Provided By Your Local Durham Dentist

Thomas Clifton, DDS is a leading dental care professional in Durham, NC. Our office provides a full range of dental treatment options from multiple specialties, including general, endodontic, periodontic, cosmetic, and preventative dentistry. This allows our patients to only have to attend one office to receive any type of treatment they may need. To alleviate any confusion our patients may have about their treatment, our team& is happy to provide a glossary of common dental terms.


Abscess - a primary infection common in those suffering from severe tooth decay, trauma, or gum disease.
Amalgam - A material commonly used in fillings composed of silver and mercury.
Anesthetic – Used to eliminate the pain response that can occur in some dental procedures.
Anterior – literally “front”. Refers to the front teeth in your mouth.
Antiseptic - Used to destroy germs and sanitize and area of living tissue
Apex – usually refers to the very tip of the root structure of a tooth
Aspirator – used to prevent saliva build-up during dental procedures.


Bleaching Agent - An agent that bleaches your teeth, whitening and brightening them.
Bonding - A material made out of plastic composite that can be “painted” on teeth in areas of stains or damage.
Bridge - an artificial tooth attached to an adjacent tooth
Bruxism - commonly refers to grinding teeth during sleep.


Calculus - A very hard form of plaque. Commonly found on teeth that have been neglected, or are predisposed. Also referred to as tartar.
Canine - The sharp teeth next to the four front teeth.
Caries - synonymous with cavities.
Cavity - A hole that develops when decay has pierced the tooth.
Central - The teeth in the very center front of your mouth on top and bottom.
Crown - used on highly decayed or damaged teeth. A cover made of porcelain or metal.
Cuspid - synonymous with canines


Decalcification - the process of calcium leaching out of the teeth.
Deciduous Teeth - temporary teeth first developed at a young age.
Dental Implants - used to replace a missing tooth. Is anchored to the jawbone itself.
Denture - a removable set of artificial teeth.


Enamel - the protective layer on the tooth
Endodontist - A dental specialty concerning the inner pulp of the tooth
Extraction - the removal of a tooth or teeth.


Filling - composed of metal or composite, used to plug the holes created by cavities
Fluoride - a chemical solution that is commonly used to harden teeth and prevent decay.


Gingivitis - inflammation of gums around the roots of the teeth.
Gums - the fleshy material surrounding the root of the teeth


Impacted Tooth - a tooth that incorrectly advances, sitting sideways in the gumline. Very common with wisdom teeth, usually requires extraction.
Incisal - see incisor
Incisor - the 4 teeth in the front on the top and bottom of your mouth that are enclosed by the canines
Inlays - a custom filling that is shaped to conform to the tooth.
Instant Orthodontics - using crowns or bonded porcelain veneers to create a straight smile instead of braces


Lateral - The teeth between the centrals and the canines


Night Guard - used to prevent teeth grinding at night. Made of plastic and commonly used to treat TMJ.


Pedodontist - A dentist who specializes in the treatment of children's teeth. Known also as a pediatric dentist.
Periodontist - a dentist specializing in the treatment of gum disease.
Plaque - composed of acids and bacteria, the buildup of this material causes tooth decay.
Posterior Teeth - opposite of anterior. Teeth in the back of the mouth.
Primary Teeth - see deciduous teeth
Prosthodontist - a dentist specializing in the restoration and replacement of missing teeth or severely damaged teeth.


Root - the section of the teeth located under the gumline.
Root Canal - cleaning out and filling the inside nerve of a tooth that is heavily decayed.


Sealant - a plastic coating that acts as an additional shield against tooth decay.
Secondary Teeth - the permanent teeth.
Six-Year Molar - The first molar to erupt.
Sleep Apnea - a potentially serious disorder in which a sleeping person may stop breathing for 10 seconds or more, often continuously throughout the night.


Tartar - see calculus.
TMJ Syndrome - a disorder caused by a misalignment of or a disparity in upper and lower jaw sizes.
Tooth Whitening - using bleaching agents to whiten and brighten teeth
Twelve-Year Molar - the second molar to erupt


Veneer - a plastic, porcelain, or composite material used to improve the attractiveness of a stained or damaged tooth.

Book Your Appointment Today

Thank you for choosing Thomas Clifton, DDS for all of your dental needs. If you would like to schedule an appointment or have any questions regarding our general, periodontic, endodontic, cosmetic, and preventative dentistry service, please contact us at 919-471-2422 and one of our highly skilled staff members will be happy to assist you. We are located in Durham, NC, but service patients from Roxboro, Bahama and More. We look forward to seeing you in our office soon!

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