Understanding Common Dental Terminology

Do you know the difference between analgesia and anesthesia? A cap from a crown? A clasp from an abutment? Since oral and general health and wellness are interlinked, understanding common dental terminology and the dental procedures available to you will help to keep your teeth and gums looking and feeling as healthy as possible.

At Expressions in Dentistry, our team of dental professionals offers a range of restorative and cosmetic dentistry services at our practice in Folsom, California.

Common dental terminology and procedures

Knowing the dental procedures that are available to you will help you make healthy and informed decisions about your oral health and cosmetic dentistry options. Here’s what you need to know about common dental terminology, and how to choose the right dental procedure for your needs.


An abscess is a mass filled with pus from a bacterial infection, and can develop anywhere, including in your tooth or gums. You should go to the dentist right away if you develop an abscess or think you might have an infection.


An abutment supports a dental restoration like an implant or a bridge. An abutment is typically made from titanium but other materials are sometimes used as well.


This is an abbreviation for the American Dental Association.


Dental amalgam is a mixture used in dentistry to fill cavities.


A term used to refer to corrective dental tools such as braces, mouth guards, Invisalign®, or retainers.


Dental caries refers to tooth decay and cavities.


This refers to the alignment of your teeth in your upper and lower jaw. A malocclusion is a problem with your bite that may require correction with orthodontics.


A bitewing is an X-ray of your upper and lower teeth.


This is the process of changing the size, shape, or color of a damaged or fractured tooth with a dental restoration like a crown or porcelain veneer.


Bruxism is a condition in which you grind and clench your teeth.

Composite/acrylic resin

This refers to a combination of materials like plastic and glass, used to make tooth-colored fillings.


Dentin is the inner layer of a tooth which is located under the enamel layer.


This term refers to the inflammation and swelling of the gums and the first stage of gum disease, which usually causes your gums to bleed when you brush and floss your teeth.


This is a painful condition in which your tooth is very sensitive to either hot or cold.

Impacted tooth

This condition occurs when a tooth becomes “stuck” and can’t fully erupt (common with wisdom teeth).

Dental impression

A dental impression is a mold of your teeth and bite pattern used to make a dental restoration, appliance, aligners, or trays for teeth-whitening solutions.


Plaque is a buildup of bacteria that creates a hard film on your teeth. Plaque buildup can increase your risk of developing gum disease over time.

Dental implants

A dental implant consists of a prosthetic that replaces the root of a missing tooth and a cosmetic crown. The implant is surgically placed in your jaw and fuses with the surrounding bone tissue, after which the crown is attached. Implants can be used to replace a single tooth or to support a set of dentures.

Full mouth reconstruction

If you have multiple oral health issues or want to make cosmetic improvements, a full mouth reconstruction is a combination of dental procedures and restorations designed specifically for you. It can include anything and everything from teeth whitening to dental fillings, crowns, and dental implants.


A dental bridge consists of a set of crowns to replace a missing tooth. The two crowns on the outside of the bridge use the surrounding teeth as abutments to anchor the middle crown which replaces the missing tooth.


A dental crown (also known as a cap) is literally a cosmetic cover for a damaged, missing, or severely decayed tooth.


Dental veneers are usually made from porcelain and are bonded to the surface of a tooth to change its size, shape, and color.

For more information about general and cosmetic dentistry services, contact Expressions In Dentistry to schedule an appointment with one of our dentists by calling our office or booking an appointment online today.

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