Dental Dictionary

Here are some words you may hear around the office! Check out www.ada.org for more.

abscess: Acute or chronic localized inflammation, probably with a collection of pus, associated with tissue destruction and, frequently, swelling; usually secondary to infection.

amalgam: An alloy used in direct dental restorations. Typically composed of mercury, silver, tin and copper along with other metallic elements added to improve physical and mechanical properties.

local anesthesia: The elimination of sensation, especially pain, in one part of the body by the topical application or regional injection of a drug.

bicuspid: A premolar tooth; a tooth with two cusps.

bitewing radiograph: Interproximal radiographic view of the coronal portion of the tooth/teeth. A form of dental radiograph that may be taken with the long axis of the image oriented either horizontally or vertically, that reveals approximately the coronal halves of the maxillary and mandibular teeth and portions of the interdental alveolar septa on the same image.

bleaching: Process of lightening of the teeth, usually using a chemical oxidizing agent and sometimes in the presence of heat. Removal of deep seated intrinsic or acquired discolorations from crowns of vital and non-vital teeth through the use of chemicals, sometimes in combination with the application of heat and light. Bleaching has been achieved through short and long term applications of pastes or solutions containing various concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. Normally applied externally to teeth; may be used internally for endodontically treated teeth.

bonding: Process by which two or more components are made integral by mechanical and/or chemical adhesion at their interface.

bridge: See fixed partial denture.

bruxism: The parafunctional grinding of the teeth.

buccal: Pertaining to or toward the cheek (as in the buccal surface of a posterior tooth).

calculus: Hard deposit of mineralized substance adhering to crowns and/or roots of teeth or prosthetic devices.

caries: Commonly used term for tooth decay.

cavity: Missing tooth structure. A cavity may be due to decay, erosion or abrasion. If caused by caries; also referred to as carious lesion.

cementum: Hard connective tissue covering the outer surface of a tooth root.

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

complete denture: A prosthetic for the edentulous maxillary or mandibular arch, replacing the full dentition. Usually includes six anterior teeth and eight posterior teeth.

complete series: An entire set of radiographs. A set of intraoral radiographs usually consisting of 14 to 22 periapical and posterior bitewing images intended to display the crowns and roots of all teeth, periapical areas and alveolar bone crest

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

core buildup: the replacement of a part or all of the crown of a tooth whose purpose is to provide a base for the retention of an indirectly fabricated crown.

cosmetic dentistry: Those services provided by dentists solely for the purpose of improving the appearance when form and function are satisfactory and no pathologic conditions exist [source: ADA policy “Cosmetic Dentistry (1976:850)].

cracked tooth syndrome: A collection of symptoms characterized by transient acute pain experienced when chewing.

crown: An artificial replacement that restores missing tooth structure by surrounding the remaining coronal tooth structure, or is placed on a dental implant. It is made of metal, ceramic or polymer materials or a combination of such materials. It is retained by luting cement or mechanical means.

crown lengthening: A surgical procedure exposing more tooth for restorative purposes by apically positioning the gingival margin and removing supporting bone.

cusp: Pointed or rounded eminence on or near the masticating surface of a tooth.

cuspid: Single cusped tooth located between the incisors and bicuspids.

debridement: Removal of subgingival and/or supragingival plaque and calculus which obstructs the ability to perform an evaluation.

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

deciduous: Having the property of falling off or shedding; a term used to describe the primary teeth.

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.

dentin: Hard tissue which forms the bulk of the tooth and develops from the dental papilla and dental pulp, and in the mature state is mineralized.

diastema: A space, such as one between two adjacent teeth in the same dental arch.

direct pulp cap: Procedure in which the exposed vital pulp is treated with a therapeutic material, followed with a base and restoration, to promote healing and maintain pulp vitality.

distal: Surface or position of a tooth most distant from the median line of the arch.

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

enamel: Hard calcified tissue covering dentin of the crown of tooth.

endodontics: Endodontics is the branch of dentistry which is concerned with the morphology, physiology and pathology of the human dental pulp and periradicular tissues. Its study and practice encompass the basic and clinical sciences including biology of the normal pulp, the etiology, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries of the pulp and associated periradicular conditions.

endodontist: A dental specialist who limits his/her practice to treating disease and injuries of the pulp and associated periradicular conditions.

extraction: The process or act of removing a tooth or tooth parts.

exudate: A material usually resulting from inflammation or necrosis that contains fluid, cells, and/or other debris.

facial: The surface of a tooth directed toward . the cheeks or lips (i.e., the buccal and labial surfaces) and opposite the lingual surface.

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

fixed partial denture: A prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth cemented or otherwise attached to the abutment teeth or implant replacements.

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

frenum: Muscle fibers covered by a mucous membrane that attaches the cheek, lips and or tongue to associated dental mucosa.

furcation: The anatomic area of a multirooted tooth where the roots diverge.

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

gingivectomy: The excision or removal of gingiva.

gingivitis: Inflammation of gingival tissue without loss of connective tissue.

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

incisal: Pertaining to the biting edges of the incisor and cuspid teeth.

indirect pulp cap: Procedure in which the nearly exposed pulp is covered with a protective dressing to protect the pulp from additional injury and to promote healing and repair via formation of secondary dentin.

inlay: An intracoronal dental restoration, made outside the oral cavity to conform to the prepared cavity, which restores some of the occlusal surface of a tooth, but does not restore any cusp tips. It is retained by luting cement.

interproximal: Between the adjoining surfaces of adjacent teeth in the same arch.

labial: Pertaining to or around the lip. See facial.

laminate veneer: A thin covering of the facial surface of a tooth usually constructed of tooth colored material used to restore discolored, damaged, misshapen or misaligned teeth.

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.

mandible: The lower jaw.

Maryland bridge: Fixed partial denture featuring conservative retainers which are resin bonded to abutments.

maxilla: The upper jaw.

mesial: Nearer the middle line of the body or the surface of a tooth nearer the center of the dental arch.

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

mouthguard: Individually molded device designed primarily to be worn for the purpose of helping prevent injury to the teeth and their surrounding tissues. Sometimes called a mouth protector.

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

onlay: A dental restoration made outside the oral cavity that covers one or more cusp tips and adjoining occlusal surfaces, but not the entire external surface. It is retained by luting cement. palate: The hard and soft tissues forming the roof of the mouth that separates the oral and nasal cavities.

panoramic radiograph: An extraoral projection whereby the entire mandible, maxilla, teeth and other nearby structures are portrayed on a single image, as if the jaws were flattened out.

parafunctional: Other than normal function or use.

periapical: The area surrounding the end of the tooth root.

periapical radiograph: A radiograph made by the intraoral placement of film, phosphorous plate, emulsion or digital sensor, for disclosing the apices of the teeth.

pericoronal: Around the crown of a tooth.

periodontal: Pertaining to the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth.

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.

periodontics: Periodontics is that specialty of dentistry which encompasses the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth or their substitutes and the maintenance of the health, function and esthetics of these structures and tissues.

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

permanent dentition: Refers to the permanent or adult teeth in the dental arch.

pin: A small metal rod, cemented or driven into dentin to aid in retention of a restoration.

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

pontic: The term used for an artificial tooth on a fixed partial denture (bridge).

post: Rod-like component designed to be inserted into a prepared root canal space so as to provide structural support. This device can either be in the form of an alloy, carbon fiber or fiberglass, and posts are usually secured with appropriate luting agents.

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

predetermination: A process where a dentist submits a treatment plan to the payer before treatment begins. The payer reviews the treatment plan and notifies the dentist and patient of one or more of the following: patient’s eligibility, covered services, amounts payable, co-payment and deductibles and plan maximums.

preventive dentistry: Aspects of dentistry concerned with promoting good oral health and function by preventing or reducing the onset and/or development of oral diseases or deformities and the occurrence of oro-facial injuries.

prophylaxis: Removal of plaque, calculus and stains from the tooth structures. It is intended to control local irritational factors.

provisional: Formed or preformed for temporary purposes or used over a limited period; a temporary or interim solution; usually refers to a prosthesis or individual tooth restoration.

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

quadrant: One of the four equal sections into which the dental arches can be divided; begins at the midline of the arch and extends distally to the last tooth.

radiograph: An image or picture produced on a radiation sensitive film, phosphorous plate, emulsion or digital sensor by exposure to ionizing radiation.

removable partial denture: A removable partial denture is a prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth that can be removed by the patient.

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 planing: A definitive treatment procedure designed to remove cementum and/or dentin that is rough, may be permeated by calculus, or contaminated with toxins or microorganisms.

salivary gland: Exocrine glands that produce saliva and empty it into the mouth; these include the parotid glands, the submandibular glands and the sublingual glands.

scaling: Removal of plaque, calculus, and stain from teeth.

sealant: A resinous material designed to be applied to the occlusal surfaces of posterior teeth to prevent occlusal caries.

sedative filling: A temporary restoration intended to relieve pain.

supernumerary teeth: Extra erupted or unerupted teeth that resemble teeth of normal shape.

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 (TMD or TMJD): Abnormal functioning of temporomandibular joint; also refers to symptoms arising in other areas secondary to the dysfunction.

torus: A bony elevation or protuberance of bone.

treatment plan: The sequential guide for the patient’s care as determined by the dentist’s diagnosis and is used by the dentist for the restoration to and/or maintenance of optimal oral health.

trismus: Restricted ability to open the mouth, usually due to inflammation or fibrosis of the muscles of mastication.

xerostomia: Decreased salivary secretion that produces a dry and sometimes burning sensation of the oral mucosa and/or cervical caries.