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Your Dentistry Dictionary

When we talk about your smile, there are a number of words and phrases you may not have encountered before. Like contouring, dentition, or an inlay, for example. We’ve defined these and other terms in our dentistry dictionary -- to help you know just what’s going on with your dental treatment!

Accelerated orthodontics: A rapid orthodontic method that focuses on making cosmetic improvements to a smile, rather than making drastic changes to the alignment of the bite.

Aesthetics: Actually the British spelling for “esthetics,” just refers to the overall appearance.

AACD: American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, which provides networking and professional development opportunities for cosmetic dentists.

Bite: How your upper and lower teeth fit together. Patients may experience an overbite, underbite, or a crossbite.

Composite Resin: A tooth-colored mixture of plastic and glass materials that can be used to fill a cavity or repair minor smile imperfections.

Contouring: The process of reshaping the gum line to make the smile more visually appealing. May improve the appearance of teeth that appear too short, or to straighten an uneven gum line.

Crown: The visible portion of your tooth that extends out of the gum line. Also refers to the restoration that repairs a severely decayed tooth, or replaces a single missing tooth.

Dental Veneer: Device that improves the appearance of imperfect teeth with porcelain or plastic wafers bonded to front teeth to mask chips, cracks, misalignments, or other imperfections. Also called instant orthodontics for their ability to quickly correct gaps.

Dentition: How your teeth are arranged in the gum line.

Enamel: The white, outer portion of the tooth. Makes up the visible portion of the crown, and covers the dentin that resides inside the tooth.

Filling: The material that restores a cavity. Can be made of amalgam or composite resin.

Inlay: Restoration made in a dental lab, then bonded into the area of a tooth between cusps. Larger and stronger than a filling, yet not as significant as a crown.

Intraoral Camera: A handheld device that aids in diagnosis and involves the patient in their own oral health.

Laminate: A type of dental veneer.

Malocclusion: When the top and bottom teeth do not fit together properly.

Onlay: Used for restoring teeth after decay. Larger and stronger than a filling, yet not as significant as a crown.

Professional Teeth Whitening: An in-office or at-home treatment that uses a special bleaching gel to brighten tooth enamel.

Prosthesis: A device that replaces one or more missing teeth. May refer to a crown, bridge, or full or partial denture.

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