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Common Dental Terminology


The team at Kent Smile Studio explains common dental terms

No matter how nice your dentist is or how comfortable you feel with them, sometimes there are elements of the dental world that can still be a bit confusing.

Of course you can always ask your dentist here in Maidstone to explain anything you don’t understand, but sometimes it is good to know a little bit more about how the world of dentistry works to be able to better navigate it.

A great start is simply understanding some of the terms and words used when it comes to oral health.

With that in mind, here is some useful information to help you understand common dental terminology a little bit more:

NHS Dentist

This means that the surgery has an NHS dentist on staff who may be able to take you on as a patient, where you will then pay for treatment as per NHS treatment band terms. The surgery may also have private treatment available, as well as treatment that doesn’t come under the NHS, such as teeth whitening.

Private Dentist

Private dentistry is care and treatment that is paid for completely by the patient and not subsidised by the NHS. All costs should be quoted to you before you agree to any treatment.


Periodontal means anything to do with the gums and gum care. If you have periodontal charting by the hygienist, it means they are measuring your gum health, checking for pockets in the gums that need healing and charting their depth for progress. A periodontist is an expert in gum care and they often treat periodontitis, which is a form of advanced gum disease.

Root Canal Treatment

A root canal infection is where the pulp (tissues and nerves) inside the tooth are infected, so the area is cleaned out and filled in order to try to save the tooth. This procedure is often done by an endodontist, a specialist in root canal treatment.


A crown is a false tooth placed to strengthen a damaged tooth root or to complete a dental implant or root canal therapy. They can also be used to support dental bridges where teeth have been lost.


An OPG is an orthopantomogram, or a panoramic radiograph. It is a complete X-ray of all your teeth and it is done with a special machine that scans around your face to create the image.


The proper term for a ‘silver filling’ which is often made from several different types of metal.


Caries simply means tooth decay. So if you hear this, a filling may be required!

Dental Implant

A dental implant is a false tooth root that is placed into the jaw and gum and forms a strong base for the attachment of a dental crown. This technique is used to completely replace a missing tooth.


A malocclusion is where your bite (top and bottom teeth) does not fit together properly.


Tartar is hardened plaque, which is a film of food residue and bacterial debris that hardens if it is not regularly removed.

Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are the teeth at the very back of your rows of teeth. Wisdom teeth can be completely submerged under the gum, partially erupted or fully erupted. Sometimes they are problematic and can require the attention of an oral surgeon.


A hygienist is a person who works with the dentist, but who also works independently from the dentist too in some cases. A hygienist has a special interest in gum disease and helps patients work to prevent it. A hygienist plays a key role in the plan to treat gum disease in all its stages. They can clean your teeth in full and provide guidance on quitting smoking, eating better, taking vitamins to help gum and tooth health and they can show you how to clean your teeth better too.


The teeth on either side of a missing tooth, prepared to support a bridge. An abutment is also the part of the implant procedure, attached to it to support a crown.

Alveolar Bone

This is the bone surrounding the tooth that holds it in place, along with the gums and periodontal ligaments.


A false tooth that sits in the gap of a missing tooth, typically supported by a bridge and crowns either side.

White Filling

A white filling is a type of filling used to strengthen and complete a tooth that requires treatment for cavities, whilst keeping it looking great aesthetically. A special tooth coloured dental cement is used in this type of treatment.


Bruxism means tooth grinding and may be mentioned at the dentist if there are signs you are grinding your teeth and damaging them.

Cosmetic Dentistry

Cosmetic dentistry is a type of dentistry that enhances the way that the teeth look. Teeth whitening, veneers and adult straightening of the front teeth are all examples of cosmetic dentistry.


Tooth extraction is where a tooth is removed because it is diseased or damaged beyond repair.

Craze Lines

These are lines in the enamel of the teeth that may look like cracks but they are only present on the surface of the teeth.


Enamel is the hard outer surface of the tooth that protects the more sensitive layer below, and the soft tissues and nerves deep inside the tooth.

Dental Abscess

A dental abscess is a sack of pus that is created when a tooth root or gum is infected. An abscess can cause a person to feel intense pain in the affected area, and can cause the cheek or jawbone to feel hot and swollen. A person may also suffer with a temperature and signs of general infection. A dental abscess is an emergency and if you suddenly get an extremely bad taste in your mouth alongside other abscess symptoms, you must seek emergency treatment straight away as this could mean the abscess has burst and could cause a blood infection.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth means a lack of saliva and can be caused by medical conditions, treatments and medications. Dry mouth can make a person more prone to decay and it is important to have dental support with the condition. The dentist and hygienist can make suggestions as to how to better deal with the issue, and what to use to help the mouth feel less dry.


Halitosis means bad breath, which can be caused by issues like gum disease or mouth infections.

Hopefully these dental term explanations have helped you feel a little more knowledgeable about the world of dentistry! Of course, if you do have a great dentist in Maidstone like Kent Smile Studio, you’ll never have to worry about dental terminology as our staff are always on hand to explain, especially in relation to treatment that you might need.

Do you have any questions about dental terms or treatment for our team? Please give Kent Smile Studio in Maidstone a call on 01622 754 662 and our friendly staff will be more than happy to help!

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General Dentistry

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Dental Implants

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Cosmetic Dentist Chatham

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Teeth Straightening

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Advanced Dentistry

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Facial Aesthetics

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