Dental Terminology Torrance CA

Dental Glossary

Dental Terminology Torrance, CA

When talking with our patients, we do our best to speak in terms that each and every patient will understand. Sometimes, though, the dental jargon comes out because we’re so used to it – or you might come across it in one of our blogs or while doing dental research online. We want to help you understand what you’re hearing/reading so you can make sense of the information and feel confident when you invest in dental services or when you’re taking steps to improve your oral health at home.

Dentist of Torrance Dental Glossary


Abrasion -

Enamel wear that is caused by anything other than bruxism (see definition below). Examples include biting your nails, using your teeth as tools, or chewing on pen caps.

Abscess -

The result of a bacterial infection in the tooth or gums. It’s a swollen bump (red or white) that is filled with pus.

Abutment -

An abutment is a support structure used for a dental bridge or implant. It supports the fake tooth on a bridge or connects the dental implant with a dental crown.

Anterior -

Your front teeth – six on the upper arch and six on the lower arch.


Bitewings -

The most common dental x-rays you’ll get in a dental office. They’re often prescribed for each patient every six to 24 months depending on the health of their teeth. These x-rays allow us to see in between the upper and lower back teeth so we can check for decay.

Bonding -

Using composite filling material on the outside surfaces of the front teeth. The material can be used in cases of dental decay, as well as those that are purely aesthetic, such as if the tooth has deep stains, minor cracks, erosion, or abrasion issues.

Bruxism -

Clenching and grinding your teeth. It’s most often done during times of stress or during sleep.


Calculus -

Also known as tartar, this is calcified plaque. It can only be removed with professional dental hygiene instruments.

Caries -

Dental decay.

Crowns -

A dental prosthesis also known as a “cap” that fits over the natural tooth. A crown is used to restore a tooth that’s had extensive decay or is fractured. It can also be used to support a crack and prevent it from progressing.


Decalcification -

Also known as demineralization, decalcification is when a tooth loses minerals (such as calcium). The result is a weak tooth that is more susceptible to decay.

Dentin -

The layer of the tooth under the enamel and above the nerve. The dentin is very porous and is more susceptible to damage than the enamel. Once decay reaches the dentin, it can progress very quickly.


Edentulous -

Missing all the teeth in a single arch. Someone who is fully edentulous is missing all the teeth on both arches.

Endodontics -

A subspecialty of dentistry that focuses on the treatment and health of the roots and nerves of the teeth.


Fixed Appliances

Dental prostheses that aren’t removable. Instead, they are bonded or cemented to teeth. Examples include dental bridges.


Gingivitis -

The first stage of periodontal disease. Signs of gingivitis include red, puffy, sore gums, and possibly light bleeding while brushing and/or flossing.



Incisors -

The four front teeth on the top and bottom jaws.



Malocclusion -

A poor/misaligned bite.



Occlusion -

How your teeth fit together; also known as your “bite.” Your occlusion is also based on how your jaw joints function in relation to your teeth, as well as the health and function of your facial muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Orthodontics -

The subspecialty of dentistry that helps patients repair a misaligned bite.


Periodontal Disease -

Gum disease.

Plaque -

A white or yellow substance that is sticky and easily builds up on your teeth after eating. Plaque is filled with bacteria and if it’s not removed can lead to gum disease and dental decay.

Premolars (Bicuspids) -

The teeth in front of your molars. Typically, there are eight total: four on top and four on bottom - two in each quadrant of your mouth.

Prophylaxis (Prophy)

A professional dental cleaning in which your hygienist uses specialized tools to remove the plaque and tartar from your teeth and below the gumline. The goal is to help prevent gum disease.


Recession -

When your gum tissue pulls away from your teeth. This is a condition often caused by gum disease, though it can be caused by bruxing or trauma as well. Left untreated, recession can result in tissue, bone, and tooth loss.

Root Canal -

The chamber in the roots of the teeth that holds the pulp/nerve. Root canal treatment involves removing the nerve, cleaning the canals, and re-filling them with a protective material.


Scaling and Root Planing -

A deep dental cleaning. The hygienist will start with scaling, which is a technique used to remove plaque, tartar, and stain from your teeth. Then, they’ll root plane. This involves making sure all plaque and tartar are removed from below the gum line and smoothing the root surface of the teeth, making it difficult for plaque to build up there.


Temporomandibular Joint

The joint that connects your lower jawbone to your skull. The joint is a hinge that allows your lower jaw to move while chewing or talking.




Wisdom Teeth -

Your third molars; the last teeth to come into the mouth (between ages 17 and 25). Some people develop all four wisdom teeth, some only two, others none at all.


X-Ray/Dental X-Ray -

An image of your teeth (and sometimes the bone around them). These images allow your dentist to see inside the teeth and bones, under the gums, and between the teeth so they can perform a thorough examination.

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