Glossary of Dental Terms

Glossary of Dental Terms



ABSCESS - a local infection. A severe decay, periodontal disease or trauma are causative factors. It is characterised by swelling and pain. If an abscess ruptures, it will be accompanied by sudden relief from pain due to a reduction in pressure. A foul taste may also be noticed.

ABUTMENT - a term used to denote the teeth on either side of a missing tooth.

ACRYLIC RESIN - the plastic widely used in dentistry to make dentures.

ACTIVE ERUPTION - the emergence of the tooth from its position in the jaw.

ACUTE NECROTIZING ULCERATIVE GINGIVITIS - An acute, painful condition characterised by severe gingival redness, spontaneous bleeding, foul breath and pain.

ADHESION - the sticking together of unlike substances.

ADJUSTMENT - a modification made upon a dental prosthesis after it has been completed and inserted into the mouth.

AEROBIC BACTERIA - bacteria which grow in oxygen-rich environments in the oral cavity, these bacteria are found outside the sulcus.

AFFERENT - nerves that carry sensory messages toward the brain.

AIR ABRASION - a technique used to remove bacteria and decay from the tooth; this does not involve the use of a drill.

ALLERGY - an adverse or abnormal reaction to an organism, medication or substance.

ALGINATE - an impression material used by dentists for making stone models.

ALVEOLAR BONE - the bone surrounding the root of the tooth loss of this bone is typically associated with severe periodontal disease.

ALVEOLAR CREST - The alveolar crest refers to the highest point of the alveolar ridge, which extends beyond the tooth socket. The position of the crest moves slightly upwards as the tooth erupts.

ALVEOLAR EMINENCE - The alveolar eminence is the outline of the root on the facet section of the alveolar bone.

ALVEOLAR PROCESS - the portion of the mandible or maxilla that surrounds the root of a tooth.

ALVEOLUS - the bony socket in which the root of the tooth sits.

AMALGAM - or silver filling an alloy in which one of the metals is mercury. Below are the approximate percentages of the component elements:

  • Mercury (Hg): 50%
  • Silver (Ag): 35%
  • Tin (Sn): 13%
  • Copper (Cu): 0%-3%
  • Zinc (Zn): 0%-1%

AMALGAM FILLINGS - fillings made from a mixture of substances, usually metals.

ANAEROBIC BACTERIA - bacteria that do not need oxygen to grow they are generally associated with periodontal disease.

ANAESTHESIA - the suppression of sensations such as pain; often used in surgical procedures.

ANALGESIA - the accidental or deliberate absence of pain caused by damage to the nerves or administration of medication.

ANTERIOR TEETH - the front teeth; these are made up of the incisors and canines (cuspid teeth).

ANODONTIA - the developmental absence of teeth.

ANTIBIOTICS - substance produced by or derived from bacteria, which is able to inhibit or kill other bacteria.

ANTIMICROBIAL - destroying or inhibiting the growth of bacteria.

ANTIMICROBIAL THERAPY - treatment which restricts or prevents the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria.

ANATOMICAL CROWN - the portion of the tooth that is covered with enamel.

ANTISCEPTIC - a chemical agent that can be applied to living tissues to destroy germs.

ANESTHESIA - medication that relieves the sensation of pain.

ANNIVERSARY YEAR - begins on the day of the month that the patients' insurance became effective.

ANOMALY - a deviation from the normal or expected outcome.

ANTAGONIST - a structure that opposes or counteracts another structure.

ANTERIOR - situated in front of.

ANTERIOR TEETH - the front teeth (incisors and cupids).

APEX - The apex is the top, point or summit. The apex often refers to the tip or most superior point of a structure; the tip of the root of the tooth is also known as the apex.

APICAL FORAMEN - the opening at the end of the root of a tooth through which the tooth receives its nerve and blood supply.

APICECTOMY - a surgical procedure used in endodontic dentistry to remove the tip of your tooth root.

ARCH - a curvature both the maxillary and mandibular ridge form a horseshoe-shaped arch.

ARTICULATING PAPER - carbon paper placed between the upper and lower teeth to mark contact.

ARTICULATOR - a mechanical device used to replicate functional movements of the jaw to casts.

ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS - a clause in an insurance policy that allows the insured person to direct the carrier's payment to the dentist.

ASPIRATOR - the tube-like straw that the dentist places in your mouth for suction.

ASYMMETRY/SYMMETRY - to be aesthetic, tooth size, shape and gum contour should be as close to identical from one side of the mouth to the other. Ideally, the incisal edges of your teeth should follow the contour of the upper lip.

ATTRITION - the wearing away of tooth structure through normal use (i.e. chewing, biting, etc.).


BABY TEETH & TEETHING - the first set of human teeth; baby teeth start to erupt from the age of 6 months. Teething can be very painful and cause a high temperature and swollen gums; teething gels can be applied to ease pain and it may also be necessary to give children pain relief.

BASE - a substance which is often cement-like which is used in dentistry to protect a filling from sensitivity to hot and cold.

BLACK HAIRY TONGUE - an infection of the papillae on the surface of the tongue; often appears brown or black in colour.

BICUSPIDS - or having two cusps. The first and second bicuspids are the fourth and fifth teeth from the center of the mouth, respectively. These are the back teeth that are used for chewing.

BIOPSY - a sample of tissue or cells which is removed from the body and subsequently used to diagnose an illness or condition.

BITEWING - a single X-ray that shows the upper and lower teeth's biting surfaces on the same film.

BLEACHING - cosmetic whitening of teeth using peroxide.

BLOCK INJECTION - used to suppress nerve activity in a certain area of the body.

BOLUS - The term bolus is usually used to describe a rounded, soft mass of chewed food deposits and saliva. It can also be used to describe a single, large dose of a drug that is prescribed for therapeutic use.

BONDING - the covering of a tooth surface to correct stained or damaged teeth.

BONE LOSS - the disintegration of bone surrounding the tooth socket; this can lead to loosening of the teeth.

BONE RESTORPTION - the process involving the gradual breakdown of bone mass.

BRIDGE - a fixed appliance (prosthesis) that replaces missing teeth. A bridge is a series of attached crowns (abutments and pontics).

BRUXISM - or the grinding of teeth, usually occurs during sleep and can cause problems such as tooth wear, headaches and jaw joint or TMJ pain.

BUCCAL - The term buccal refers to anything relating to the mouth or cheeks. The scientific name for the mouth is the buccal cavity, for example.

BUCCINATOR MUSCLE - the cheek muscle.



CALCIUM - mineral used in the body for strengthening and formation of bones and teeth; commonly found in dairy products.

CALCULUS - hard calcium-like deposits that form on teeth and dentures.

CANINES - See CUSPIDS so named because they correspond to the long teeth of a dog.

CANKER SORES - sores or ulcers on the insides of the mouth.

CANTILEVER BRIDGE - a form of dental implant, which fills in the gap left by missing teeth; the cantilever bridge is used when there is a gap with healthy teeth on one side only.

CAPITATION PLAN - a plan whereby the dentist is contracted with the administrator to provide dental services to persons covered under the program in return for payment on a per-capita basis.

CARIES - medical term for decay caused by decalcification of the enamel and disintegration of the dentin by acid-producing bacteria.

CARRIER - the party (usually an insurance company) that pays claims and collects premiums.

CAST - reproduction of the mouth in stone or plaster.

CAVITRON - a dental instrument, which uses sound wave technology to clean the teeth thoroughly.

CEMENT - a dental material used to seal inlays, onlays, and crowns also used for pupal protection.

CEMENTUM - makes up the dull yellow outer surface of the roots.

CENTRIC OCCLUSION - the relationship of the occlusal surfaces of one arch to those in the opposing arch at physical rest position.

CENTRIC RELATION - The centric relation refers to the relationship between the maxilla (upper jaw) and mandible (lower jaw) when the condoyles are in their most posterior or superior positions.

CERVICAL - Cervial refers to anything relating to the neck, or pertaining to the neck of any structure or organ. In dentistry the term cervical relates to the neck of a tooth.

CINGULUM - Cingulum is the raised area of the front teeth (the incisors or canine teeth), which is located near to the lingual lobe (the surface of the tongue).

CLASP - The clasp is the metal component of a denture which is used to fix and support the device. Clasps are also used to fasten together different parts of the dental prosthesis and to attach prosthetic devices to existing teeth or abutments.

CLEFT PALATE - an opening in the palate.

CLINICAL CROWN - The clinical crown is the visible area of the tooth that is exposed beyond the gums. It is located below the anatomical crown, which is the visible enamel covered upper part of the tooth.

CLOSED PANEL - a plan where the covered patient only receives benefits if the services are provided by a dentist contracted with the plan's administrator.

COMPOSITE FILLING - tooth-coloured restorative material. The word "composite" refers to the mixture of filler particles in a liquid resin. Commonly, the resin used is BIS-GMA (bis-gamma methyl methacrylate). Filler particles are added to alter the colour and wear characteristics. Common filler particles are silica, aluminum, zinc, tin, copper and iron.

COSMETIC DENTISTRY - aesthetic improvement of the colour and shape of teeth performed by a general dentist.

CURETTAGE - the surgical scraping of bacteria from soft tissue. This is a periodontal procedure and is usually performed one quadrant at a time.

CUSPID - the third tooth from the center of the mouth towards the back, also known as canines.

CUSPS - A cusp describes a pointed tip or end. In the mouth the cusp relates to a rounded or slightly pointed protrusion on the chewing surface of the tooth; these are usually found on the back (posterior) teeth.

CYST - a pocket or sac of liquid which grows under the skin; cysts can be found all over the body.


DEBRIDEMENT - treatment of a bacterial infection by removing irritants (bacteria, calculus) from the periodontal pocket so as to allow healing of adjacent tissues.

DECALCIFICATION - The loss of calcium from your teeth, weakening the teeth and making them more susceptible to decay

DECIDUOUS TEETH - baby teeth teeth that exfoliate or shed. See PRIMARY TEETH.

DEMINERALIZATION - loss of mineral from tooth enamel just below the surface in a carious lesion usually appearing as a white area on the tooth surface.

DENDRITE - Dendrites are the branched structures that protrude from the neuron; these conduct sensory messages or impulses towards the body of the neuron.

DENTAL CHART - the patient record used by dentists to monitor patient’s oral health and record conditions, examinations and procedures.

DENTAL MAINTENANCE ORGANIZATION (D.M.O.) - a legal entity that accepts the responsibility of providing services at a fixed price.

DENTAL OCCLUSION - the positioning of the teeth when the jaw is closed normally; also known as the bite.

DENTAL PHOBIA - an extreme state of anxiety or nervousness brought about by the thought of going to the dentist or issues related to having to go to the dentist.

DENTAL RESIN - a dental material applied to the tooth, which is used in cases of severe dentinal hypersensitivity usually not used unless all other treatment attempts have failed.

DENTAL SEALANTS - placing sealants involves the application of a clear resin over the biting surfaces of teeth to prevent decay and to protect the teeth, especially in children.

DENTAL TOOTH FILLINGS - fillings are applied to a tooth in order to fill a cavity or hole and to prevent the spread of further infection in the tooth. There are several types of fillings; these include composite, silver amalgam and temporary fillings.

DENTAL TRAUMA - any injury which affects the mouth; this can include harm to the teeth, gums, jaws, lips and tongue.

DENTAL VARNISH - a hypersensitivity treatment which sometimes contains sodium fluoride applied to the tooth surface, covering the outer surface of dentin and thus blocking transmission of stimuli to the pulp.

DENTIN - the hard, yellowish tissue underlying the enamel and cementum it makes up the major bulk of the tooth.

DENTINAL TUBULES - microscopic canals that run from the outside of the dentin to the nerve inside the tooth.

DENTITION - the natural teeth as a unit.

DENTURISM - the practice of making and selling dentures.

DESENSITISATION - the blocking of painful stimuli which cause dentinal hypersensitivity.

DESICCATE - The process of desiccation involves removing all traces of moisture in order to thoroughly dry something out.

DESQUAMATION - a peeling of gingival tissue in cases of desquamative gingivitis, the tissues may appear smooth and shiny, with patches of bright red and gray. Surface tissue may peel away, exposing a raw, bleeding, painful surface.

DIAGNOSIS - A diagnosis is an evaluation of a condition or disorder often achieved by medical analysis such as examinations or laboratory tests.

DIAGNOSTIC - procedures performed by the dentist to identify what's going on in the mouth.

DIASTEMA - a space between the teeth.

DILACERATION - an abnormal tooth that where both the crown and the root are twisted.

DISINFECTION - a cleaning process that destroys the majority of microorganisms, but not highly resistant forms such as bacterial and mycotic spores.

DISTAL - Distal refers to a particular point of reference that is as far away as possible from another reference point. In the mouth, distal refers to the tooth that is farthest from the middle and front lines of the jaw.

DRY MOUTH - Dry mouth is a condition where the production and flow of saliva is reduced.


EDEMA - swelling resulting from fluid accumulation in gingival tissues.

EDENTULOUS - having no teeth.

EFFERENT - efferent is the opposite of afferent and refers to the process of carrying something away. The efferent nerve carries nerve impulses and sensations away from the central nervous system.

EMBRASURE - the space between two teeth created by the sloping away of the mesial and distal surfaces.

EMPRESS - type of porcelain crown and porcelain veneer/laminate. The advantage of Empress is that it blends very nicely with the surrounding teeth.

ENAMEL - the hard, white shiny surface of the crown composed of 95% calcium hydroxyapatite.

ENDODONTICS (ENDO) - the treatment of diseases or injuries that affect the root tip or nerve of the tooth.

EROSION - the dissolution of tooth structure due to the presence of gastric juices or citrus. Erosion seldom occurs alone it is often accompanied by attrition or abrasion (or both) to varying degrees. Acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and juices, should be avoided in patients with signs of erosion.

ERUPTION - the moving of the tooth occlusally.

EXCLUSION - In dentistry, an exclusion is a particular treatment or procedure that is not covered by a dental insurance plan. Each company will stipulate which procedures are excluded from their plan in the detailed outline of the insurance plan.

EXPLORER - an instrument used to examine the mouth and look for cavities.

EXTERNAL - External describes the outer surface or layer of a structure; this may also refer to something that is connected to an outer or outside part or structure.

EXTRACTION - the removal of teeth.

EXTRAORAL - This term refers to any structure, object or event that occurs which is situated outside of the mouth. It is the opposite of intraoral.

EYE TEETH - another name for the canine, or cuspid, teeth.


FEAR OF DENTIST - a state of extreme fear associated with having to the go to the dentist.

FILTRUM - the dimple or indentation under the nose directly above the upper lip.

FISSURE - cleft-like grooves in the chewing surface of the back teeth.

FISTULA - an abnormal passage formed in the gum tissue through which an abscessed tooth drains.

FLAP SURGERY - complex procedure where an area of the gum is lifted away from the bone.

FLOSSING TEETH - this is the action of using floss, a string-like substance made of thin fibres, to remove plaque from gaps between the teeth and the areas between the teeth and the gum line.

FLUORIDE - topical application of a gel or liquid that prevents decay.

FLUOROSIS - discoloration of the enamel due to excessive fluoride absorption (greater than one part per million) into the bloodstream, also called enamel mottling.

FORAMEN - an opening in bone.

FORCEPS - instrument commonly used during tooth extraction procedures.

FOSSA - a fossa is a depressed area which may be found all over the body; it is often hollow and located in bone. In the mouth, fossae appear on the mandible (lower jaw).

FREE CONSULTATION - many cosmetic dentists offer a free appointment to discuss their services with the patient or express a second opinion.

FREE GINGIVA - the marginal part of the gingival (gums) that can be deflected from the tooth surface it forms a collar around the tooth.

FRENECTOMY - the surgical removal of a flap of tissue which may have developed in the mouth and joins the cheeks, lips or tongue to the jaw; this procedure helps to treat people who are tongue-tied.

FRENUM - a fold of mucous membrane that connects two parts.

FULL MOUTH X- RAYS - X-rays showing all the teeth. Includes 14 periapicals and 4 bitewings, also known as a complete series.

FURCATION - an area where the root divides.


GALVANIC CURRENT - a current of electricity produced by chemical action between two metals suspended in liquid.

GENERAL ANESTHESIA - relieves the sensation of pain. This is generally done in an oral surgeons office and requires specialized training.

GEOGRAPHIC TONGUE - a condition, which affects the tongue; recognisable by raised, red patches which look like a map.

GERIATRIC DENTIST - general dentist who primarily treats senior citizens.

GINGIVA - the soft tissue surrounding teeth, also known as the gums.

GINGIVAL CREST - the gingival crest is the uppermost portion of the gingival (the gums). This is the area of the gums that surrounds the tooth; this portion serves primarily to protect the tooth.

GINGIVAL HYPERTROPHY - the abnormal enlargement of the gingiva surrounding the teeth caused by poor oral hygiene or the use of certain medications.

GINGIVECTOMY - the removal of soft tissue surrounding the tooth typically used in the treatment of periodontal disease.

GINGIVITIS - inflamed and swollen gum tissue most commonly caused by plaque. If left untreated, it may lead to periodontitis and gum disease.

GOLDEN PROPORTION - the guidelines dentists use in determining the most aesthetic appearance of a particular tooth (teeth need to maintain a certain height-to-width ratio to look their best.)

GROOVE - a groove is a narrow, depressed area which is sometimes present on the surface of a tooth; this area is prone to bacterial infection as plaque tends to build up in the pitted region; once this occurs, it is more difficult to remove by brushing and flossing alone.

GUIDED TISSUE REGENERATION - a procedure used to encourage re-generation of tissue and bone around an affected tooth.

GUTTA PERCHA - material used in the filling of root canals.


HALITOSIS - also commonly known as bad breath, this can be an embarrassing problem and is often treated through improving oral hygiene, as well as regular trips to the dental hygienist.

HANDPIECE - the instrument used to hold and revolve burs in dental operations.

HEAT-STERILIZING - use of an autoclave or dry-heat sterilizer to kill all potential disease-causing agents that remain following patient treatment. Any instruments that is not heat stable and cannot tolerate high temperatures should be thoroughly cleaned and soaked in disinfectant chemicals.

HISTODIFFERENTIATION - development into a specialized tissue.

HISTOLOGY - the study of tissues.

HYDROGEN PEROXIDE - a substance often used as an antiseptic; commonly used in mouthwash and as a whitening product in densistry.

HYPEREMIA - a period of increased blood flow caused by an alteration in conditions; often occurs in the pulp of a tooth.

HYPERPLASIA - over-growth of a part an increase in the number of cells.

HYPERSENSITIVITY - a sharp, sudden painful reaction in teeth when exposed to hot, cold, chemical, mechanical or osmotic (sweet or salt) stimuli.


IDEAL OCCLUSION - a complete harmonious relationship of the teeth and masticatory system.

IMMEDIATE DENTURE - a complete or partial denture made before the natural teeth are extracted.

IMPACTION - an unerupted or partially erupted tooth that will not fully erupt into the mouth because of an obstruction.

IMPLANT - a post that is implanted into bone. A crown, bridge, or denture is then placed over the implant to restore function and aesthetics.

IMPRESSION TRAY - formed in the general shape of the mouth, used for taking impressions.

INCISION AND DRAINAGE - a procedure to treat abscesses involving cutting the abscess and then draining out the fluid.

INCISORS - the central and lateral incisors the first and second teeth from the midline of the mouth.

INDIRECT FILLINGS - fillings that are sent away to a dental laboratory to be manufactured.

INLAY - a gold, porcelain or composite custom-made filling cemented into the tooth. If it covers the tips of the teeth, it is called an onlay.

INCISAL EDGE - the incisal edge of a tooth is the surface used to cut or tear; these surfaces are commonly found on the anterior teeth, which include the incisors and canine (cuspid) teeth. This area is also known as the incisal ridge.

INTERCUSPATION - interlocking a cusp-to-fossa relationship of the maxillary to mandibular teeth.

INTERPROXIMAL - refers to the space between two adjacent surfaces. In dentistry, interproximal relates to the space between two neighbouring teeth.

IINTRAORAL - inside your mouth.

IINTRAORAL CAMERA - a small contraption used to take photographs inside the mouth.

INVISALIGN - the system is a way to move teeth without the use of conventional brackets and archwires. Basically, a series of clear plastic trays are computer fabricated, with each tray gradually shifting the teeth into proper alignment. The system works best for minor tooth movements.

IRRIGATION - the technique of using a solution to wash out your mouth.


JAW - a common name for the maxilla or mandible.



LABIAL - the term labial refers to the lips, which are also known as the labia. A labial sound for example is a sound or letter generated by the movement of the lips.

LAMINATE VENEER - a porcelain or composite covering which is bonded to restore discolored or damaged teeth.

LASER DENTISTRY - procedures carried out with the use of sophisticated laser technology.

LATERAL - to the side.

LESION - any wound or local degeneration.

LINGUAL - the term lingual refers to the tongue; structures that are close to the tongue are also often described as being lingual: the lingual surface of the tooth, for example, is the surface that lies next to the tongue.  Lingual comes from the Latin word for tongue, which is lingua.

LOCAL ANESTHESIA - relieves the sensation of pain in a localized area.


MAMELON - a mamelon is a small lump or protrusion, which appears on the surface of a tooth which has recently erupted; these are found on the incisors and there are usually three.

MANDIBLE - the lower jaw.

MARYLAND BRIDGE - A type of bonded bridge. Its main difference from conventional bridges is in the reduced amount of abutment preparation necessary. Only the lingual surfaces of the abutments are reduced.

MASTICATION - chewing.

MASTICATORY SYSTEM - the teeth and surrounding structures: jaws, temporomandibular joint, muscles, lips and tongue.

MAXILLAE - the upper jaw.

MEDIAL - this term relates to anything that refers to the middle of something; for example the medial ligament in the knee is the one closest to the inner side of the knee joint.

MERCURY - a metal component of amalgam fillings.

MESIAL - like medial, the term mesial also refers to anything pertaining to the middle of something. In dentistry, mesial commonly relates to the middle of the front jaw. Mesial is the opposite of distal. Each tooth has a mesial surface which is the one closest to the middle of the mouth.

MICRO ABRASION - a drill-free technique using an instrument resembling a tiny sand blaster that delivers tiny aluminum oxide particles to the surface of teeth.

MIDLINE - the midline refers to an invisible line which divides a structure or object into two equally-sized parts. In dentistry, the midline refers to the point of contact between the mesial surfaces of the incisors at the front of the mouth.

MIXED DENTITION - this refers to the mixture of primary and permanent teeth in the dental arch; this is common in children between the ages of 6 and 12 when some, but not all, of the deciduous teeth have fallen out and been replaced by permanent teeth.

MOLAR - the first, second and third molars these are the sixth, seventh and eighth teeth from the center of the mouth, respectively.

MOUTHGAURD - a soft, fitted device that protects teeth against impact or injury.

MOUTHWASH - a rinse for the mouth which often contains antiseptic; used to kill off bacteria, remove plaque and freshen breath.

MUCOSA - the thin, pink or red outer membrane lining the inside of the oral cavity.


NASAL - relating to the nose.

NERVES - structures which transmit signals and sensations such as temperature or pain to the brain.

NERVOUS PATIENTS - this is a mild form of dental phobia and refers to a degree of nervousness when visiting the dentist; this condition is extremely common.

NIGHTGUARD - a removable acrylic appliance to minimize the effects of grinding (bruxism) and TMJ-associated problems.

NITROUS OXIDE - a form of anaesthetic which is inhaled through a mask; also known as laughing gas.

NOVOCAINE - a local anaesthetic used during surgical procedures.


OBLIQUE RIDGE - a linear elevation that transverses a surface.

OCCLUDE - to bring together.

OCCLUSAL - relating to the biting surface of teeth.

OCCLUSAL EQUILIBRATION - process of refining and perfecting the occlusion.


OCCLUSAL PLANE - the imaginary surface on which upper and lower teeth meet.

OCCLUSAL TRAUMA - results from excessive force placed on a normal dentition, i.e. grinding and clenching of teeth. If left uncontrolled, occlusal trauma may result in rapid attachment loss and bone destruction.

OCCLUSION - the relationship of the teeth in a closed position in both the maxillary and mandibular arch.

ONLAY - a laboratory-processed restoration made of metal, porcelain or acrylic that replaces one or more of the cusps of a tooth.

OPAQUING - process which is carried out in order to cover the metal area of a dental prosthesis so that it is not visible: this makes the patient’s smile more aesthetically pleasing and makes the prosthesis look more natural.

OPEN BITE - increased distance between the two arches space between the front upper and lower teeth when the back teeth are touching.

ORAL CAVITY - the mouth.

ORAL HYGIENE - the standard of cleanliness in the mouth; it is important to have good oral hygiene in order to have healthy teeth and gums.

ORAL SURGERY (O.S.) - surgery of the mouth.

ORAL AND MAXILLOFACIAL SURGEON - treats and surgically corrects diseases, injuries and defects of the mouth and jaws.

ORAL AND MAXILLOFACIAL SURGERY - the treatment and diagnosis of any illness relating to the face, mouth, jaw and neck.

ORAL PATHOLOGIST - examines oral tissues for evidence of suspected abnormalities, such as cancer.

ORAL THRUSH - oral thrush is a fungal infection inside the mouth

ORTHODONTICS - a branch of dentistry dealing with irregularities of the teeth and their correction.

ORTHODONTIST - designs and applies corrective and supportive appliances - braces - to realign crooked teeth.

OSTEOBLASTS - cells which aid in the growth and development of teeth and bones.

OSTEOCLASTS - cells which help remodel bone.


PALATE - roof of the mouth.

PALATAL SURFACE - the surface of the maxillary teeth nearest the palate.

PALMER NOTATION - an identification system for teeth widely used to designate individual teeth amongst orthodontists.

PANOREX - a single large X-ray taken outside of the mouth that shows all the teeth on one film.

PARASTHESIA - a state of numbness, which is experienced after a surgical procedure.

PARTIAL DENTURE - a removable appliance that replaces some of the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.

PASSIVE ERUPTION - describes the process by which teeth continue to erupt into the mouth as tooth structure is lost to attrition and wear.

PEDODONTICS (PEDO) - the treatment of children's teeth.

PELLICLE - the first step in plaque formation a clear, thin covering containing proteins and lipids (fats) found in saliva. It is formed within seconds after a tooth surface is cleaned.

PERIAPICAL - an X-ray that shows the whole tooth, also known as a single film or P.A.

PERIAPICAL ABSCESS - infection of the pulp of the tooth and tissues surrounding the base of the tooth.

PERICORONITIS - infection of the tissue overlying a partially erupted tooth. Treatment involves keeping this tissue clean and free of bacteria.

PERIODONTAL EXAMINATION - an exploration of the mouth carried out by a dentist to determine the oral health of an individual; this is a thorough check used to gauge the condition of the teeth and gums.

PERIODONTAL CHARTING - measures the pocket depth resulting from attachment loss between the gums and teeth.

PERIODONTAL LIGAMENT - the fibres that suspend the tooth in the bony socket it is attached at one end to the cementum, and at the other end to the alveolar bone of the socket.

PERIODONTAL MAINTENANCE - cleaning of the teeth following periodontal treatment, includes perio charting.

PERIODONTAL POCKET - the pocket that forms when the gums lose attachment from the teeth.

PERIODONTAL PROBE - a dental instrument used to measure pocket depth.

PERIODONTICS (PERIO) - the treatment of diseases of the gum.

PERIODONTIST - diagnoses and treats diseases of the tissues supporting and surrounding the teeth, especially periodontal - gum - disease

PERIODONTITIS - a form of periodontal disease affecting adults, resulting in destruction of alveolar bone.

PERIODONTIUM - the structures that surround and support the teeth.


PERMANENT TEETH - the teeth that replace the deciduous or primary teeth.

PIT - a pinpoint depression in the occlusal surface of a tooth.

PLACEBO - a chemical often used to reduce anxiety; also used as a means of comparison for drug performance by health professionals.

PLAQUE - a sticky film that accumulates on teeth.

PLASTER OF PARIS - gypsum, used to make models of teeth.

POLISHING - a dental procedure that removes stains, plaque and acquired pellicles by using an abrasive polishing paste in a rubber cup, attached to a slow-speed handpiece.

POLYPHYODONT - possessing several sets of teeth during a lifespan.

PONTIC - the component of a bridge that replaces the missing teeth.

PORCELAIN - a tooth-colored sand-like material much like enamel in appearance.

PORCELAIN VENEER - ultra-thin shells of ceramic material bonded to the front of the tooth.

POST - a thin, metal stick-like instrument used in root canal treatment.

POST CORE - the visible portion of the post.

POST CROWN - a device used to connect the post-core to the crown of the tooth.

POSTERIOR TEETH - the back teeth (bicuspids and molars).

POSTPALATAL SEAL - an elevation of material on the back (tissue-side) of a denture for the purpose of sealing the denture.

PREDETERMINATION - the doctor notifies the insurance company beforehand of the intended treatment, and the insurance company estimates the benefits that will be paid.

PREFERRED PROVIDER ORGANIZATION (PPO) - a plan where the patient can go to any dentist they choose, or they can choose a preferred dentist and receive discounted fees. These plans are listed on our system as Preferred and Non-Preferred.

PREMOLARS - two-cusped teeth immediately in front of molars.

PREVENTIVE - a procedure performed to aid in the prevention of decay and/or gum disease.

PRIMARY PLAN - when a patient is covered by two insurance plans, the plan that is billed first is the primary plan.

PRIMARY TEETH - the baby teeth, also known as the primary dentition.

PRIMATE SPACING - the normal spacing between primary anterior teeth.

PROCERA - procera is a type of porcelain crown. They are one of the strongest all-porcelain crowns available. Procera's framework is computer-generated porcelain is then added to the structure.


PROPHYLAXIS - to clean the teeth, also known as a prophy.

PROSTHETICS - a fixed or removable appliance used to replace missing teeth (i.e. bridges, partials and dentures).

PROSTHODONTIST - constructs artificial appliances designed to restore and maintain oral function by replacing missing teeth and other oral structures such as dentures

PROXIMAL - this term describes the act of being close to a particular point or structure; it is the opposite of distal. In dentistry, for example the proximal surface refers to the area where the surfaces of adjacent teeth come into contact with each other.

PROXIMAL SURFACE - the surface of the tooth adjacent to the next tooth refers to the mesial and distal surfaces.

PUBLIC HEALTH DENTIST - concerned with the dental health needs of entire communities, and can design and administer large-scale prevention and dental care programs by compiling and analyzing statistics.

PULP - the soft substance in the tooth, which contains the blood vessels and nerves.

PULP CANAL - the portion of the pulp in the root.

PULP CAP - a procedure used to prevent tooth decay and root canal treatment by treating the pulp.

PULP CHAMBER - the portion of the pulp in the crown of the tooth.

PULP HORN - the portion of the pulp chamber that extends towards the cusp.

PULP TISSUE - the soft (not calcified) tissue in the pulp chamber composed of blood vessels and nerves.

PULPECTOMY - the removal of infected pulp from the tooth.

PULPITIS - the inflammation of the pulp.

PYORRHEA - a form of serious gum disease; also known as periodontitis.



RADIOGRAPHIC - referring to x-rays.

RADIOSURGERY - surgical technique that uses radio waves to produce a pressureless, bloodless incision.

REBASE - process where only the tissue surface of a denture is replaced by new material.

REIMPLANTATION - the re-attachment of a tooth, which has been knocked out.

RELINE - a procedure to replace the side of a denture; often carried out to improve the fit.


RESORB - to dissolve into the tissue.

RESTORATIONS - any replacement for lost tooth structure or teeth (i.e. bridges, fillings, crowns and implants).

RESTORATIVE DENTISTRY - process of restoring missing, damaged or diseased teeth to normal form and function.

RETAINED ROOT - the portion of the root that remains following a tooth extraction.

RETAINER - a removable appliance used to maintain teeth in a given position (usually worn at night).

RIDGE - a linear elevation.

ROOT - the lower portion of the tooth; essential for anchoring the tooth to the jaw bone.

ROOT CANAL THERAPY (RCT) - procedure used to save an abscessed tooth in which the pulp chamber is cleaned out, disinfected, and filled with a permanent filling.

ROOT CANAL - the area of the root which connects the nerve from the bottom to the top of the tooth.

ROOT PLANING - the removal of hard deposits from the root surface below the gumline.

ROOT RESECTION - the treatment or removal of an infected part of the root.

ROUTINE TEETH CLEANING - the practice of brushing, flossing and rinsing regularly.

RUBBER DAM - a latex sheet, which is applied to the surface of an affected tooth to prevent bacteria entering the site.

RUGAE - are folds or wrinkles; this term is most commonly used to describe the folding inside the wall of the stomach. In dentistry, the rugae refer to the soft folds in the front section of the hard palate.


SAGITTAL PLANE - an imaginary longitudinal vertical plane that divides the mouth into two halves (left and right.)

SALIVA - a watery substance which contains enzymes, mucous, antibodies and electrolytes; secreted by the salivary glands.

SALIVA EJECTOR - an instrument used to remove excess saliva from the mouth.

SALIVARY GLANDS - glands which secrete saliva. These glands are located in the mouth, throat and cheeks.

SCALING - scraping of the tooth above the gums.

SECONDARY DENTIN - a layer of dentin which forms after the tooth has fully developed.

SECONDARY PLAN - when a patient is insured by two plans, the plan that is billed second is the secondary plan.

SEDATION DENTISTRY - sometimes known as sleep dentistry, dental sedation enables a patient to be feel relaxed during treatment.

SLEEP APONEA - this is when an individual experiences difficulties breathing at night.

SOCKET - a cavity in the bone, see ALVEOLUS.

SOFT PALATE - the back 1/3 of the roof of the mouth composed of soft tissue.

SOMATIC - nerves that supply muscles.

SONICARE - electric toothbrush. Vibrates at over 31,000 brush strokes per minute. Most models offer a three-minute timer to let you know when you're done.

SPACE MAINTAINER - a dental appliance used to maintain space in the mouth.


SUBMUCOSA - the layer of tissue under the mucous membrane.

SUCCEDANEOUS - a tooth that replaces or succeeds another.

SULCUS - a broad depression on the chewing surfaces of your back teeth.

SUPERGINGIVAL - the area above the gingival margin.

SUPERNUMERARY TEETH - extra teeth, in addition to the development of the normal 32.

SURGICAL TEMPLATE - a clear tray used in immediate denture fabrication.

SUTURE - a joining of two bones, also stitches.



TEETHING - baby teeth pushing through gums.

TEETH STAINS - Extrinsic - stain located on the outside of the tooth surface, originating from external substances such as tobacco, coffee, tea or food usually removed by polishing the teeth with an abrasive prophylaxis paste.

TEETH STAINS - Intrinsic - stain originating from the ingestion of certain materials or chemical substances during tooth development, or from the presence of caries. This stain is permanent and cannot be removed.

TEMPOROMANDIBULAR JOINT (TMJ) - temporo (temporal bone), mandibular (lower jaw). This is the connecting hinge between the lower jaw and the base of the skull. T.M.J. treatment is sometimes paid under medical.


TOOTH ABRASION - the act of wearing down a tooth by means of repeated rubbing or brushing.

TOOTH ABSCESS - a collection of pus, which results when the fluid is not able to drain.

TOOTHBRUSH - a brush used to clean the teeth; can be manual or electric.


TOOTH EXTRACTION - to prepare the mouth for insertion of the implant.

TOOTH BUD - the mass which contains the component parts of the tooth; forms in the foetal stages.

TOOTHPASTE - a substance used to clean the teeth and remove plaque, which often contains fluoride.

TOPICAL - applied directly to an infected area for treatment.

TORUS - a bony lump which is commonly found on the roof the mouth and the surface of the jaw bone.

TRANSVERSE RIDGE - the transverse ridge is a ridge which is fashioned by the connection of two inclines on the occlusal exterior of a tooth. These are usually only found on the posterior teeth (the premolars and molars).

TRENCH MOUTH - an infection which affects the gums; characterised by redness and swollen gums.

TRIANGULAR RIDGE - a linear elevation that forms a triangle.

TRIFURCATION - this is the process of the root trunk dividing into multiple roots; trifurcation refers to a tooth with three roots. Bifurcation refers to this process in a tooth with two roots.

TUBERCLE - a small, rounded projection.

TUBEROSITY - a large, rounded projection.

TUBEROSITY REDUCTION - this procedure involves the removal of the bony mass (the tuberosity), which protrudes behind the last molar tooth.


ULTRASONIC - the conversion of high-frequency electrical current into mechanical vibrations.

UNIVERSAL PRECAUTIONS - these precautions require all dental staff involved in patient care to use appropriate protective wear, such as gloves, masks and eyewear. After each patient visit, the gloves must be discarded, hands washed and a new pair of gloves donned for the next patient. These precautions are considered universal because they are used for each and every patient to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases.

UNERUPTED TOOTH - a tooth which has grown but not broken through the gum line; these teeth often have to be extracted.

USUAL, CUSTOMARY AND REASONABLE (UCR) - the doctor's fee is considered usual, customary, and reasonable if it meets the following requirements:

  1. Usual: the doctor's usual fee is charged
  2. Customary: if the doctor's fee falls in the same range as other dentists in the area
  3. Reasonable: the doctor's modified fee is justified because of special circumstances.


VENTRAL - the underside thus the ventral surface of the tongue is the underside of the tongue.

VIRGIN TEETH - teeth that are free from decay or restorations.

VITAL PULPOTOMY - a procedure to remove a portion of the tooth pulp from the crown area of the tooth.


WISDOM TOOTH - the third molar the eighth tooth from the center of mouth.


XEROSTOMIA - dryness of the mouth.