Glossary

Abscess (Toothache)

An abscessed tooth is an infection caused by tooth decay, periodontal disease or a cracked tooth. These problems can let bacteria enter the pulp (the soft tissue of a tooth that contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue) and can lead to pulp death. When pus builds up at the root tip in the jaw bone, it forms a pus-pocket called an abscess. If the abscess is not treated, it can lead to a serious infection in the jaw bone, teeth and surrounding tissues.

Arch

A description of the alignment of the upper or lower teeth.

Bad Breath (Halitosis)
  • Bacteria - Bad breath can happen anytime thanks to the hundreds of types of bad breath-causing bacteria that naturally lives in your mouth. When you eat, bacteria feed on the food left in your mouth and leaves a foul-smelling waste product behind.
  • Dry Mouth - Your mouth might not be making enough saliva which works around the clock to wash out your mouth. If you don’t have enough, your mouth isn’t being cleaned as much as it should be. Other causes of dry mouth are certain medications, salivary gland problems. or simply by breathing through your mouth.
  • Gum Disease - Bad breath that just won’t go away or a constant bad taste in your mouth can be a warning sign of advanced gum disease, which is caused by sticky, cavity-causing bacteria called plaque.
  • Food - Garlic, onions, coffee… The list of breath-offending foods is long, and what you eat affects the air you exhale.
  • Smoking and Tobacco - Smoking stains your teeth, gives you bad breath and puts you at risk for a host of health problems. Tobacco users are more likely to suffer from gum disease.
  • Medical Conditions - Mouth infections can cause bad breath. However, if your dentist has ruled out other causes and you brush and floss every day, your bad breath could be the result of another problem, such as a sinus condition, gastric reflux, diabetes, liver or kidney disease. In this case, see your healthcare provider.
Bleeding Gums

In some cases, bleeding gums can be a sign of gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal disease. Bleeding gums may also be caused by firm brushing or flossing, certain medications, and some systemic illnesses. If your gums bleed easily or bleed when you brush, talk to your dentist about your oral health.

Biofilm

A single or multiple-species community of microorganisms residing within a self-produced polymer matrix which attaches to the interface of a surface and a liquid. A large percentage of infections, including periodontal disease, are pathogenic (harmful) biofilms.

Bone Graft

Natural or synthetic bone is placed in the area of bone loss to help promote bone growth.

Canker Sores

Canker sores develop inside the mouth as small white or gray sores that have a red border. They are not contagious and may occur as one sore or several. Their exact cause is uncertain, but some experts believe that immune system problems, bacteria or viruses may be involved. In some cases, trauma to the mouth’s soft tissues can cause a canker sore. 

Cold Sores

Cold sores, which are also called fever blisters, are groups of fluid-filled blisters that often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or around the chin. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 and are very contagious. The initial infection (primary herpes) may be confused with a cold or flu and can cause painful lesions to erupt throughout the mouth. Once a person is infected with primary herpes, the virus stays in the body and causes occasional attacks. Cold sore blisters usually heal in a week by themselves.

Decay

Destruction of tooth structure caused by toxins produced by bacteria.

Dental Caries (Tooth Decay)

Also referred to as a cavity, dental caries is the destruction of tooth enamel, which is the hard, outer layer of the teeth. It can be a problem for children, teens and adults. Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on the teeth. Sugary foods and drinks cause the bacteria in plaque to produce acids that attack tooth enamel and, over time, contact with the acids causes the tooth enamel to break down and a caries, or hole in the tooth, can form.

Dental Plaque Biofilm

Dental plaque is a biofilm or mass of bacteria that grows on surfaces within the mouth. It is a sticky colorless deposit at first, but when it forms tartar, it is often brown or pale yellow. It is commonly found on all surfaces of the teeth and along the gumline or below the margins of the gumline. Dental plaque biofilms are responsible for many of the diseases common to the oral cavity, including dental caries, periodontitis, gingivitis, and the less common peri-implantitis (similar to periodontitis, but with dental implants), however biofilms are present on healthy teeth as well.

Dental Professional

A clinician who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of the gums and teeth, i.e., general dentist, pediatric dentist, oral surgeon, periodontist, orthodontist, endodontist, prosthodontist, dental assistant, dental hygienist.

Flap Surgery

A surgical procedure in which the gums are lifted, tartar removed, and the gums sutured back in place.

Gingiva

Another name for the gums, the area from which the teeth protrude.

Gingivitis

Gum disease which develops when periodontal plaque (or tartar) spreads beneath the gumline and causes swollen and inflamed gums which bleed easily when touched or brushed.

Periodontitis

Advanced stage of gum disease in which bacteria collects in the alveolar socket and erodes the bones in the jaw, often resulting in tooth loss.

Periodontium

The collective name for gum tissue, which includes the oral mucosa, a membrane that keeps the teeth clean and protects them from germs or injury; the periodontal ligament (or periodontal membrane), which helps the gums adhere to the teeth; and the alveolar process and socket, the area in the gums in which the teeth sit.

Quorum Sensing

Quorum sensing is the communication network within a single bacteria species or between diverse species in a biofilm, which enables the microbes to survive and multiply.

Scaling and Root Planing

A deep-cleaning, nonsurgical procedure whereby plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line are scraped away (scaling) and rough spots on the tooth root are made smooth (planing).

Soft Tissue Graft

Synthetic material or tissue taken from another area of the mouth is used to cover exposed tooth roots.

Tarter

Also called dental calculus, it is a hard deposit that adheres to teeth and produces a rough surface that attracts plaque.

Xerostomia

Dry mouth or decrease in the production of saliva.