Glossary

Amalgam – is an alloy of mercury with various metals such as silver, tin and copper used for dental fillings. Concerns about the toxicity of mercury, aesthetics, environmental pollution, as well as the availability of improved composite materials, have seen the use of amalgam diminish.

Analgesia – is relief from pain. An analgesic is any member of the group of drugs used to achieve analgesia. Analgesics act in various ways on the peripheral and central nervous systems.

Anesthesia – is a temporary state of unconsciousness where the patient experiences a loss of memory, lack of pain and muscle relaxation. There are four types of anesthetics: local (one small area of the body), intravenous sedation, regional (blocks pain in an area of the body) and general (the whole body).

Bleaching – is a common procedure in general dentistry. While whitening restores the natural tooth colour, bleaching whitens the teeth beyond their natural colour. Methods include brushing, bleaching strips, bleaching pen, bleaching gel and laser bleaching.

Bonding – is a less expensive alternative to porcelain veneers and crowns. Composite resin is added, moulded and shaped to cover the tooth. While it’s not as permanent as veneers, it rarely requires shaving or reduction of the natural teeth.

Braces – are devices used in orthodontics to align and straighten teeth. They are often used to correct underbites as well as malocclusions, overbites, cross bites, open bites, deep bites, crooked teeth, and various other flaws of the teeth and jaw.

Bridges – are custom-made teeth that replace a section of one or several missing teeth. A natural-looking alternative to dentures, they are permanently attached and blend naturally with your remaining teeth.

Cavity – (also known as tooth decay or dental caries) are craters in the teeth caused by the activities of bacteria. Symptoms include pain and difficulty eating. Complications include inflammation of the tissue around the tooth, tooth loss, and infection or abscess formation.

Cosmetic dentistry – covers a variety of procedures designed to enhance the appearance of the teeth. Cosmetic dentistry ranges from simple teeth-whitening procedures to more complex dental implants using state-of-the-art laser dentistry techniques as well as porcelain veneers, crowns and gum treatments.

Crown – a type of dental restoration that completely caps or encircles a heavily filled or broken tooth. Crowns can provide strength to a tooth after a root canal treatment, attach bridges and cover dental implants.

Decay – is the breakdown of teeth due to frequent exposure to acid – from foods or drinks containing sugars and starches – causing the enamel to lose minerals. The process can be stopped or reversed with minerals from saliva and fluoride from toothpaste and (fluorinated) tap water.

Dental caries – (also known as tooth decay, cavities, or caries) are craters in the teeth caused by the activities of bacteria. Symptoms include pain and difficulty eating. Complications include inflammation of the tissue around the tooth, tooth loss, and infection or abscess formation.

Dental implants – are an effective and natural looking solution for the permanent replacement of missing teeth. They are inserted directly into the jaw bone to act as anchors for replacement teeth and crowns. Over time, the jaw bone becomes attached to the implant.

Dental sealants – are clear or white protective coatings that stick or bond to the surfaces of teeth. They are often used on the chewing surface of back teeth to help prevent tooth decay.

Dental veneers – are composite or porcelain shells that are bonded to the front of the teeth to close gaps, mask chips and discolorations as well as hide misaligned teeth. They are a good way of enhancing your appearance while maintaining a healthy tooth structure.

Dentures – are a set of artificial teeth made from an impression of the patient’s mouth to ensure a customised fit. Partial dentures replace a small number of teeth and help maintain the position of existing teeth. Full dentures replace an entire set of teeth (upper or lower) and enable the patient to eat properly once more.

eBrace – is a revolutionary treatment which attaches the braces to the back of the teeth, making them virtually invisible.

Enamel – Enamel is the translucent outer covering of the tooth. This thin but tough shell is the hardest tissue in the human body. It covers the crown which is the part of the tooth that’s visible outside of the gums. Enamel helps protect your teeth from the wear and tear of chewing, biting, crunching and grinding. It also insulates from hot and cold temperatures.

Endodontist – is a dental specialist concerned with the treatment of the dental pulp. They perform a variety of procedures including endodontic therapy (root canal therapy), endodontic retreatment, treating cracked teeth, and treating dental trauma.

Flossing – is the use of dental floss to remove food and dental plaque from between the teeth. Regular flossing can reduce gingivitis (inflammation of the gum tissue) and halitosis (bad breath).

Fluoride – is a chemical ion of the element fluorine. Synthesized fluoride is commonly added to drinking water, toothpaste and mouthwashes because it makes the entire tooth structure more resistant to decay. Fluoride also promotes remineralisation, which aids in repairing early decay before damage is even visible.

General dentist – is the primary dental care provider for patients of all ages. The general dentist is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment and coordination of services to meet a patient’s oral health needs.

Gingivitis – is inflammation of the gum tissue. It is a non-destructive periodontal disease that is reversible with good dental hygiene. If not controlled, it can progress to periodontitis and eventually tooth loss.

Gum disease – is usually caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth and has two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis. The symptoms of gum disease are bleeding gums, swollen gums and loose teeth. Careful twice-daily cleaning can help prevent gum disease.

Gum grafts – surgically implanting a small amount of soft tissue to help create a more even gum line. It is used to repair deformities, correct gum recession and reduce root sensitivity.

Halitosis – is a common condition, known as bad breath, caused by sulphur-producing bacteria that live within the surface of the tongue and in the throat. Good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing and tongue cleaning, is important for the prevention and treatment of halitosis.

Invisalign – an orthodontics treatment that uses a series of removable aligners to gradually correct misaligned teeth. The treatment straightens teeth without the discomfort and appearance of traditional braces.

Invisible braces – are dental braces that are not easily visible. They include: ceramic braces that have tooth-coloured or clear brackets; lingual braces that have the brackets and wires placed behind the teeth; and Invisalign, a series of clear-plastic aligners that are replaced regularly during treatment.

Laser dentistry – uses a very narrow, intense beam of light energy to remove or shape tissue. Laser dentistry can be used to remove tooth decay, bone and gum tissue without affecting the surrounding areas. It can reduce bleeding, post-operative pain and swelling.
Lingual braces – are braces that are attached to the inside of the teeth to help straighten them without the visibility of metallic braces. They remain hidden from view.

Malocclusion – is a misalignment between the teeth of the two dental arches when they approach each other as the jaws close.
Maxillofacial surgery – corrects problems related to jaw shape and size that come from poor alignment as well as the wearing away of gum tissue and bone density due to dentures.

Molars – are the large teeth towards the back of the mouth, which are used for grinding food. They have rounded cusps for chewing. There are usually 12 molars – six molars in each jaw with three on each side. The first set erupt between the ages of 13 and 19 months, the second set between the ages of 25 and 33 months and the final set in the teens or early 20s.

Mouthguard – is a device custom made by dentist or a dental technician to provide protection to the teeth during sport and recreation activities. Custom-fitted mouthguards provide the best protection against injury due to their close fit, comfort and cushioning (shock absorption) effect.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeon – treats diseases, injuries and defects of the head and neck, as well as the hard and soft tissues of the oral (mouth) and cranio-maxillofacial (jaws and face) region.

Orthodontics – is the branch of dentistry that specialises in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of malocclusion (problems in the alignment of teeth and jaws). Orthodontic treatment involves the design and use of corrective appliances (such as braces, plates, headgears and functional appliances) to bring the teeth and jaws into proper alignment.

Orthodontist – is a dentist who has become a registered specialist in orthodontics. They complete a Masters degree in Orthodontics, which is the branch of dentistry specialising in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of problems in the alignment of teeth and jaws.

Periodontal disease – affects the gums. There are two stages: gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (inflammation around the tooth). Gingivitis left untreated will progress to periodontitis.

Periodontitis – is inflammation around the tooth. It occurs when gingivitis is left untreated. The gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces called “pockets” that become infected. Bacterial toxins and the body’s natural response to infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed.

Plaque – is a soft deposit that forms on the surface of the teeth. Plaque contains bacteria but can be removed quite easily with regular tooth brushing and cleaning between the teeth.

Porcelain veneers – are shells that are bonded to the front of your teeth to close gaps, mask chips and discolorations as well as hide misaligned teeth. They are an ideal way to enhance your appearance while maintaining a healthy tooth structure.

Resin – (sometimes called composite resin) are fillings made from a mixture of plastic and very tiny, fine glass particles. Unlike a silver-coloured amalgam filling, a resin filling blends in with the natural colour of the teeth. Resin bonds directly to the tooth, supporting the remaining tooth structure.

Restorative dentistry – aims to improve appearance and functionality due to damaged or missing teeth. Not replacing missing teeth can lead to bone degeneration that compromises the jaw and adjacent teeth. Treatments include dentures, dental implants, and porcelain veneers, bridges, crowns and bonding.

Root canal therapy – treats the infected pulp of a tooth to eliminate an infection. The decontaminated tooth is then provided with protection from future microbial invasion.

Sleep apnoea – a condition in which the muscles of the throat relax and reduce the intake of oxygen. This breathing difficulty causes the person to come out of deep sleep for brief periods in an attempt to restore normal breathing.

Sleep dentistry – is the use of pharmacological agents to calm, relax or sedate a patient prior to and during a dental treatment. This pain-management solution may be administered through general and intravenous anaesthesia, sedation dentistry medication or nitrous oxide (laughing gas).

Snap on Smile – is a bonded smile makeover where the tooth is prepared before a composite resin is added, moulded and shaped to cover the tooth or teeth. It is a cost-effective alternative to porcelain veneers. Although it is not as permanent, it rarely requires shaving or reduction of the natural teeth.

Tartar – is a form of hardened dental plaque. Minerals from saliva and gingival crevicular fluid undergo a process of precipitation which kills the bacterial cells within dental plaque. The rough and hardened surface left behind provides an ideal surface for future plaque formation.

Teeth whitening – a range of treatments to restore teeth that have been stained due to food, drink and lifestyle habits. Teeth-whitening treatments include laser, take-home custom-made trays and whitening gel, or natural whitening, which removes stains without harsh chemicals.

TMJ – is an abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint – the joint of the jaw. The TMJ is a bilateral synovial articulation between the temporal bone and the mandible and the joint’s name is derived from these two bones.

Tooth decay – is a process that occurs when a tooth is frequently exposed to acid – from foods or drinks containing sugars and starches – causing the enamel to lose minerals. The process can be stopped or reversed with minerals from saliva and fluoride from toothpaste and (fluorinated) tap water.

Veneer – shells that are bonded to the front of your teeth to close gaps, mask chips and discolorations or hide misaligned teeth. They are an ideal solution to enhancing appearance while maintaining a healthy tooth structure.

Wisdom teeth – are the rear molars that erupt in the teenage years or the early 20s. They sometimes cause overcrowding or impact into the gums and neighbouring teeth. There are usually two in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw.