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Dental Glossary

Do you need help deciphering your dental claim, our glossary of terms and find out where your Zygomatic Bone is.


Abscess:  Acute or chronic localized inflammation with a collection of pus, associated with tissue destruction and, frequently, swelling.

Abrasion:  Tooth wear caused by forces other than chewing, such as improper brushing.

Abutment:  A tooth or implant used to support an artificial device replacing teeth.

Acid Etchin:  Applying an acid to the tooth-enamel surface to provide retention for bonding.

Alloplastic:  Synthetic material used for tissue augmentation.

Alveolar:  The bone to which a tooth is attached.

Alveoloplasty:  The recontouring of bone structures, usually in preparation for a prosthesis.  

Amalgam:  A mixture of mercury, silver, tin, and copper used to fill cavities.

Analgesia:  Loss of pain sensations without loss of consciousness.

Anesthesia:  Removal of sensation. General anesthesia: a controlled state of unconsciousness. Local anesthesia: drug-induced elimination of sensation in one part of the body.

Anterior:  The teeth and tissues located towards the front of the mouth.

Apex:  The tip or end of the root end of the tooth.

Apicoectomy:  Amputation of a tooth apex (root tip).

Arch, Dental:  Upper or lower jaw.

Avulsion:  Separation of tooth from its socket due to trauma; scientific term for “having a tooth knocked out.”

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Band:  A metal ring orthodontists cement to a tooth as part of the bracing process.

Bicuspid:  A tooth with two cusps, usually a premolar tooth.

Bilateral:  Both sides.

Biopsy:  Process of removing tissue for evaluation.

Bitewing Radiograph:  A side-view mouth X-ray.

Bonding:  A composite resin that changes the shape or color of a tooth.

Bridge:  A fixed partial denture replacing one or more missing teeth. Bridges can be fixed or removable.

Bruxism:  Grinding and/or clenching of teeth.

Buccal:  Pertaining to or around the cheek.

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Calculus:  Hard mineralized plaque attached to crowns and/or roots of teeth.

Canal:  The space inside the root portion of a tooth containing pulp tissue; the passage which transmits vessels and nerves through the jaw.

Cantilever Extension:  Part of a fixed prosthesis supported at one end only.

Caries:  Tooth decay.

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

Cement Base:  Material used under a filling to replace lost tooth structure.

Cementum:  Hard connective tissue covering the tooth root.

Cephalometric Radiograph:  A full-head X-ray.

Cleft Palate:  Congenital deformity resulting in lack of fusion of the soft and/or hard palate.

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

Closed Reduction:  The repositioning of a fractured bone without surgery.

Composite:  A dental restorative material.

Compound Fracture:  A broken bone exposed to external contamination.

Coping:  A thin covering of a tooth crown applied as part of a restoration.

Coronal:  The crown of a tooth.

Crown:  A restoration that covers or “caps” a tooth to restore it to its normal shape and size.  Anatomical crowns:  The normal enamel covering of a tooth.   

  • Abutment crown:  An artificial crown that supports a dental prosthesis.   
  • Artificial crown:  A restoration that covers most or all of a tooth crown.  
  • Clinical crown:  The part of a tooth not covered by supporting tissues.

Curettage:  Scraping or cleaning the walls of a cavity or gingival pocket.

Cusp:  An extruded part of the chewing surface of a tooth.

Cyst:  A cavity containing fluid or soft matter.

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Debridement:  Removal of plaque, calculus and/or tissue.

Decay:  Carious lesions in a tooth resulting in decomposition of tooth structure.

Deciduous:  Used to describe primary (baby) teeth.

Dental Prophylaxis:  Scaling and polishing procedure that removes plaque, calculus, and stains.

Dentin:  The part of the tooth beneath enamel and cementum.

Dentition:  The teeth in the dental arch. Permanent dentition refers to permanent teeth; deciduous dentition refers to deciduous (baby) teeth.

Denture:  An artificial substitute for natural teeth and adjacent tissues.

Denture Base:  The part of a denture that contacts soft tissue and holds the artificial teeth.

Diagnostic Cast:  Plaster or stone model of teeth and adjoining tissues; also referred to as study model.

Diastema:  A space, often used to refer to a space between adjacent teeth.

Direct Pulp Cap:  Covering exposed tooth pulp with a dressing or cement.

Displaced Tooth:  Partial loss of a tooth due to trauma.

Distal:  Toward the back of the dental arch.

Dry Socket:  Inflammation of the tooth socket following a tooth extraction.

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Edentulous:  Without teeth.

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

Endodontist:  A dental specialist who treats disease and injuries of the tooth pulp.

Equilibration:  Reshaping the biting surfaces of teeth to create proper adjustment and alignment.

Evaluation:  Periodic oral evaluation: a regular dental checkup. Limited oral evaluation — problem-focused: an exam limited to a specific oral-health problem. Comprehensive oral evaluation: a thorough evaluation of hard and soft tissues. Detailed and extensive oral evaluation — problem-focused, by report: a detailed and extensive problem-focused evaluation.

Evulsion:  Complete separation of the tooth from its socket due to trauma (avulsion). A knocked-out tooth.

Excision:  Surgical removal of bone or tissue.

Exudate:  A byproduct of inflammation or necrosis (death of tissue) containing fluid, cells, and/or other debris.

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Facial:  The surface of a tooth directed toward the face.

Filling:  The restoring of lost tooth structure using materials like metal, alloy, plastic, or cement.

Fracture:  In dentistry, the breaking of a tooth.

Frenum:  Muscle fibers covered by a mucous membrane that attach the cheek, lips and/or tongue to associated structures.

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

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Gingiva:   The soft tissues overlying the crowns of unerupted teeth and encircling the necks of erupted teeth.

Gingivectomy:  The removal of gingiva.

Gingivitis:  Inflammation of the gingival tissues.

Gingivoplasty:  A process that reshapes gingiva into a normal, functional form.

Graft:  A piece of tissue or alloplastic material put in contact with tissue to repair a defect or supplement a deficiency.

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Hemisection:  Surgical separation of a multirooted tooth so that one root and/or the overlaying portion of the crown can be surgically removed.

Heterologous:  Made up of tissue not normal to the part.

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Imaging, Diagnostic:  Includes, but is not limited to, CAT scans, MRIs, photographs, and X-rays.

Immediate Denture:  Prosthesis that is placed immediately after removing natural teeth.

Impacted Tooth:  An unerupted or partially erupted tooth that is blocked from surfacing by another tooth, bone, or soft tissue.

Implant:  A device placed surgically in bone as support for a prosthesis.

Implantation, Tooth:  Placement of an artificial or natural tooth into a socket.

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.

Inlay:  A dental restoration made outside of the mouth and then applied to a tooth.

Intentional Reimplantation:  The intentional removal, repair and replacement of a tooth into its socket.

Interproximal:  Between the adjoining surfaces of adjacent teeth.

Intracoronal:  Within the crown of a tooth.

Intraoral:  Inside the mouth.

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

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Labial:  Pertaining to or around the lip.

Lesion:  An injury or wound; area of diseased tissue.

Line Angle:  Used to designate the junction of two tooth surfaces or two walls of a tooth-cavity preparation.

Lingual:  Pertaining to or around the tongue.

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

Malar:  Pertaining to the cheek bone.

Malignant:  Cancerous.

Malocclusion:  Improper alignment of biting or chewing surfaces.

Mandible:  Lower jaw.

Maxilla:  The upper jaw.

Mesial:  Toward the midline of the dental arch.

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

Moulage:  A wax or plaster cast-mold reproduction of the face.

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Non-Autogenous:  A graft from a donor other than the patient.

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Obturator:  A prosthesis that closes an opening in the palate.

Occlusal Radiograph:  An X-ray where the film is held between the teeth.

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

Onlay:  A restoration made outside the mouth that replaces a tooth cusp or cusps.

Oral: Pertaining to the mouth.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon:  A dental specialist who diagnoses and treats diseases, injuries, deformities, defects, and aesthetic aspects of the mouth and jaw.

Oral Pathology:  The specialty concerned with recognition, diagnosis, investigation, and management of diseases of the mouth, jaws, and adjacent structures.

Orthodontist:  A dental specialist who treats the misalignment of the teeth and their surrounding structures.

Osteoplasty:  Surgical procedure that modifies the bones in the jaws.

Osteotomy:  Surgical cutting of bone.

Overdenture:  Prosthetic device supported by retained teeth roots or implants.

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Palate:  The hard and soft tissues forming the roof of the mouth.

Palliative:  Action that relieves pain.

Panoramic Radiograph:  An X-ray that shows the entire upper and lower mouth and jaw on a single film.

Partial Denture:  A prosthetic device that replaces missing teeth, designed to be removed by the patient.

Patient:  An individual who has established a professional relationship with a dentist for the delivery of dental care.

Pediatric Dentist:  A dental specialist who treats children; formerly known as a pedodontist.

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

Periapical Radiograph:  An X-ray made by placing film inside the mouth.

Pericoronal:  Around the crown of a tooth.

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

Periodontal Disease:  Inflammation of the gingival tissues and/or periodontal membrane.

Periodontal Pocket:  A deepened gingival fissure; a feature of periodontal disease.

Periodontist:  A dental specialist who treats diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth.

Periodontitis:  Inflammation and loss of the connective tissue of the surrounding structure of teeth.

Periradicular:  Surrounding a portion of the root of the tooth.

Plaque:  A soft sticky substance, composed largely of bacteria, that accumulates on teeth.

Pontic:  The artificial tooth on a fixed partial denture (bridge).

Post:  A metallic projection cemented within a prepared root canal to strengthen and retain restorative material.

Posterior Teeth:  Teeth and tissues towards the back of the mouth – i.e., premolars and molars.

Premedication:  The use of medications prior to dental procedures.

Primary Dentition:  The first set of teeth.

Prophylaxis:  A scaling and polishing procedure that removes plaque, calculus and stains.

Prosthesis:  Artificial replacement of any part of the body. Dental prosthesis: any device or appliance replacing one or more missing teeth and/or associated structures. Types of prostheses include: definitive prosthesis — a prosthesis to be used over an extended period of time; fixed prosthesis — non-removable tooth-borne dental prosthesis; interim prosthesis — a provisional prosthesis designed for use over a limited period of time; removable prosthesis — dental prosthesis designed to be removed and reinserted by the patient.

Prosthodontist:  A dental specialist who restores natural teeth and replaces missing teeth with artificial substitutes.

Provisional:  A temporary prosthesis or individual tooth restoration.

Pulp:  The connective tissue containing blood vessels and nerves that occupies the pulp cavity of a tooth.

Pulp Cavity:  The space within a tooth containing the pulp.

Pulpectomy:  Complete removal of pulp tissue from the root-canal space.

Pulpitis:  Inflammation of the pulp.

Pulpotomy:  Surgical removal of a portion of the pulp with the aim of saving the remaining pulp.

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Quadrant:  One of four equal sections into which the dental arches are divided.

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Radicular:  Pertaining to the root.

Radiograph:  X-ray.

Rebase:  Refitting a denture by replacing the base material.

Reimplantation, Tooth:  The return of a tooth to its socket.

Reline:  The process of resurfacing the tissue side of a denture with new material.

Retainer:  A device used to stabilize teeth.

Root:  The portion of the tooth that is covered by cementum and located in the alveolus (socket).

Root Canal:  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 conditions.

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.

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Scaling:  Removal of plaque, calculus, and stains from teeth.

Sialodochoplasty:  Surgical procedure to repair and/or restore a portion of a salivary-gland duct.

Sialography:  X-rays of the salivary ducts and glands.

Sialolithotomy:  Surgical procedure to remove a stone within a salivary gland or its duct.

Splint:  A device used to support, protect, or immobilize oral structures that have been loosened, replanted, fractured, or traumatized.

Stomatitis:  Inflammation of the mouth membranes.

Stress Breaker:  Part of a tooth-borne and/or tissue-borne prosthesis designed to relieve the abutment teeth and their supporting tissues from stress.

Study Model:  Plaster or stone model of teeth and adjoining tissues; also referred to as diagnostic cast.

Suture:  A stitch used to repair an incision or wound.

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Temporary Removable Partial Denture:  An interim prosthesis.

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

Temprormandibular Joint Dysfunction:  Abnormal functioning of the TMJ.

Tissue Conditioning:  Material placed in contact with tissues for a limited time to help the tissues heal.

Transplantation, Tooth:  Transfer of a tooth from one socket to another, either in the same or a different person.

Trismus:  Restricted ability to open the mouth, usually due to inflammation.

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

Unilateral:  One-sided.

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Veneer:  A layer of tooth-colored material attached to the tooth surface. Veneers may be made of porcelain, ceramic, composite, or acrylic resin.

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X-Ray:  Radiograph.

Xerostomia:  Decreased salivary secretion that produces a dry and sometimes burning sensation and/or tooth decay.

Zygomatic Bone:  A cheekbone.

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