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Dental Term Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

abrasion:
loss of tooth structure caused by a wearing away of tooth structure. Examples are: a hard toothbrush, poor brushing technique, or Bruxism (grinding or clenching the teeth).
abscess:
an infection of a tooth, soft tissue or bone typically causing a pocket of infection in the tissue.
abutment:
tooth, teeth, or implant that supports a fixed or removable bridge.
adhesive dentistry:
contemporary term for dental restorations that involve "bonding" of composite resin or porcelain material to natural tooth enamel.
air abrasion:
removal of tooth structure by blasting a tooth with air and abrasive
allergy:
unfavorable systemic response to a foreign substance or drug. Allergies are controlled by the immune system.
alveolar bone:
the jaw bone that anchors the roots of teeth
 
amalgam:
a most common filling material, also known as "silver fillings," Amalgam is especially useful in areas of the mouth where strength and resistance to fracture are important.
analgesia:
a state of pain relief; an agent lessening pain. Examples of analgesics are asprin, Tylenol, ibuprofen, or prescription pain relievers.
anesthesia:
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. Includes the cuspid and incisor teeth.
antibiotic:
a drug that stops or slows the growth of bacteria used to combat bacterial infections.
ANUG:
an acronym for Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis, commonly known as trench mouth or Vincent's disease. An acute bacterial infection aggravated by stress and/or smoking
apex:
the tip of the root of a tooth
apicoectomy:
surgical removal of the root tip to treat infection or inflammation that exists at the apex of a dead or endodontically treated tooth.
arch :
describes the upper or lower teeth based upon the typical alignment.
attrition:
loss of structure due to wear
base:
cement placed under a dental restoration to insulate the pulp (nerve chamber)
bicuspid or pre-molar:
transitional teeth behind the cuspids and in front of molar teeth.
bifurcation (trifurcation):
juncture of two (three) roots in posterior teeth
biopsy:
removal of a small piece of tissue for microscopic examination. Purpose is to detect the presence of disease within the tissue removed.
bite:
relationship of the upper and lower teeth on closure (occlusion)
bite wings:
x-rays used to detect caries (decay)
black hairy tongue:
elongated papillae on the tongue, promoting the growth of microorganisms
bleaching:
chemical treatment of natural teeth for whitening effect. Bleaching removes the absorbed material within the enamel of teeth which causes discoloration.
block injection:
anesthesia of a nerve trunk that covers a large area of the jaw; for example a mandibular block injection produce numbness of one side of the lower jaw, teeth, and tongue
bonding:
adhesive dental restoration technique used to attach restorative material to dental enamel; 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) or tooth loss.
braces:
devices used by orthodontists to gradually reposition teeth to a more favorable alignment
bridge:
a dental prosthesis (appliance) fixed to teeth or implants adjacent to a space; replaces one or more missing teeth. Generally cemented or bonded to supporting teeth or implants.
bruxism:
grinding or gnashing of the teeth, most commonly while the patient is asleep
calcium:
chemical element needed for healthy teeth, bones and nerves
calculus:
hard residue, commonly known as "tarter," that forms on teeth due to inadequate plaque control, often stained yellow or brown. Calculus provides a habitat for the bacteria that causes periodontal disease.
canker sore (aphthous ulcer):
mouth sore appearing whitish, often with a red halo, of ten to fourteen day duration. Exact cause is unknown, but is an immune response. There appears to be a genetic tendency along with food sensitivities and stress.
cap:
a common term for dental crown or veneer.
caries:
tooth decay or "cavities"
cast or model:
reproduction of dental structures made by pouring plaster or stone into a mold; used for diagnostic or reconstructive purposes.
Cavitron:
dental tool that uses high frequency ultrasonic waves to clean teeth
cellulitis:
soft tissue infection causing extensive, hard swelling, a potentially dangerous condition requiring immediate attention
cementum:
a thin layer of hard tissue that covers the roots of teeth
chart:
dental or medical records
clasp:
portion of a removable partial denture that stabilizes the partial against the remaining natural teeth.
cleaning (prophylaxis, prophy):
removal of plaque and calculus (tarter) from teeth, generally above the gum line. The purpose is to prevent dental disease from occurring.
composite resin:
a dental restorative material composed of a polymer with small glass or ceramic particles interspersed; The set or cure is usually initiated with a filtered light or a chemical reaction.
osmetic (aesthetic) dentistry:
treatments performed to enhance the appearance of teeth or gums; This is not a recognized dental specialty
Cross bite:
reverse biting relationship of upper and lower teeth; generally will require orthodontic intervention to correct.
crown:
(1) the portion of a tooth above the gum line;
(2) dental restoration covering all or most of the natural tooth (cap)
curettage:
removal of diseased tissue from a periodontal pocket or abscess.
cuspid or canine (eye teeth):
large teeth at the corners of the mouth. Important in chewing function and in facial support.
cyst:
a soft or hard tissue sac representing a disease process, hard or filled with fluid
DDS:
Doctor of Dental Surgery - equivalent to DMD
DMD:
Doctor of Medical Dentistry - equivalent to DDS
decay (caries):
destructive, infectious disease process of tooth structure caused by bacterial toxins.
deciduous teeth , primary teeth:
commonly called "baby teeth," the first set of twenty teeth
dentin:
inner layer of tooth structure, immediately under the surface enamel and outside of the dental pulp.
dental implant:
a (usually) titanium cylinder surgically placed in the bone of the upper or lower jaw functioning as an artificial tooth root. Implants are used for reconstructive dental procedures, and typically provide support for the replacement of one or more missing teeth.
dentition:
the teeth in a dental arch.
denture:
artificial substitute (prosthesis) for nature teeth and adjacent tissues. May replace all(complete) or part (partial) of the teeth in a dental arch.
diastema:
space between adjacent teeth
enamel:
hard, calcified tissue covering the portion of tooth above the gum line
endodontist (root canal specialist):
A dental specialist who limits his practice to the treatment of disease and injuries of the dental pulp and associated periradicular (root) conditions.
eruption:
process of teeth emerging through the gums
exfoliate:
process of shedding deciduous (baby) teeth
explorer:
sharp instrument used to detect decay on the surface of teeth
extraction:
removal of a tooth
eyeteeth:
the four upper and lower canine (cuspid) teeth
filling:
restoration of lost tooth structure with metal, porcelain or resin materials
flap surgery (periodontal surgery):
lifting of gum tissue to expose and treat underlying tooth and bone structures for periodontal disease.
forceps:
surgical instrument used for removal of teeth
forensic dentistry:
practice of gathering post mortem evidence for body identification or judicial issues
full denture:
removable dental prosthesis replacing all teeth and adjacent tissues in one dental arch.
frenectomy:
surgical 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. Necessary when the muscle attachment is destructive to adjacent structures.
GTR:
(guided tissue regeneration) a technique for promoting the regeneration of bone tissue lost to disease, trauma, or atrophy.
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 producing a characteristic appearance
gingival ( gum tissue):
soft tissue surrounding teeth and overlaying the alveolar bone.
gingivectomy:
surgical removal of gum tissue
gingivitis:
inflammation of the gingival
gum recession, gingival recession:
loss of gingival tissue leading to exposure of tooth root as a result of abrasion, periodontal disease or surgery
halitosis (bad breath):
unpleasant breath odor of sinus, dental, or gastric origin.
hematoma:
swelling or bruising of soft tissue due to effusion of blood beneath tissue surface
HMO or DMO:
health (dental) maintenance organization which specifies the health care (dental) provider a patient may see.
hydrogen peroxide:
a chemical useful as a disinfecting solution for dental irrigation procedures or as mouth rinse
hygienist:
dental therapist who is specially trained and licensed to perform preventive dental care, diagnostic procedures, and participate in the treatment of periodontal disease.
Immediate denture:
Prosthesis made to be place at the time teeth are extracted.
impaction:
partial or completely unexposed tooth that is wedged against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue, so that the eruption process cannot occur. Impacted teeth are potential sites for pathological cyst formation, infection, and other processes destructive to adjacent structures.
implant:
a (usually) titanium cylinder surgically placed in the bone of the upper or lower jaw functioning as an artificial tooth root. Implants are used for reconstructive dental procedures, and typically provide support for the replacement of one or more missing teeth.
Implant abutment:
an insert or attachment to a dental implant which extends through the gum tissue; implant insert used to support the final restoration or prosthesis.
impression:
mold made of the teeth and/or soft tissues. Used for diagnostic or reconstructive purposes.
incision and drainage:
surgical incision of an abscess to drain suppuration (pus)
incisors:
four upper and four lower front teeth.
inlay:
an indirect filling made by on a dental model that is cemented or bonded into place. May be constructed of metal(gold), porcelain, or composite resin.
interproximal:
referring to the space between adjacent teeth.
interocclusal:
referring to the space between upper and lower teeth
intraoral camera:
a small video camera used to view and magnify oral conditions; useful for diagnostic and education means. Also helpful to document and archive dental conditions.
laminate:
thin plastic or porcelain veneer produced bonded to a tooth. Generally produced on a model of the tooth in a dental laboratory.
laughing gas(nitrous oxide):
colorless, odorless inhalation agent that produces relative analgesic (sedation); reduces anxiety and creates a state of relaxation
lesion:
injury , wound, or area of diseased tissue.
local anesthesia:
partial or complete elimination of pain sensation, in the immediate vicinity of its application or injection
malocclusion:
"bad bite" or misalignment of the upper and lower teeth
mandible:
the lower jaw
Maryland bridge:
a bridge that is bonded to the back of the adjacent teeth
mastication:
process of chewing food
maxilla:
the upper jaw
milk teeth:
deciduous (baby) teeth
molars:
teeth behind the premolars on either side of the jaw in each dental quadrant: used for grinding food, having large crowns and broad chewing surfaces.
moniliasis, candidisis (thrush):
opportunistic fungal infection; not uncommon in the mouth. Can occur after long term antibiotic therapy or in immuno-suppressed patients.
NSAID:
non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, examples: asprin, ibuprofen, Advil.
nerve:
tissue that conveys sensation, temperature, position information to the brain
night guard:
hard or soft acrylic appliance used to prevent tooth wear and temporomandibular damage caused by grinding or clenching of the teeth during sleep
nitrous oxide:
a gas used to reduce patient anxiety
Novocain:
older brand name for a local dental anesthetic. Today replaced by safer, more effective agents
occlusion:
relationship of the upper and lower teeth upon closure
onlay:
laboratory produced restoration covering one or more cusps of a tooth designed to resist fracture of tooth structure.
oral and maxillofacial surgeon:
an ADA recognized dental specialist who manages the diagnosis & surgical treatment of diseases, injuries, and deformities of the mouth and supporting structures; commonly performs dental extractions, dental implants, trauma care, and biopsy. Requires additional years of training after training as a dentist.
oral hygiene:
process of maintaining cleanliness of the teeth and related structures
oral and maxillofacial surgery:
dental and dental-facial surgical procedures including extractions, implants, removal of cysts or tumors, and repair of fractured jaws
oral pathologist:
an ADA recognized dental specialty practicing in the recognition, diagnosis, investigation and management of oral diseases - often employing microscopic examination of biopsy specimens.
orthodontics:
an ADA recognized dental specialty that practices correction of misaligned teeth and jaws.
osseous:
referring to bone.
overbite:
vertical overlap of the teeth
overdenture:
denture that fits over remaining natural tooth roots or dental implants
overjet:
horizontal overlap of the teeth
palate:
tissue forming the roof of the mouth
palliative treatment:
treatment designed to provide relief from painful symptoms
panoramic radiograph:
an extra oral radiograph on which the maxillary and mandibular teeth and jaws are visible on a single film.
parasthesia:
a partial loss of sensation in a local area; may be temporary or permanent
partial denture:
removable dental prosthesis (appliance) replacing one or more natural teeth
pathology:
the science or study of disease
periapical (PA):
region at the end of the roots of teeth
periodontal surgery:
recontouring or esthetic management of diseased, damaged, or disfigured gum and supporting tissue
periodontist:
an ADA recognized dental specialist treating diseases of the gums and supporting soft and hard tissues.
pedodontics or pediatric dentistry:
an ADA recognized dental specialty focusing on treatment of children and special needs patients
periodontal chart:
record measuring the relative health of the gums and supporting tissues of the mouth. Useful in monitoring for the presence of periodontal disease.
permanent teeth:
thirty-two adult teeth in a complete dentition
pit:
a small defect in the tooth enamel;
plaque:
soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth composed largely of bacteria and bacterial products due to inadequate dental hygiene
pontic:
artificial tooth on a fixed dental appliance (bridge)
porcelain crown:
all porcelain restoration restoring the coronal portion of tooth (above the gum line)
porcelain fused to metal (PFM) crown, porcelain fused to gold (PFG)crown:
restoration with metal coping (for strength) covered by porcelain (for appearance)
porcelain inlay or onlay:
laboratory fabricated 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 change the shape or color of the underlying tooth.
post:
thin metal or carbon fiber rod inserted into the root of a tooth after root canal therapy; provides retention for a crown.
post and core:
post and buildup to replace lost tooth structure and retain crown
prognosis:
the anticipated or projected outcome of treatment
prophylaxis:
cleaning of the teeth for the prevention of dental disease
prosthesis:
an artificial appliance for the replacement for a body part
prosthodontist:
an ADA recognized 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
pulp:
the nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue inside a tooth
pulp cap:
a medicated covering over a small area of exposed pulp tissue underneath a dental restoration
pulp chamber:
location of the dental pulp within the crown of a natural tooth.
pulpectomy:
complete removal of the pulp
pulpitis:
inflammation of the dental pulp; common cause of acute dental pain
pulpotomy:
partial removal of the pulp tissue
pyorrhea:
old fashioned term for periodontal (gum) disease
reline:
acrylic restoration of full or partial denture base to compensate for bone loss
retained root:
partial root structure remaining in jaw after extraction or fracture of a natural tooth
root:
tooth structure contained within the jaw bone.
root canal:
canal shaped space at the center of a tooth containing the dental pulp; common term for root canal or endodontic therapy.
root canal therapy:
removal of the pulp of a tooth and replacing it with an inert material to treat sensitivity, disease, or damage to the pulp tissue.
rubber dam:
soft sheet used to establish isolation of one or more teeth from contamination by oral fluids and to keep dental materials from falling into the oral cavity.
saliva:
clear lubricating fluid in the mouth containing water, enzymes, bacteria, mucus, viruses, blood cells and undigested food particles
salivary glands:
located under tongue and in cheeks, produce saliva
scaling and root planing:
meticulous removal of plaque and calculus from tooth and tooth root surfaces; primarily used as an initial therapy in treatment of periodontal disease.
sealants:
thin resin material bonded in the pits and fissures of back teeth to aid in the prevention of decay
sequstrum:
loosened spicule of bone pushed to the surface
sinusitis:
infammation or infection of the sinus cavity
sleep apnea:
the periodic interruption or delay in breathing during sleep
space maintainer:
dental device that holds the space lost through premature loss of primary teeth
splint:
connection of two or more teeth so they function as a stronger single structure
supernumerary tooth:
extra tooth not occurring in the normal dentition
tartar:
common term for dental calculus, a hard deposit that adheres to teeth due to in adequate oral hygiene; produces rough surface that attracts bacteria
tmd (or tmj disorder):
temperomandibular disorder; term given to condition characterized by facial pain and restricted ability to open or move the jaw
tmj:
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 develops to become a tooth
tooth whitening (bleaching):
a chemical to lighten the color of teeth. Absorbed material in the enamel is removed to produce a lighter colored tooth.
topical anesthetic:
ointment that produces mild anesthesia when applied to tissue surface
torus:
common bony protuberance on the palate or lower jaw
trench mouth (ANUG):
gum disease characterized by severe mouth sores and loss of tissue.
UCR:
an insurance industry term which stands for usual, customary and reasonable fees - related to the calculation of an individual patient's dental benefit for a particular procedure.
unerupted tooth:
a tooth that has not pushed through the gum and assumed its correct position in the dental arch
veneer:
plastic or porcelain facing bonded directly to a tooth to change its appearance. See laminate.
vertical dimension:
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 between the ages 18-25
xerostomia:
the condition characterized by a dry mouth or decrease in the production of saliva. Patients with xerostomia are much more susceptible to decay and dental disease - often produced by systemic diseases or medication use.