, which places stress on the ligaments that hold the teeth to the jawbone and the lower jaw to the skull.

COMPOSITE

A tooth-colored filling made of plastic resin or porcelain.

COSMETIC DENTISTRY

Any dental treatment or repair that is solely rendered to improve the appearance of the teeth or mouth.

CROWN

The portion of a tooth that is covered by enamel. Also a dental restoration that covers the entire tooth and restores it to its original shape.

CROWN LENGTHENING

A surgical procedure exposing more of the tooth for restorative purposes.

CURETTAGE

A deep scaling of that portion of the tooth below the gum line. Purpose is to remove calculus and infected gum tissue.

CUSPID

See canine tooth.

CUSP(S)

The protruding portion(s) of a tooth’s chewing surface.

CYST

An abnormal sac containing gas, fluid, or a semisolid material that can form around an impacted or diseased tooth.

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D

DDS

Doctor of Dental Surgery -- equivalent to DMD, Doctor of Dental Medicine. Both are degrees given to dental school graduates. Dental schools identify, at their discretion, whether their graduates will be a DMD or DDS.

DECAY

Destruction of tooth structure caused by toxins produced by bacteria.

DECIDUOUS

Commonly called "baby teeth" or primary teeth; the first set of (usually) 20 teeth.

DENTAL FLOSS

A thin, nylon string, waxed or unwaxed, that is inserted between the teeth to remove food and plaque.

DENTAL HANDPIECE

A small, high-speed drill used in dentistry to remove decayed tooth material.

DENTAL HYGIENIST

A dental professional specializing in cleaning the teeth by removing plaque, calculus, and diseased gum tissue. Also act as the patients guide in establishing a proper oral hygiene program.

DENTAL IMPLANTS

An artificial tooth root surgically placed directly into the jawbone where a tooth is missing; generally made of titanium (surgical metal that bonds well to bone). Once healed, a bridge or replacement tooth will be attached to the artificial root. 

DENTIN

The chief substance of the teeth and the inner layer of tooth structure surrounding the tooth pulp and covered by enamel on the crown and by cementum on the roots.

DENTURE

A removable replacement of artificial teeth for missing natural teeth and surrounding tissues.  Two types of dentures are available -- complete and partial. Complete dentures are used when all the teeth are missing, while partial dentures are used when some natural teeth remain.

DIASTEMA

A space, such as one between two adjacent teeth in the same dental arch.

DIGITAL X-RAYS

A computer technology whereby radiographs are seen immediately after exposure on the computer screen; uses a radiation exposure of about 10% that of conventional dental radiographs.

DISTAL

The surface of the tooth farthest from the midline of the dental arch.

DRY MOUTH

A condition in which the flow of saliva is reduced and there is not enough saliva to keep the mouth moist. Dry mouth can be the result of certain medications (such as antihistamines and decongestants), certain diseases (such as Sjögren's syndrome, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes), certain medical treatments (such as head and neck radiation), as well as nerve damage, dehydration, tobacco use, and surgical removal of the salivary glands. Also called Xerostomia.

DRY SOCKET

A localized inflammation of the tooth socket following an extraction due to infection of a blood clot.  Also known as Osteitis.

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E

EDENTULOUS

Having no teeth.

ENAMEL

The hard, calcified (mineralized) portion of the tooth which covers the crown and protects the dentin.  Enamel is the hardest substance in the body.

ENDODONTIC TREATMENT

The treatment of tooth pulp disease and infections of the root canal (Root Canal Therapy).

ENDODONTIST

A dentist who deals with the cause, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of injuries and diseases that affect the dental pulp , tooth root, and periapical tissue.

EQUILIBRATION

(occlusal adjustment) Adjusting your bite relationship to re-establish harmony in the biting system by selectively reshaping the biting surfaces of individual teeth, which may be interfering with the proper joint/bite relationship.

ERUPTION

The emergence of the tooth from its position in the jaw.

EXTRACTION

The removal of a tooth from its socket in the bone (Exodontia).

EXTOSIS

The overgrowth of normal bone.

EXTRAORAL

The outside of the mouth.

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F

FACE BOW TRANSFER

Specific records that are made to take a patient's particular bite and jaw movement and accurately transfer it to a bite machine called an articulator.

FACIAL

The surface next to the face; the outer surface of a tooth resting against the cheeks or lips.

FILLING

Material used to fill a cavity or replace part of a tooth.

FISSURE

A deep ditch or cleft in the surface of the teeth.

FISTULA

Channel emanating pus from an infection site; a gum boil.

FLOSSING

A thread-like material used to clean between the contact areas of teeth; part of a good daily oral hygiene plan.

FLUORIDE

A mineral that helps strengthen teeth enamel making teeth less susceptible to decay. Fluoride is ingested through food or water, is available in most toothpaste, or can be applied as a gel or liquid to the surface of teeth by a dental professional.

FMX

A full mouth series of x-rays including 18-21 individual films.

FRENUM

Muscle fibers covered by a mucus membrane that attaches the cheek, lips and or tongue to associated dental mucous.

FRENECTOMY

Removal of extra tissue around the muscle connecting lips, cheek, or tongue to jawbone.

FURCATION

An area where the root divides.

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G

GENERAL DENTIST

Primary care provider for patients in all age groups who take responsibility for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services to meet patients' oral health needs.

GINGIVA

The soft tissue that covers the jawbone. Also referred to as the gums.

GINGIVECTOMY

A type of minor surgery that involves the removal of a small amount of gum tissue around a tooth or teeth.

GINGIVITIS

A reversible inflammation or infection of the gingiva; the initial stage of gum disease. If left untreated, may lead to periodontitis.

GRAFT

A piece of tissue or synthetic material placed in contact with tissue to repair a defect or supplement a deficiency.

GUM DISEASE

Inflammation of the soft tissue (gingiva) and abnormal loss of bone that surrounds the teeth and holds them in place.

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H

HEMISECTION

The surgical separation of a multirooted tooth through the furcation area in such a way that the blocked, defective, or periodontally affected root or roots may be removed along with the associated portion of the crown.

HOT TOOTH

Describes a tooth with extreme inflammation of the nerve; often hard to numb with the usual techniques.

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I

IMMEDIATE DENTURE

A denture constructed for immediate placement after removal of the remaining teeth.

IMPACTED TOOTH

An unerupted or partially erupted tooth that is positioned against another bone or soft tissue so that total eruption is unlikely.

IMPLANT

An artificial device, usually made of a metal alloy or ceramic material, that is implanted within the jawbone as a means to attach an artificial crown, denture , or bridge.

IMPLANT ABUTMENT

Small metal post screwed into implants to support a replacement tooth.

INCIPIENT

Dental caries in an early stage of development, usually not requiring immediate restorations.

INCISAL

Pertaining to the cutting edges of incisor and cuspid teeth.

INCISION AND DRAIN

(I and D) A sweeping incision made through the core of a lesion to allow draining of infection, and removal of any abnormal or unhealthy tissue.

INDIRECT PULP CAP

A procedure in which the nearly exposed pulp is covered with a protective dressing to protect the pulp from additional injury and to promote healing and repair via formation of secondary dentin.

INLAY

A laboratory made internal filling that is cemented or bonded into a tooth.

INTERPROXIMAL

The area between two adjacent teeth.

INTRACORONAL

The area within a crown of a tooth.

INTRAORAL

The inside of a mouth.

IV SEDATION

Intravenous sedation (IV Sedation) also known as sleep dentistry is a procedure in which the dentists use a proven, safe medication to keep the patient relaxed while he/she completes the dental procedure. This drug is injected with a thin needle into a vein; it can be injected in the arm or in the back of your hand. The patient will remain conscious and will be able to respond to the dentist at all times, but will be much more relaxed.

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L

LABIAL

The area pertaining to or around the lip.

LINGUAL

The area pertaining to or around the tongue.

LOCAL ANESTHETIC

The injection given in the mouth to numb the areas where a tooth or area needs a dental procedure.  Often referred to as Novocain.  General anesthesia produces partial or complete unconsciousness.

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M

MALOCCLUSION

The improper alignment of biting or chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth.

MANDIBLE

The lower jaw.

MARGIN

The line where a restoration seals against tooth structure; this is usually near or below the gum line with crowns.

MARYLAND BRIDGE

The trade name that becomes synonymous with any resin bonded fixed partial denture (bridge).

MASTICATION

The act of chewing.

MAXILLA

The upper jaw.

MEDICATED FILLING

A provisional or temporary filling which incorporates a palliative or soothing medication to calm an inflamed tooth nerve.

MESIAL

Surface of the tooth nearer the center of the dental arch.

METAL TRY-IN

An appointment in which the metal substructure of a fixed bridge or the metal framework of a removable partial denture is tried in and fitted.

MICRO AIR ABRASION

A drill-free technique using an instrument resembling a tiny sand blaster that delivers tiny aluminum oxide particles to the surface where they cut away the decayed area.

MOLARS

The broad, multicusped back teeth, used for grinding food are considered the largest teeth in the mouth. In adults there are a total of twelve molars (including the four wisdom teeth, or third molars), three on each side of the upper and lower jaws.

MOUTH GUARD

An appliance used to protect teeth from injury during sports or athletic activity.

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N

NERVE

Transmits signals (conveying messages like hot/cold or pain) to and from the brain.

NIGHTGUARD

A plastic device that covers all of the upper or lower teeth; used to prevent wear on the teeth caused by tooth grinding during sleep; helps prevent TMJ and clenching disorders.

NOVOCAIN

A generic name for the many kinds of anesthetics used in the dental injection, such as Xylocaine, Lidocaine, or Novocaine. See local anesthetic.

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O

OCCLUSAL SURFACE

The chewing surface of the back teeth.

OCCLUSION

Any contact between biting or chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth.

ONLAY

A cast gold or porcelain filling that covers one or all of the tooth’s cusps.

ORAL SURGEON

Treats and surgically corrects diseases, injuries, and defects of the mouth and jaws; extracts teeth.

ORAL SURGERY

The removal of teeth and the repair and treatment of other oral problems, such as tumors and fractures.

ORTHODONTICS

A specialized branch of dentistry that corrects malocclusion and restores the teeth to proper alignment and function. There are several different types of appliances used in orthodontics, one of which is commonly referred to as braces.

ORTHODONTIST

Designs and applies corrective and supportive appliances, such as braces, to realign crooked teeth.

OVERBITE

A condition in which the upper teeth excessively overlap the lower teeth when the jaw is closed. This condition can be corrected with orthodontics.

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P

PALATE

The hard and soft tissues forming the roof of the mouth.

PALLIATIVE

Emergency treatment done on a "per visit" basis that relieves pain but is NOT curative.

PANOREX

An extraoral full-mouth X-ray that records the teeth, sinuses, TMJ, and the upper and lower jaws on one film.

PARTIAL DENTURE

A removable dental appliance that utilizes a metal framework which connects a plastic gum-colored base with replacement teeth.

PEDIATRIC DENTISTRY

The specialized branch of dentistry that deals solely with treating the children’s dental disease. Also referred to as Pediodontics.

PERIAPICAL

Surrounding the apex of the root of a tooth; an X-ray of the aforesaid.

PERIODONTAL

Relating to the tissue and bone that supports the tooth (from peri, meaning “around”, and dont , “tooth”).

PERIODONTAL DISEASE

Inflammation and irritation of the gums and bone supporting the teeth and if untreated can lead to teeth loosening, gum discomfort, and receding gums.

PERIODONTAL LIGAMENT

The tissues that surround and support the tooth within the bone.

PERIODONTAL POCKET

An abnormal deepening of the gingival crevice. It is caused when disease and infection destroy the ligament that attaches the gum to the tooth and the underlying bone.

PERIODONTAL SURGERY

A surgical procedure involving the gums and jawbone.

PERIODONTICS

The dental specialty that deals with and treats the gum tissue and bone that supports the teeth.

PERIODONTIST

Diagnoses and treats diseases of the tissues supporting and surrounding the teeth, especially periodontal disease.

PERIODONTITIS

Inflammation of the supporting structures of the tooth, including the gum, the periodontal ligament, and the jawbone.

PERMANENT TEETH

The thirty-two adult teeth that replace the baby , or primary teeth. Also known as secondary teeth.

PIT

A recessed area found on the surface of a tooth, usually where the grooves of the tooth meet.

PLAQUE

A film of sticky material containing saliva, food particles, and bacteria that attaches to the tooth surface both above and below the gum line. When left on the tooth it can promote gum disease and decay.

PONTIC

An artificial tooth used in a bridge to replace a missing tooth.

PORCELAIN CROWN

Porcelain crowns cover a tooth and restore it to its normal color, size and shape, improving its appearance. They are used when fillings can’t solve the dental problem and can be used in the front or back teeth to give a more natural appearance.

POST AND CORE

To build a foundation by placing a post and filling in the tooth prior to placing a dental crown on the affected tooth; usually after tooth has had a root canal.

POSTERIOR

Your 10 upper and 10 lower back teeth; consists of premolars and molars.

PREMEDICATION

Medicine taken before a dental appointment, either to prevent infection in susceptible patients or to attenuate the "dental experience" for anxious patients.

PREMOLAR

Another name for bicuspid.

PREVENTATIVE DENTISTRY

Education and treatment devoted to and concerned with preventing the developement of dental disease.

PREVENTATIVE TREATMENT

Any action taken by the patient, assisted by the dentist, hygienist, and the office staff that serves to prevent dental or other disease. Sealants, cleanings and space maintainers are examples of preventative treatment.

PROPHYLACTIC ODONTONOMY

A procedure done to a tooth to remove decalcified areas that are susceptible to decay, exposing healthy tooth structure.

PROPHYLAXIS

The scaling and polishing procedure performed to remove calculus, plaque, and stains from the crowns of the teeth.

PROSTHESIS

(DENTAL) Any device or appliance replacing one or more missing teeth.

PROSTHODONTICS

The dental specialty dealing with the replacement of missing teeth and other oral structures.

PULP

Softest part of the tooth that lies within its root and extends all the way to the top part of the tooth (the crown); contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue.

PULP CHAMBER

Innermost portion of the tooth that contains the pulp.

PULP TEST

Thermal and electric pulp sensitivity tests which extrapolate pulp health from sensory response.

PULPOTOMY

A common endodontic procedure in which dental pulp is removed from the pulp chamber in instances where the pulp of a tooth has become infected due to deep decay or there's a crack within the tooth and the infected areas need to be removed.

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Q

QUADRANT

The dental term for the division of the jaws onto four parts, beginning at the midline of the arch and extending towards the last tooth in the back of the mouth. There are four quadrants in the mouth; each quadrant generally contains five to eight teeth.

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R

RADIOGRAPHS

X-rays that allow for careful diagnosis of the tooth roots, pulp, bone surrounding the teeth, and to diagnose cavities in areas that can't be seen inside the mouth with direct vision.

RECEDED GUMS

A condition characterized by the abnormal loss of gum tissue due to infection or bone loss, which exposes more of the tooth and often becomes sensitive.

REFERRAL

When a dental patient is sent to another dentist, usually a specialist, for treatment or consultation.

RELINE

A dental procedure in which the entire tissue side of a denture is replaced with a new plastic to compensate for bone loss and improve the fit of the denture.

REPLANTATION

The return of a tooth to its socket.

RESIN

Plastic material used in bonding, restorative, and replacement procedures.

RESORPTION

The breakdown and assimilation of the bone that supports the tooth, i.e., bone loss.

RESTORATION

Any material or devise used to replace lost tooth structure (filling, crown) or to replace a lost tooth or teeth (bridge, dentures, complete or partial).

RETAINER

A removable dental appliance, usually used in orthodontics, that maintains space between teeth or holds teeth in a fixed position until the bone solidifies around them.

RETROGRADE FILLING

A method of sealing the root canal by preparing and filling it from the root tip, generally done at the completion of an apicoectomy.

RIDGE ENHANCEMENT

(bone replacement) The placement of a synthetic bone material, or freeze dried bone, inserted immediately after an extraction into the socket of the tooth. This is done to prevent collapsing of the surrounding bone.

ROOT

The part of the tooth below the crown , normally encased in the jawbone. It is made up of dentin, includes the root canals and pulp, and is covered by cementum.

ROOT CANAL

The hollow part of the tooth’s root. It runs from the tip of the root into the pulp.

ROOT CANAL THERAPY

The process of treating disease or inflammation of the pulp or root canal. This involves removing the pulp and root’s nerve(s) and filling the canal(s) with an appropriate material to permanently seal it.

ROOT PLANING

The process of scaling and planing exposed root surfaces to remove all calculus, plaque, and infected tissue.

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S

SALIVARY GLANDS

Moisturizes our mouth and our food to make chewing and swallowing easier through saliva/spit.

SCALING

A procedure used to remove plaque, calculus, and stains from the teeth.

SEALANT

A composite material used to seal the decay-prone pits, fissures, and grooves of teeth to prevent decay.

SINUS LIFT

A special type of bone graft to augment the quantity and quality of bone available for upper dental implants.

SINUSES

Membrane lined, air filled cavities in our skulls above our upper teeth and between our eyes and eyebrows.

SINUSITIS

Infection in the sinus cavities; sinus infections are a common source of facial pain and headaches and can be confused with pain from upper back teeth.

SIX-YEAR MOLAR

The first permanent tooth to erupt, usually between the ages of five and six.

SOCKET

The hole in the jawbone in which the tooth fits.

SPACE MAINTAINER

A dental appliance that fills the space of a lost tooth or teeth and prevents the other teeth from moving into the space. Used especially in orthodontic and pediodontic treatment.

STAINLESS STEEL CROWN

A pre-made metal crown, shaped like a tooth, that is used to temporarily cover a seriously decayed or broken down tooth. Used most often on children’s teeth.

SYSTEMIC

Relating to the whole body.

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T

TARTAR

See calculus.

TEMPOROMANDIBULAR DISORDER (TMD)

Problems relating to your temporomandibular joint which include locking of the jaw, frequent headaches, sore jaw muscles, and painful clicking of the jaw.

TEMPOROMANDIBULAR JOINT (TMJ)

The connecting hinge mechanism between the upper jaw and the base of the skull.

THIRD MOLAR

The last of the three molar teeth, also called wisdom teeth and the last of the permanent teeth to develop often not erupting until the late teens or early twenties; many times are extracted.

TORUS

A bony elevation of normal bone. Usually seen on the upper palate behind the front teeth or under the tongue inside the lower jaw.

TREATMENT PLAN

A list of work that the dentist proposes to perform on a dental patient based on the result s of the x-rays, exam, and diagnosis. Often more than one treatment plan is presented.

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U

ULTRASONIC SCALER

Electronic instrument; vibrates at a frequency that breaks down a lot of both plaque and calculus that is left behind by hand scaling.

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V

VENEER

An artificial filling material, usually plastic, composite, or porcelain, that is used to provide an aesthetic covering over the visible surface of a tooth. Most often used on front teeth.

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W

WAX TRY-IN

An appointment where the appearance of a denture is agreed on upon doctor and patient and adjustments are made before it is sent out to the lab for a finished product.

WEAR FACET

Flat areas on teeth or restorations caused by grinding or bruxism.

WISDOM TEETH

See third molar.

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X

X-RAYS

Dental X-Rays are pictures of the teeth and surrounding bone that dentists use to evaluate and diagnose problems that could be present on patients' teeth and cannot be detected by a simple oral examination.

With X-Rays dentists can diagnose cavities, fractures, tooth decay, bone loss, gum disease, infections, tumors, etc.

Because of the changing conditions of the mouth, it is important to update X-Rays as is recommended by the dental professional.

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