Amalgam: Any metal admixed with mercury. Most amalgam is some combination of silver, zinc, tin, vanadium, and others mixed with 50% mercury.

Caries: Decayed tooth structure, a cavity.

CB-CT: Cone beam computerized tomography; an imaging system not unlike typical X-rays that allows an image to be modeled into a 3D representation.

CEREC: A system for fabricating an all-porcelain crown in-office while you wait. Learn more about the CEREC system.

Crown: Also called a cap. A covering for a tooth that is usually porcelain. A crown is a substitute for a tooth, not a replacement. Other materials used for crowns are gold, non-precious metal, and various combinations of porcelain-fused-to-metal.

Invisalign: A custom-made series of clear plastic shells that fit over your teeth. These shells are called aligners and a set of them will slowly cause your teeth to move in a pre-set direction just like brackets and wires. The beauty of Invisalign is that they are clear plastic so they’re virtually invisible. Also, they’re removable so you take them out to eat and clean your teeth. Your teeth move at the same rate as conventional orthodontics.

Night Guards/Bite Guards/Splints: A night guard is a plastic mouthpiece that fits over the upper and lower teeth. Night guards prevent the upper and lower teeth from coming together, lessening the effects of clenching or grinding the teeth. A night guard is a device that will not cure a TMJ problem, but rather be used to manage symptoms created by the TMJ dysfunction.

Occlusion: The relationship of the upper jaw to the lower jaw when in function. Also used to describe the relation of upper teeth to lower teeth.

Pathology: The nature of disease and its origin, whether caused by an organism or not, such as trauma.

Root Canal therapy: A branch of dentistry called Endodontics that treats the nervous, blood, and lymph tissue at the core of a tooth. The most typical scenario is that bacteria invade the tooth through a cavity such that the bacteria infect this tissue deep inside the tooth thus causing a tooth ache. A root canal procedure then removes this soft tissue inside the tooth and seals up the canals of the tooth from further invasion. Of course the cavity must be dealt with soon thereafter. A tooth that has had a root canal must be crowned because the tooth is now non-vital and is subject to fracture.

TMD: Temporomandibular Joint Disorder; a condition of dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Briefly, when the cushion (disc) between the head of the jaw bone (condyle) becomes displaced due to trauma, the jaw itself assumes a new unstable position. This unstable position along with the displaced disc is called an internal derangement situation. A TMD may or may not be accompanied by chronic or acute jaw joint pain, headache, facial pain, sinus-like pain, ear pain, ringing in the ears, and neck pain. There is always an instability in the occlusion that may take years to manifest itself. What can be perceived by the patient are an inability to comfortably close all the teeth and/or a wearing or flattening of the teeth accompanied by chipping and fracturing of the teeth that call for multiple crowns within a few years’ time. There are many more symptoms and signs that are too numerous to mention here. There is always a degenerative arthritis of the jaw bone which is a very slow process, measured in decades. A TMD can be benign enough that it can be managed or severe enough that surgical intervention may be needed.

Veneer: An exceptionally thin layer of porcelain that is bonded to the front side of the front teeth that mimics a very healthy, you might say, younger, condition of what one’s teeth should look like. Veneers are usually placed on the top 6-10 front teeth when the existing teeth are too broken down to support composite fillings.