1590s, "of or pertaining to teeth," from French dental "of teeth" or Medieval Latin dentalis, from Latin dens (genitive dentis) "tooth" (from PIE root *dent- "tooth"). As "connected with or used in dentistry," 1826. In grammar, "formed or pronounced at or near the front upper teeth, with the tip or front of the tongue," 1590s. As a noun, "sound formed by placing the end of the tongue against or near the upper teeth," 1794. Related: Dentally; dentality.