Dental Terms

Before coming into our office it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the common words used in Dentistry today. Below are some terms that we find useful that may help you feel more comfortable when coming into our offices. We look forward to seeing you soon!

loss of tooth structure caused by a hard toothbrush, poor brushing technique, or Bruxism (grinding or clenching the teeth).

an infection of a tooth, soft tissue or bone

tooth or teeth that support a fixed or removable bridge

adhesive dentistry:
contemporary term for dental restorations that involve “bonding” of composite resin or porcelain fillings to natural teeth

air abrasion:
removal of tooth structure by blasting a tooth with air and abrasive, a relatively new technology that may avoid the need for anesthetic

unfavorable systemic response to a foreign substance or drug

alveolar bone:
the jaw bone that anchors the roots of teeth

a most common filling material, also known as “silver fillings,”containing mercury (app 50%), silver, tin, copper and zinc used for fillings

a state of pain relief; an agent lessening pain

partial or complete elimination of pain sensation; numbing a tooth is an example of local anesthesia; general anesthesia produces partial or complete unconsciousness

anterior teeth:
the six upper or six lower front teeth

a drug that stops or slows the growth of bacteria

an acronym for Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis, commonly known as trench mouth or Vincent’s disease, aggravated by stress and/or smoking

the tip of the root of a tooth

surgical removal of the root tip to treat a dead tooth

arch :
describes the alignment of the upper or lower teeth

loss of structure due to natural wear

cement placed under a dental restoration to insulate the pulp (nerve chamber)

bicuspid or pre-molar:
transitional teeth behind the cuspids

bifurcation (trifurcation):
juncture of two (three) roots in posterior teeth

removal of a small piece of tissue for microscopic examination

relationship of the upper and lower teeth on closure (occlusion)

bite wings:
caries (decay) detection x-rays

black hairy tongue:
elongated papillae on the tongue, promoting the growth of microorganisms

chemical or laser treatment of natural teeth for whitening effect

block injection:
anesthesia of a nerve trunk that covers a large area of the jaw; a mandibular block injection produce numbness of the lower jaw, teeth, half the tongue

adhesive dental restoration technique; a tooth-colored composite resin to repair and/or change the color or shape of a tooth

bone resorption:
decrease in bone supporting the roots of teeth; a common result of periodontal (gum disease)

devices used by orthodontists to gradually reposition teeth to a more favorable alignment

stationary dental prosthesis (appliance) fixed to teeth adjacent to a space; replaces one or more missing teeth, cemented or bonded to supporting teeth or implants adjacent to the space

grinding or gnashing of the teeth, most commonly while the patient is asleep

persistent “nervous” grinding of the teeth while the patient is awake

chemical element needed for healthy teeth, bones and nerves

hard residue, commonly known as “tarter,” that forms on teeth due to inadequate
plaque control, often stained yellow or brown

canker sore:
mouth sore appearing whitish, often with a red halo, of ten to fourteen day duration

cantilever bridge:
fixed bridge that attaches to adjacent teeth only on one end

common term for dental crown

tooth decay or “cavities”

cast or model:
reproduction of structures made by pouring plaster or stone into a mold

dental tool that uses high frequency ultrasonic waves to clean teeth

soft tissue infection causing extensive, hard swelling, a potentially dangerous condition requiring immediate attention

hard tissue that covers the roots of teeth

log of dental or medical records

device that retains a removable partial denture to stationary teeth

removal of plaque and calculus (tarter) from teeth, generally above the gum line

composite resin:
material composed of plastic with small glass or ceramic particles; usually cured with filtered light or chemical catalyst

cosmetic (aesthetic) dentistry:
treatments performed to enhance appearance; not a recognized specialty

CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation):
Artificial procedures employed by a rescuer after cessation of breathing or heart stoppage

Cross bite:
reverse biting relationship of upper and lower teeth; aka “under bite,” as in Class III malocclusuion (prognathic jaw)

(1) the portion of a tooth above the gum line;
(2) dental restoration covering all or most of the natural tooth

removal of diseased tissue from a periodintal pocket

mound on posterior teeth

cuspid or canine:
the four “eye teeth”

a soft or hard tissue sac, hard or filled with fluid

Doctor of Dental Surgery – equivalent to DMD

Doctor of Medical Dentistry – equivalent to DDS

destruction of tooth structure caused by toxins produced by bacteria

deciduous teeth:
commonly called “baby teeth,” the first set of (usually) twenty teeth

inner layer of tooth structure, immediately under the surface enamel

dental implant:
a (usually) titanium cylinder surgically placed in the bone of the upper or lower jaw to provide support for a dental restoration or appliance

the arrangement of natural or artificial teeth in the mouth

removable (partial or complete) set of artificial teeth

the production of dentures dispensed directly by laboratory technicians

space between teeth

hard tissue covering the portion of tooth above the gum line

specialist who treats injuries, diseases and infections of the tooth pulp (nerve chamber)

study of the incidence of disease in a population

process of teeth protruding through the gums

process of shedding deciduous (baby) teeth

practice of dental extractions

sharp instrument used to detect decay on the surface of teeth

removal of a tooth

the four upper and lower canine (cuspid) teeth
tooth colored overlay on the visible portion of a crown; may be acrylic, composite or porcelain

Fellowship Academy of General Dentistry

restoration of lost tooth structure with metal, porcelain or resin materials

channel emanating pus from an infection site; a gum boil

flap surgery:
lifting of gum tissue to expose and clean underlying tooth and bone structures

freeway space:
distance between the upper and lower teeth with the lower jaw in rest position

instrument used for removal of teeth

forensic dentistry:
practice of gathering legal evidence for body identification or judicial issues

valley found on the sutrpface of posterior teeth

full denture:
removable dental prosthesis (appliance) replacing all upper or lower teeth

full mouth reconstruction:
extensive restorations of natural teeth with crowns and or fixed bridges to manage bite problems.

removal or reshaping of thin muscle tissue that attaches the upper or lower lips to the gum, or the tongue to the floor of the mouth

(guided tissue regeneration) a new technique for replacing bone tissue

general anesthesia:
controlled state of unconsciousness, accompanied by a partial or complete loss of pain sensation, protective reflexes, and the ability to respond purposefully to physical stimulation or verbal command

geographic tongue:
benign changes in the usual color and texture of tongue; does not require treatment

gum tissue

surgical removal of gum tissue

inflammation of gum tissue

gum boil:
See fistula.

gum recession:
exposure of dental roots due to shrinkage of the gums as a result of abrasion,
periodontal disease or surgery

bad breath of oral or gastrointestinal origin

Heimlich Maneuver:
techinque employed by rescuer for obstruction of victim’s airway

swelling of effused blood beneath tissue surface

health (dental) maintenance organization which specifies a health care (dental) provider a patient may see. Profitability depends on minimization of treatment.

hydrogen peroxide:
disinfecting solution used in dental irrigation procedures or as mouth rinse

dental auxiliary who cleans teeth and provides patient education; administers local anesthetic, nitrous oxide and performs periodontal scaling

increased blood flow; may cause dental sensitivity to temperature and sweets;
may precede an abscess

partial or completely unexposed tooth that is wedged against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue, precluding the eruption process

artificial device replacing tooth root; may anchor an artificial tooth, bridge,
or denture

mold made of the teeth and soft tissues

incision and drainage:
surgical incision of an abscess to drain suppuration (pus)

four upper and four lower front teeth, excluding the cuspids (canine teeth)

local anesthetic procedure effective for upper teeth and soft tissue; placement of anesthetic under the gum, allowing it to seep into bone

indirect – filling made by a dental laboratory that is cemented or bonded into place, direct – placement of dental composite resin restoration at chairside

surfaces of adjoining teeth

space between upper and lower teeth

intraoral camera:
a smal video camera used to view and magnify oral conditions;
images may be printed

crown for a front tooth, usually made of porcelain

thin plastic or porcelain veneer produced in a dental laboratory and then bonded to a tooth

laughing gas:
nitrous oxide; odorless inhalation agent that produces relative analgesic (sedation); reduces anxiety and creates a state of relaxation

injury of bodily tissue due to infection, trauma or neoplasm

local anesthesia:
partial or complete elimination of pain sensation, in the immediate vicinity
of its application or injection

“bad bite” or misalignment of the upper and lower teeth

managed care:
program whereby patient-dentist assignment and dentist reimbursement is administered by a separate, external organization

the lower jaw

interface between a restoration and tooth structure

Masters Academy of General Dentistry

Maryland bridge:
a bridge that is bonded to the back of the adjacent teeth; requires minimum tooth reduction

process of chewing food

the upper jaw

capsular cushion between temporomandibluar joint and glenoid fossa

milk teeth:
deciduous (baby) teeth

three back teeth in each dental quadrant used for grinding food.

moniliasis (thrush):
opportunistic fungal infection after administration of antibiotic; not uncommon in the mouth

mucogingival junction (MGJ):
meeting of thick, protective gingival tissue around the teeth and the friable mucous lining of the cheeks and lips

non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, often used as a dental analgesic

tissue that conveys sensation, temperature, position information to the brain

nerve (root) canal:
dental pulp; the internal chamber of a tooth

night guard:
acrylic appliance used to prevent wear and temporomandibular damage caused by grinding or gnashing of the teeth during sleep

nitrous oxide:
a gas used to reduce patient anxiety

older brand name for a local anesthetic, currently replaced by safer, more effective agents

closure; relationship of the upper and lower teeth upon closure

laboratory produced restoration covering one or more cusps of a tooth

oral and maxillofacial surgeon:
a dental specialist who manages the diagnosis & surgical treatment of diseases, injuries, and deformities of the mouth and supporting structures; Requires four additional years of training after dental school

oral cavity:
the mouth

oral hygiene:
process of maintaining cleanliness of the teeth and related structures

oral and maxillofacial surgery:
surgical procedures on the mouth including extractions, removal of cysts or tumors, and repair of fractured jaws

oral pathologist:
dentist specializing in the study of oral diseases

dental specialty that treats misalignment of teeth


vertical overlap of the front teeth

denture that fits over residual roots or dental implants

horozontal overlap of the front teeth

hard and soft tissue forming the roof of the mouth

palliative treatment:
non invasive relief of irritating conditions

a partial loss of sensation; may be temporary or permanent

partial denture:
removable dental prosthesis (appliance) replacing one or more natural teeth

study of disease

periapical (PA):
region at the end of the roots of teeth

periodontal surgery:
recontouring or esthetic management of diseased gum and supporting tissue

dental specialist treating the gums and supporting soft and hard tissues retaining natural teeth and the surgical placement of dental implants

pedodontics or pediatric dentistry:
dental specialty focusing on treatment of children

periodontal chart:
record measuring the depth of gum pockets around the teeth

permanent teeth:
(usually) thirty-two adult teeth in a complete dentition

a small defect in the tooth enamel; junction of four formative lobes of a developing tooth

inert medication or treatment that produces psychological benefit

soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth; composed of bacteria and food debris due to inadequate dental hygiene

replacement tooth mounted on a fixed or removal appliance

porcelain crown:
all porcelain restoration covering the coronal portion of tooth (above the gum line)

porcelain fused to metal (PFM) crown:
restoration with metal coping (for strength) covered by porcelain (for appearance)

porcelain inlay or onlay:
tooth-colored restoration made of porcelain, cemented or bonded in place

porcelain veneers:
a thin layer of porcelain, fabricated by a laboratory) bonded to a natural tooth to replace lost tooth structure, close spaces, straighten teeth or change color and/or shape

thin metal rod inserted into the root of a tooth after root canal therapy; provides retention for a “coping” that replaces lost tooth structure and retains crown

post and buildup to replace lost tooth structure and retain crown

single structure that combines post-core and crown

preferred provider (dental) organization which a health care (dental) provider may join, offering fee for service treatment at reduced fees

the anticipated outcome of treatment

cleaning of the teeth for the prevention of periodontal disease and tooth decay

an artificial appliance for the replacement for a body part

dental specialist skilled in restoring or replacing teeth with fixed or removable prosthesis (appliance), maintaining proper occlusion; treats facial deformities with artificial prostheses such as eyes, ears, and noses

the nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue inside a tooth

pulp cap:
a medicated covering over a small area of exposed pulp tissue

pulp chamber:
the center or innermost portion of the tooth containing the pulp

complete removal of the pulp (commonly done in children’s teeth)

inflammation of the pulp; common cause of toothache

partial removal of the pulp tissue

older term for periodontal (gum) disease

insertion and temporary fixation of partially or completely avulsed tooth or teeth, resulting from traumatic injury

acrylic restoration of denture base to compensate for bone loss; direct: done at chairside; indirect: in conjunction with a dental laboratory

replacement of portion of a damaged tooth

retained root:
partial root structure remaining in jaw after extraction or fracture of a
natural tooth

tooth structure that connects the tooth to the jaw

root canal:
common term for root canal therapy, also the interior space of the tooth

root canal therapy:
process of removing pulp of a tooth and filling it with an inert material

root resection:
removal of a portion of diseased root structure, retaining the remaining natural tooth

rubber dam:
soft latex sheet used to establish isolation of one or more teeth from contamination by oral fluids and to keep materials from falling to the back of the throat

clear lubricating fluid in the mouth containing water, enzymes, bacteria, mucus, viruses, blood cells and undigested food particles

saliva ejector:
suction tube placed in the mouth to remove saliva

salivary glands:
located under tongue and in cheeks, produce saliva

scaling and root planing:
meticulous removal of plaque and calculus from tooth surfaces

thin resin material bonded in the pits and fissures of back teeth for the prevention of decay

secondary dentin:
reparative tooth structure produced by the pulp in response to tooth irritation

loosened spicule of bone pushed to the surface

infammation of the sinus that may mimc dental pain

sleep apnea:
the periodic interruption or delay in breathing during sleep

space maintainer:
dental device that holds the space lost through premature loss of baby teeth

connection of two or more teeth so they function as a stronger single structure

supernumerary tooth:
extra tooth

bacterial contamination of tissue exudate; pus

common term for dental calculus, a hard deposit that adheres to teeth; produces rough surface that attracts plaque

tmd (or tmj disorder):
temperomandibular disorder; term given to condition characterized by facial pain and restricted ability to open or move the jaw

the temporomandibular joint, the point where the lower jaw attaches to the skull

third-party provider:
insurance company, union, government agency that pays all or a part of cost of dental treatment

tooth bud:
early embryonic structure that becomes a tooth

tooth whitening:
a chemical or laser process to lighten the color of teeth

topical anesthetic:
ointment that produces mild anesthesia when applied to tissue surface

common bony protuberance on the palate or lower jaw

placing a natural tooth in the empty socket of another tooth

injury caused by external force, chemical, temperature extremes, or poor tooth alignment

trench mouth:
gum disease characterized by severe mouth sores and loss of tissue. See ANUG.

usual, customary and reasonable fees

unerupted tooth:
a tooth that has not pushed through the gum and assumed its correct position in the dental arch

plastic or porcelain facing bonded directly to a tooth to improve its appearance. See laminate.

vertical dimension:
arbitrary space between upper and lower jaws upon closure; may decrease over time due to wear, shifting or damage to the teeth

wisdom teeth:
third (last) molars that usually erupt at age 18-25 (when “wisdom is attained”)

dry mouth or decrease in the production of saliva .

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