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  • Abrasion

    Loss of tooth structure caused by a hard toothbrush, poor brushing technique, or Bruxism (grinding or clenching the teeth)

  • Abscess

    An infection of a tooth, soft tissue or bone

  • Abutment

    Tooth or teeth that support a fixed or removable bridge

  • Air Abrasion

    Contemporary term for dental restorations that involve “bonding” of composite resin or porcelain fillings to natural teeth

  • Allergy

    Unfavorable systemic response to a foreign substance or drug

  • Alveolar bone

    The jaw bone that anchors the roots of teeth

  • Amalgam

    A most common filling material, also known as “silver fillings,”containing mercury (app 50%), silver, tin, copper and zinc used for fillings

  • Analgesia

    A state of pain relief; an agent lessening pain

  • 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

  • Antibiotic

    A drug that stops or slows the growth of bacteria

  • ANUG

    An acronym for Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis, commonly known as trench mouth or Vincent’s disease, aggravated by stress and/or smoking

  • Apex

    The tip of the root of a tooth

  • Apicoectomy

    Surgical removal of the root tip to treat a dead tooth

  • Arch

    Describes the alignment of the upper or lower teeth

  • Attrition

    Loss of structure due to natural wear

  • Base

    Cement placed under a dental restoration to insulate the pulp (nerve chamber)

  • Bicuspid or Pre-molar

    Transitional teeth behind the cuspids

  • Bifurcation (trifurcation)

    Juncture of two (three) roots in posterior teeth

  • Biopsy

    Removal of a small piece of tissue for microscopic examination

  • Bite

    Relationship of the upper and lower teeth on closure (occlusion)

  • Bite Wings

    Caries (decay) detection x-rays

  • Black Hairy Tongue

    Elongated papillae on the tongue, promoting the growth of microorganisms

  • Bleaching

    Chemical or laser treatment of natural teeth for whitening effect

  • Block Injection

    Anesthesia of a nerve trunk that covers a large area of the jaw; a mandibular block injection produce numbness of the lower jaw, teeth, half the tongue

  • Bonding

    Adhesive dental restoration technique; 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)

  • Braces

    Devices used by orthodontists to gradually reposition teeth to a more favorable alignment

  • Bridge

    Stationary dental prosthesis (appliance) fixed to teeth adjacent to a space; replaces one or more missing teeth, cemented or bonded to supporting teeth or implants adjacent to the space

  • Bruxism

    Grinding or gnashing of the teeth, most commonly while the patient is asleep

  • Bruxomania

    Persistent “nervous” grinding of the teeth while the patient is awake

  • 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

  • Canker Sore

    Mouth sore appearing whitish, often with a red halo, of ten to fourteen day duration

  • Cantilever Bridge

    Fixed bridge that attaches to adjacent teeth only on one end

  • Cap

    Common term for dental crown

  • Caries

    Tooth decay or “cavities”

  • Cast or Model

    Reproduction of structures made by pouring plaster or stone into a mold

  • 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

    Hard tissue that covers the roots of teeth

  • Chart

    Log of dental or medical records

  • Clasp

    Device that retains a removable partial denture to stationary teeth

  • Cleaning

    Removal of plaque and calculus (tarter) from teeth, generally above the gum line

  • Composite resin

    Material composed of plastic with small glass or ceramic particles; usually cured with filtered light or chemical catalyst

  • Cosmetic (aesthetic) dentistry

    Treatments performed to enhance appearance; not a recognized specialty

  • CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)

    Artificial procedures employed by a rescuer after cessation of breathing or heart stoppage

  • Cross Bite

    Reverse biting relationship of upper and lower teeth; aka “under bite,” as in Class III malocclusuion (prognathic jaw)

  • Crown
    1. The portion of a tooth above the gum line;
    2. Dental restoration covering all or most of the natural tooth
  • Curettage

    Removal of diseased tissue from a periodontal pocket

  • Cusp

    Mound on posterior teeth

  • Cuspid or Canine

    The four “eye teeth”

  • Cyst

    A soft or hard tissue sac, hard or filled with fluid

  • DDS

    Doctor of Dental Surgery – equivalent to DMD

  • Decay

    Destruction of tooth structure caused by toxins produced by bacteria

  • Deciduous Teeth

    Commonly called “baby teeth”, the first set of (usually) twenty teeth

  • Dental Implant

    A (usually) titanium cylinder surgically placed in the bone of the upper or lower jaw to provide support for a dental restoration or appliance

  • Dentin

    Inner layer of tooth structure, immediately under the surface enamel

  • Dentition

    The arrangement of natural or artificial teeth in the mouth

  • Denture

    Removable (partial or complete) set of artificial teeth

  • Denturism

    The production of dentures dispensed directly by laboratory technicians

  • Diastema

    Space between teeth

  • DMD

    Doctor of Medical Dentistry – equivalent to DDS

  • Endodontist

    Specialist who treats injuries, diseases and infections of the tooth pulp (nerve chamber)

  • Epidemiology

    Study of the incidence of disease in a population

  • Eruption

    Process of teeth protruding through the gums

  • Exfoliate

    Process of shedding deciduous (baby) teeth

  • Exodontia

    Practice of dental extractions

  • 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

  • Facing

    Tooth colored overlay on the visible portion of a crown; may be acrylic, composite or porcelain

  • FAGD

    Fellowship Academy of General Dentistry

  • Filling

    Restoration of lost tooth structure with metal, porcelain or resin materials

  • Fistula

    Channel emanating pus from an infection site; a gum boil

  • Flap Surgery

    Lifting of gum tissue to expose and clean underlying tooth and bone structures

  • Forceps

    Instrument used for removal of teeth

  • Forensic Dentistry

    Practice of gathering legal evidence for body identification or judicial issues

  • Fossa

    Valley found on the surface of posterior teeth

  • Freeway Space

    Distance between the upper and lower teeth with the lower jaw in rest position

  • Frenectomy

    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

  • Full Denture

    Removable dental prosthesis (appliance) replacing all upper or lower teeth

  • Full Mouth Reconstruction

    Extensive restorations of natural teeth with crowns and or fixed bridges to manage bite problems

  • 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; does not require treatment

  • Gingiva

    Gum tissue

  • Gingivectomy

    Surgical removal of gum tissue

  • Gingivitis

    Inflammation of gum tissue

  • GTR

    (guided tissue regeneration) A new technique for replacing bone tissue

  • Gum Boil

    See fistula

  • Gum Recession

    Exposure of dental roots due to shrinkage of the gums as a result of abrasion, periodontal disease or surgery

  • Halitosis

    Bad breath of oral or gastrointestinal origin

  • Heimlich Maneuver

    Technique employed by rescuer for obstruction of victim’s airway

  • Hematoma

    Swelling of effused blood beneath tissue surface

  • HMO or DMO

    Health (dental) maintenance organization which specifies a health care (dental) provider a patient may see. Profitability depends on minimization of treatment.

  • Hydrogen Peroxide

    Disinfecting solution used in dental irrigation procedures or as mouth rinse

  • Hygienist

    Dental auxiliary who cleans teeth and provides patient education; administers local anesthetic, nitrous oxide and performs periodontal scaling

  • Hyperemia

    Increased blood flow; may cause dental sensitivity to temperature and sweets; may precede an abscess

  • Impaction

    Partial or completely unexposed tooth that is wedged against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue, precluding the eruption process

  • Implant

    Artificial device replacing tooth root; may anchor an artificial tooth, bridge, or denture

  • Impression

    Mold made of the teeth and soft tissues

  • Incision and Drainage

    Surgical incision of an abscess to drain suppuration (pus)

  • Incisors

    Four upper and four lower front teeth, excluding the cuspids (canine teeth)

  • Infiltration

    Dental auxiliary who cleans teeth and provides patient education; administers local anesthetic, nitro

  • Inlay

    Indirect – filling made by a dental laboratory that is cemented or bonded into place, direct – placement of dental composite resin restoration at chair side

  • Interocclusal

    Space between upper and lower teeth

  • Interproximal

    Surfaces of adjoining teeth

  • Intraoral Camera

    A small video camera used to view and magnify oral conditions; images may be printed

  • Jacket

    Crown for a front tooth, usually made of porcelain

  • Laminate

    Thin plastic or porcelain veneer produced in a dental laboratory and then bonded to a tooth

  • Laughing Gas

    Nitrous oxide; odorless inhalation agent that produces relative analgesic (sedation); reduces anxiety and creates a state of relaxation

  • Lesion

    Injury of bodily tissue due to infection, trauma or neoplasm

  • Local Anesthesia

    Partial or complete elimination of pain sensation, in the immediate vicinity of its application or injection

  • MAGD

    Masters Academy of General Dentistry

  • Malocclusion

    “Bad bite” or misalignment of the upper and lower teeth

  • Managed Care

    Program whereby patient-dentist assignment and dentist reimbursement is administered by a separate, external organization

  • Mandible

    The lower jaw

  • Margin

    Interface between a restoration and tooth structure

  • Maryland Bridge

    A bridge that is bonded to the back of the adjacent teeth; requires minimum tooth reduction

  • Mastication

    Process of chewing food

  • Maxilla

    The upper jaw

  • Meniscus

    Capsular cushion between temporomandibluar joint and glenoid fossa/p>

  • Milk Teeth

    Deciduous (baby) teeth

  • Molars

    Three back teeth in each dental quadrant used for grinding food.

  • Moniliasis (thrush)

    Opportunistic fungal infection after administration of antibiotic; not uncommon in the mouth

  • Mucogingival Junction (MGJ)

    Meeting of thick, protective gingival tissue around the teeth and the friable mucous lining of the cheeks and lips

  • Nerve

    Tissue that conveys sensation, temperature, position information to the brain

  • Nerve (root) Canal

    Dental pulp; the internal chamber of a tooth

  • Night Guard

    Acrylic appliance used to prevent wear and temporomandibular damage caused by grinding or gnashing of the teeth during sleep

  • Nitrous Oxide

    A gas used to reduce patient anxiety

  • Novocain

    Older brand name for a local anesthetic, currently replaced by safer, more effective agents


    Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, often used as a dental analgesic

  • Occlusion

    Closure; relationship of the upper and lower teeth upon closure

  • Onlay

    Laboratory produced restoration covering one or more cusps of a tooth

  • Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon

    A dental specialist who manages the diagnosis & surgical treatment of diseases, injuries, and deformities of the mouth and supporting structures; Requires four additional years of training after dental school

  • Oral and Maxillofacial surgery

    Surgical procedures on the mouth including extractions, removal of cysts or tumors, and repair of fractured jaws

  • Oral Cavity

    The mouth

  • Oral Hygiene

    Process of maintaining cleanliness of the teeth and related structures

  • Oral Pathologist

    Dentist specializing in the study of oral diseases

  • Orthodontics

    Dental specialty that treats misalignment of teeth

  • Osseous


  • Overbite

    Vertical overlap of the front teeth

  • Overdenture

    Denture that fits over residual roots or dental implants

  • Overjet

    Horizontal overlap of the front teeth

  • Palate

    Hard and soft tissue forming the roof of the mouth

  • Palliative Treatment

    Non invasive relief of irritating conditions

  • Parasthesia

    A partial loss of sensation; may be temporary or permanent

  • Partial Denture

    Removable dental prosthesis (appliance) replacing one or more natural teeth

  • Pathology

    Study of disease

  • Pedodontics or Pediatric Dentistry

    Dental specialty focusing on treatment of children

  • Periapical (PA)

    Region at the end of the roots of teeth

  • Periodontal Chart

    Record measuring the depth of gum pockets around the teeth

  • Periodontal Surgery

    Recontouring or esthetic management of diseased gum and supporting tissue

  • Periodontist

    Dental specialist treating the gums and supporting soft and hard tissues retaining natural teeth and the surgical placement of dental implants

  • Permanent Teeth

    (Usually) Thirty-two adult teeth in a complete dentition

  • Pit

    A small defect in the tooth enamel; junction of four formative lobes of a developing tooth

  • Placebo

    Inert medication or treatment that produces psychological benefit

  • Plaque

    Soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth; composed of bacteria and food debris due to inadequate dental hygiene

  • Pontic

    Replacement tooth mounted on a fixed or removal appliance

  • Porcelain Crown

    All porcelain restoration covering the coronal portion of tooth (above the gum line)

  • Porcelain Fused To Metal (PFM) Crown

    Restoration with metal coping (for strength) covered by porcelain (for appearance)

  • Porcelain Inlay or Onlay

    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 replace lost tooth structure, close spaces, straighten teeth or change color and/or shape

  • Post

    Thin metal rod inserted into the root of a tooth after root canal therapy; provides retention for a “coping” that replaces lost tooth structure and retains crown

  • Post-core

    Post and buildup to replace lost tooth structure and retain crown

  • Post-crown

    Single structure that combines post-core and crown

  • PPO or PDO

    Preferred provider (dental) organization which a health care (dental) provider may join, offering fee for service treatment at reduced fees

  • Prognosis

    The anticipated outcome of treatment

  • Prophylaxis

    Cleaning of the teeth for the prevention of periodontal disease and tooth decay

  • Prosthesis

    An artificial appliance for the replacement for a body part

  • Prosthodontist

    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

  • Pulp Chamber

    The center or innermost portion of the tooth containing the pulp

  • Pulpectomy

    Complete removal of the pulp (commonly done in children’s teeth)

  • Pulpitis

    Inflammation of the pulp; common cause of toothache

  • Pulpotomy

    Partial removal of the pulp tissue

  • Pyorrhea

    Older term for periodontal (gum) disease

  • Reimplantation

    Insertion and temporary fixation of partially or completely avulsed tooth or teeth, resulting from traumatic injury

  • Reline

    Acrylic restoration of denture base to compensate for bone loss; direct: done at chair side; indirect: in conjunction with a dental laboratory

  • Restoration

    Replacement of portion of a damaged tooth

  • Retained Root

    Partial root structure remaining in jaw after extraction or fracture of a natural tooth

  • Root

    Tooth structure that connects the tooth to the jaw

  • Root Canal

    Common term for root canal therapy, also the interior space of the tooth root

  • Root Canal Therapy

    Process of removing pulp of a tooth and filling it with an inert material

  • Root Resection

    Removal of a portion of diseased root structure, retaining the remaining natural tooth

  • Rubber Dam

    Soft latex sheet used to establish isolation of one or more teeth from contamination by oral fluids and to keep materials from falling to the back of the throat

  • Saliva

    Clear lubricating fluid in the mouth containing water, enzymes, bacteria, mucus, viruses, blood cells and undigested food particles

  • Saliva Ejector

    Suction tube placed in the mouth to remove saliva

  • Salivary Glands

    Located under tongue and in cheeks, produce saliva

  • Scaling and Root Planning

    Meticulous removal of plaque and calculus from tooth surfaces

  • Sealants

    Thin resin material bonded in the pits and fissures of back teeth for the prevention of decay

  • Secondary Dentin

    Reparative tooth structure produced by the pulp in response to tooth irritation


  • Sequstrum

    Loosened spicule of bone pushed to the surface

  • Sinusitis

    Inflammation of the sinus that may mimic dental pain


  • Sleep Apnea

    The periodic interruption or delay in breathing during sleep

  • Space Maintainer

    Dental device that holds the space lost through premature loss of baby teeth


  • Splint

    Connection of two or more teeth so they function as a stronger single structure

  • Supernumerary Tooth

    Extra tooth

  • Suppuration

    Bacterial contamination of tissue exudates; pus

  • Tartar

    Common term for dental calculus, a hard deposit that adheres to teeth; produces rough surface that attracts plaque

  • Third-party Provider

    Insurance company, union, government agency that pays all or a part of cost of dental treatment

  • 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

  • Tooth Bud

    Early embryonic structure that becomes a tooth

  • Tooth Whitening

    A chemical or laser process to lighten the color of teeth

  • Topical Anesthetic

    Ointment that produces mild anesthesia when applied to tissue surface

  • Torus

    Common bony protuberance on the palate or lower jaw

  • Transplant

    Placing a natural tooth in the empty socket of another tooth

  • Trauma

    Injury caused by external force, chemical, temperature extremes, or poor tooth alignment

  • Trench Mouth

    Gum disease characterized by severe mouth sores and loss of tissue. See ANUG.

  • UCR

    Usual, customary and reasonable fees

  • 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 improve its appearance. See laminate.

  • Vertical Dimension

    Arbitrary 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 at age 18-25 (when “wisdom is attained”)

  • Xerostomia

    Dry mouth or decrease in the production of saliva