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Dental Terms
There are several different dental specialties and hundreds of different terms defining each type of dentistry. To better your understanding of each one, what they do and what their vocabulary means, click on the links below. Of course, you should never hesitate to ask your dental health provider to explain further any terms or procedures you still have questions or concerns about.

Dentistry involves the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of conditions, disorders and diseases affecting the teeth, gums and maxillofacial (associated with the jaw and face) region of the body. The professional practitioners of dentistry are commonly referred to as dentists. General dentists provide services related to the general maintenance of oral hygiene and tooth health.

Ideally, dentistry is preventative. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you visit your dentist regularly — at least once every six months — to ensure proper oral hygiene and functionality. Regular checkups and oral health maintenance prevent the development of serious dental problems that can require costly treatment. If you remain vigilant and visit your dentist regularly, you can enjoy exceptional dental health.

Your dentist will work with you to develop a customized dental hygiene plan that incorporates dental examination, tooth cleaning, possible tooth scaling, X-ray and use of other diagnostic equipment to prevent, uncover or treat problems as early as possible.

Your dentist may incorporate a variety of restorative procedures in the development of a comprehensive treatment plan that will help prevent decay or disease of the teeth, mouth, gums and tongue. General dentists also use restorative dentistry procedures to repair the effects of decay, trauma, defect or disease in these areas of the mouth.

Terms you may hear during your appointment.

Abrasion
Tooth wear caused by forces other than chewing such as holding objects between the teeth or improper brushing.

Abutment
A tooth (or implant) that supports a dental prosthesis.

Alveolar bone
The part of the jaw that surround the roots of the teeth.

Alveolus
The socket in the alveolar bone into which the tooth's root fits.

Amalgam
An alloy used in direct dental restorations.

Analgesia
Loss of pain sensations without loss of consciousness.

Ankylosis
A condition where two hard tissues are fused together. When this happens to a tooth and the alveolar bone, the tooth partially erupts.

Local Anesthesia
The loss of pain sensation over a specific area of the anatomy without loss of consciousness.

Apicoectomy
Removal of the tip of a tooth root.

Benign
The mild character of an illness or the non-malignant character of a neoplasm.

Bicuspid
A premolar tooth; a tooth with two cusps.

Bilateral
Occurring on, or pertaining to, both right and left sides.

Bitewing radiographs
X-rays used to reveal the crowns of several upper and lower teeth as they bite down.

Bleaching
A cosmetic dental procedure that whitens the teeth using a bleaching solution.

Bonding
A composite resin applied to a tooth to change its shape and/or color. Bonding also refers to how a filling, orthodontic appliance or some fixed partial dentures are attached to teeth.

Bridge
See Fixed Partial Denture or Removable Partial Denture.

Bruxism
Constant grinding or clenching of teeth during they day or while asleep.

Calculus
Hard deposit of mineralized material adhering to crowns and/or roots of teeth.

Canal
A relatively narrow tubular passage or channel.

Root Canal
Space inside the root portion of a tooth containing pulp tissue.

Cariogenic
Promotes tooth decay.

Caries
Commonly used term for tooth decay.

Cavity
Decay in tooth caused by caries; also referred to as carious lesion.

Cementum
Hard connective tissue covering the tooth root.

Clenching
The clamping and pressing of the jaws and teeth together in centric occlusion, frequently associated with psychological stress or physical effort.

Composite
A dental restorative material made up of disparate or separate parts (e.g. resin and quartz particles).

Crown
Anatomical Crown: That portion of tooth normally covered by, and including, enamel;
Abutment Crown: Artificial crown serving for the retention or support of a dental prosthesis;
Artificial Crown: Restoration covering or replacing the major part, or the
whole of the clinical crown of a tooth;
Clinical Crown: That portion of a tooth not covered by supporting tissues.
Crown LengtheningA surgical procedure exposing more tooth for restorative purposes by apically positioning the gingival margin and/or removing supporting bone.

Cusp
The pointed portion of the tooth.

Cyst
Pathological cavity, usually lined with epithelium, containing fluid or soft matter.

Debridement
Removing foreign matter or dead tissue.

Decay
The lay term for carious lesions in a tooth; decomposition of tooth structure.

Dental Prophylaxis
Scaling and polishing procedure performed to remove coronal plaque, calculus, and stains.

Dental Prosthesis
An artificial device that replaces one or more missing teeth.

Dentin
That part of the tooth that is beneath enamel and cementum.

Dentition
The teeth in the dental arch.
Permanent Dentition: Refers to the permanent teeth in the dental arch.
Deciduous Dentition: Refers to the deciduous or primary teeth in the dental arch.

Denture
An artificial substitute for natural teeth and adjacent tissues.

Denture Base
The part of the denture that holds the artificial teeth and fits over the gums.

Direct Restoration
A restoration fabricated inside the mouth.

Dry Mouth
See Xerostomia

Dry Socket
Localized inflammation of the tooth socket following extraction due to infection or loss of blood clot; osteitis.

Edentulous
Toothless.

Enamel
Hard calcified tissue covering dentin of the crown of tooth.

Erosion
Wearing down of tooth structure, caused by chemicals (acids).

Eruption
When a tooth emerges or pushes through the gums.

Evaluation
Periodic Oral Evaluation
An evaluation performed on a patient of record to determine any changes in the patient's dental and medical health status since a previous comprehensive or periodic evaluation. This may require interpretation of information acquired through additional diagnostic procedures. Report additional diagnostic procedures separately.

Limited Oral Evaluation: Problem focused
An evaluation limited to a specific oral health problem. This may require interpretation of information acquired through additional diagnostic procedures. Definitive procedures may be required on the same date as the evaluation. Typically, patients receiving this type of evaluation have been referred for a specific problem and/or present with dental emergencies, trauma, acute infection, etc.

Comprehensive Oral Evaluation
Typically used by a general dentist and/or a specialist when evaluating a patient comprehensively. It is a thorough evaluation and recording of the extraoral and intraoral hard and soft tissues. It may require interpretation of information acquired through additional diagnostic procedures. This would include the evaluation and recording of the patient's dental and medical history and a general health assessment. It may typically include the evaluation and recording of dental caries, missing or unerupted teeth, restorations, occlusal relationships, periodontal conditions (including periodontal charting), hard and soft tissue anomalies, etc.

Comprehensive Periodontal Evaluation
Typically includes evaluation of
periodontal conditions, probing and charting, evaluation and recording of the
patient's dental and medical history and general health assessment. It may
include the evaluation and recording of dental caries, missing or unerupted
teeth, restorations, occlusal relationships and oral cancer screening.

Detailed And Extensive Oral Evaluation -Problem-Focused, By Report
A detailed and extensive problem-focused evaluation entails extensive diagnostic and cognitive modalities based on the findings of a comprehensive oral evaluation. Integration of more extensive diagnostic modalities to develop a treatment plan for a specific problem is required. The condition requiring this type of evaluation should be described and documented. Examples of conditions requiring this type of evaluation may include dentofacial anomalies, complicated perio-prosthetic conditions, complex temporomandibular dysfunction, facial pain of unknown origin, severe systemic diseases requiring multi-disciplinary consultation, etc.

Re-Evaluation—Limited, Problem Focused (established patient; not post-operative visit)
This includes assessing the status of a previously existing condition. Examples of conditions requiring this type of evaluation may include: A traumatic injury where no treatment was rendered but the patient needs follow-up monitoring; Evaluation for undiagnosed continuing pain: A soft tissue lesion requiring follow-up evaluation.


Excision
Surgical removal of bone or tissue.

Extraction
The process or act of removing a tooth or tooth parts.

Filling
A lay term used for the restoring of lost tooth structure by using materials such as metal, alloy, plastic or porcelain.

Fracture
The breaking of a part, especially of a bony structure; breaking of a tooth.

Full-Mouth X-Rays
A combination of 14 or more periapical and 4 bitewing films of the back teeth. This series of
x-rays reveals all the teeth (their crowns and roots) and the alveolar bone around them.

Gingiva
Soft tissues overlying the crowns of unerupted teeth and encircling the necks of those that have erupted.

Gingival Hyperplasia
An overgrowth of gingival tissues.

Gingivitis
Inflammation of gingival tissue without loss of connective tissue.

Gingivectomy
The excision or removal of gingiva.

Imaging, Diagnostic
This includes, but is not limited to, CAT scans, MRIs, photographs, radiographs, etc.

Immediate Denture
Prosthesis constructed for placement immediately after removal of remaining natural teeth.

Impacted Tooth
An unerupted or partially erupted tooth that is positioned against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue so that complete eruption is unlikely.

Implant
Material inserted or grafted into tissue.
Dental Implant: A device specially designed to be placed surgically within or on the mandibular or maxillary bone as a means of providing for dental replacement; endosteal (endosseous); eposteal (subperiosteal); transosteal (transosseous).

Implantation Tooth
Placement of an artificial or natural tooth into an alveolus.

Inlay
An indirect intracoronal restoration; a dental restoration made outside of the oral cavity to correspond to the form of the prepared cavity, which is then luted into the tooth.

Interproximal
Between the teeth.

Intraoral
Inside the mouth.

Jaw
A common name for either the maxilla or the mandible.

Labial
Pertaining to or around the lip.

Lesion
An injury or wound; area of diseased tissue.

Lingual
Pertaining to or around the tongue; surface of the tooth directed toward the tongue; opposite of facial.

Maintenance, Periodontal
Therapy for preserving the state of health of the periodontium.

Malignant
Having the properties of dysplasia, invasion, and metastasis.

Malocclusion
Improper alignment of biting or chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth.

Maryland Bridge
A type of fixed partial denture not requiring crowns. The prosthesis is bonded to the natural teeth to secure it.

Maxilla
The upper jaw.

Molar
Teeth posterior to the premolars (bicuspids) on either side of the jaw; grinding teeth, having large crowns and broad chewing surfaces.

Mouthguard
Device that fits over the teeth to prevent injury to the teeth, mouth or lips. May also refer to a device that prevents tooth grinding or treats temporomandibular disorders.

Mucous Membrane
Lining of the oral cavity as well as other canals and cavities of the body; also called "mucosa."

Obstructive Sleep Apnea
A disorder in which breathing stops for short periods of time during sleep.

Occlusal
Pertaining to the biting surfaces of the premolar and molar teeth or contacting surfaces of opposing teeth or opposing occlusion rims.

Occlusion
Any contact between biting or chewing surfaces of maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) teeth.

Onlay
An indirect restoration made outside the oral cavity that overlays a cusp or cusps of the tooth, which is then luted to the tooth.

Oral
Pertaining to the mouth.

Oral Mucosa
The pink-red tissues that line the mouth.

Osseointegration
The process by which bone heals around an implant.

Osteoplasty
Surgical procedure that modifies the configuration of bone.

Osteotomy
Surgical cutting of bone.

Overdenture
A removable prosthetic device that overlies and may be supported by retained tooth roots or implants.

Palate
The hard and soft tissues forming the roof of the mouth that separates the oral and nasal cavities.

Palliative
Action that relieves pain but is not curative.

Partial Denture
Usually refers to a prosthetic device that replaces missing teeth; see fixed partial denture or Removable Partial Denture.

Parotid Glands
Major salivary glands located in front of and below the ears.

Pellicle
A thin nonbacterial film from saliva that covers the teeth.

Periapical X-Ray (PA)
An x-ray that shows several entire teeth (crowns and roots) and includes a small amount of the periapical bone (surrounding the root tips).

Periodontal
Pertaining to the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth.

Periodontal Abscess
An infection in the gum pocket that can destroy hard and soft tissues.

Periodontal Disease
Inflammatory process of the gingival tissues and/or periodontal membrane of the teeth, resulting in an abnormally deep gingival sulcus, possibly producing periodontal pockets and loss of supporting alveolar bone.

Periodontal Pocket
Pathologically deepened gingival sulcus; a feature of periodontal disease.

Periodontitis
Inflammation and loss of the connective tissue of the supporting or surrounding structure of teeth with loss of attachment.

Plaque
A soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth composed largely of bacteria and bacterial derivatives.

Post
An elongated projection fitted and cemented within the prepared root canal, serving to strengthen and retain restorative material and/or a crown restoration.

Posterior
Refers to teeth and tissues towards the back of the mouth (distal to the canines): maxillary and mandibular premolars and molars.

Precision Attachment
Interlocking device, one component of which is fixed to an abutment or abutments and the other is integrated into a fixed or removable prosthesis in order to stabilize and/or retain it.

Premedication
The use of medications prior to dental procedures.

Prophylaxis
Scaling and polishing procedure performed to remove coronal plaque, calculus and stains.

Pulp
Connective tissue that contains blood vessels and nerve tissue which occupies the pulp cavity of a tooth.

Pulp Cavity
The space within a tooth which contains the pulp.

Pulpectomy
Complete removal of vital and non vital pulp tissue from the root canal space.

Pulpotomy
Surgical removal of a portion of the pulp with the aim of maintaining the vitality of the remaining portion by means of an adequate dressing; pulp amputation.

Rebase
To replace the denture base.

Reline
To resurface the side of the denture that is in contact with the soft tissues of the mouth to make it fit more securely.

Removable Appliance
Removable orthodontic appliances used to effect simple tipping movements of one tooth or several.

Removable Partial Denture
A removable partial denture (removable bridge) is a prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth that can be removed by the patient.

Resorb
To dissolve.

Retainer
Orthodontic Retainer: Appliance to stabilize teeth following orthodontic
treatment.
Prosthodontic Retainer: A part of a fixed partial denture that attaches a
pontic to the abutment tooth, implant abutment, or implant.

Root
The anatomic portion of the tooth that is covered by cementum and is located in the alveolus (socket) where it is attached by the periodontal apparatus; radicular portion of tooth.

Root Canal
The portion of the pulp cavity inside the root of a tooth; the chamber within the root of the tooth that contains the pulp.

Root Canal Therapy
The treatment of disease and injuries of the pulp and associated periradicular conditions.

Root Caries
Tooth decay that forms on the roots.

Root Planing
A procedure designed to remove microbial flora, bacterial toxins, calculus, and diseased cementum or dentin on the root surfaces and in the pocket.

Scaling
Removal of plaque, calculus, and stain from teeth.

Sealants
Plastic resin placed on the biting surfaces of molars to prevent bacteria from attacking the enamel and causing caries.


Splint
A device used to support, protect, or immobilize oral structures that have been loosened, replanted, fractured or traumatized. Also refers to devices used in the treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders.

Sublingual Glands
Major salivary glands located in the mucosa on the floor of the mouth.

Submandibular Glands
Walnut-sized major salivary glands located beneath the tongue.

Suture
Stitch used to repair incision or wound.

Temporary Removable Denture
An interim prosthesis designed for use over limited period of time.

Temporomandibular (TMJ)
The connecting hinge mechanism between the base of the skull (temporal bone) and the lower jaw (mandible).

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction
Abnormal functioning of temporomandibular joint; also refers to symptoms arising in other areas secondary to the dysfunction.

Unerupted
Tooth/teeth that have not penetrated into the oral cavity

Veneer
In the construction of crowns or pontics, a layer of tooth-colored material, usually, but not limited to, composite, porcelain, ceramic or acrylic resin, attached to the surface by direct fusion, cementation, or mechanical retention; also refers to a restoration that is luted to the facial surface of a tooth.

Whiteningsee Bleaching

X-Ray
Radiograph that lets the dentist see inside your teeth and gums.

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