Clinical Dental Terminology

Have you ever wondered what the heck everyone is talking about at the dentist but had your mouth so full of things you didn’t even know existed that you couldn’t ask? Lucky for you, we have nothing better to do then write a long, very long list, of clinical dental terms that you may, and very well may not find interesting!


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

acute abscess: An inflammatory reaction to pulpal infection and necrosis characterized by rapid onset, spontaneous pain, tenderness of the tooth to pressure, pus formation and eventual swelling of associated tissues.

chronic abscess: An inflammatory reaction to pulpal infection and necrosis characterized by gradual onset, little or no discomfort and the intermittent discharge of pus through an associated sinus tract.


abutment: A term with different meanings depending on the clinical scenario.

implant case: the fixture that is placed between the implant body (aka implant post) and the restorative prosthesis (e.g., single crown; denture).

natural tooth case: the tooth used as the support for one end of a denture.

Acid etching

acid etching: Use of an acidic chemical substance to prepare the tooth enamel and or dentin surface to provide retention for bonding.

The liquid used to perform acid etching is often called etchant or “etch” for short.


adhesive: Any substance that joins or creates close adherence of two or more surfaces. Intermediate material that causes two materials to adhere to each other.


alloy: Compound combining two or more elements having properties not existing in any of the single constituent elements. Sometimes used to refer to amalgam.


alveolar: Referring to the bone to which a tooth is attached.

The top of the jaw bone in the mouth is often referred to as the alveolar ridge.


alveoloplasty: Surgical procedure for recontouring supporting bone, sometimes in preparation for a prosthesis.


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.

Anatomical crown

anatomical crown: That portion of tooth normally covered by, and including, enamel.


anesthesia: A procedure that controls the patient’s level of anxiety or pain.


analgesia: the diminution or elimination of pain.


anxiolysis: the diminution or elimination of anxiety.

Deep sedation

deep sedation: a drug-induced depression of consciousness during which patients cannot be easily aroused but respond purposefully following repeated or painful stimulation. The ability to independently maintain ventilatory function may be impaired. Patients may require assistance in maintaining a patent airway, and spontaneous ventilation may be inadequate. Cardiovascular function is usually maintained.

General anesthesia

general anesthesia: a drug-induced loss of consciousness during which patients are not arousable, even by painful stimulation. The ability to independently maintain ventilatory function is often impaired. Patients often require assistance in maintaining a patent airway, and positive pressure ventilation may be required because of depressed spontaneous ventilation or drug-induced depression of neuromuscular function. Cardiovascular function may be impaired.

Inhalation anesthesia

inhalation: a technique of administration in which a gaseous or volatile agent is introduced into the lungs and whose primary effect is due to absorption through the gas/blood interface.


intravenous: a technique of administration in which the anesthetic agent is introduced directly into the patient’s venous system.

Local Anesthesia

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

Minimal sedation

minimal sedation: a minimally depressed level of consciousness, produced by a pharmacological method, that retains the patient’s ability to independently and continuously maintain an airway and respond normally to tactile stimulation and verbal command. Although cognitive function and coordination may be modestly impaired, ventilatory and cardiovascular functions are unaffected.

Moderate sedation

moderate sedation: a drug-induced depression of consciousness during which patients respond purposefully to verbal commands, either alone or accompanied by light tactile stimulation. No interventions are required to maintain a patent airway, and spontaneous ventilation is adequate. Cardiovascular function is usually maintained.


anterior: Mandibular and maxillary centrals, laterals and cuspids.This is also a term that, in general, refers to the teeth and tissues located towards the front of the mouth.


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


apexification: The process of induced root development to encourage the formation of a calcified barrier in a tooth with immature root formation or an open apex. May involve the placement of an artificial apical barrier prior to nonsurgical endodontic obturation.


apexogenesis: Vital pulp therapy performed to encourage continued physiological formation and development of the tooth root.


apicoectomy: Amputation of the apex of a tooth.


appliance: A broad term used to describe devices that are either removable or fixated in the mouth and assist with replacing missing teeth, protecting teeth or correcting /preventing problems.

Common appliances include nightguards, orthodontic retainers and space maintainers.

Dental arch

arch, dental: The curved composite structure of the natural dentition and the residual ridge, or the remains thereof, after the loss of some or all of the natural teeth.

Areas of the oral cavity

areas of oral cavity: A numeric system used to report regions of the oral cavity on patient records and on claims submitted to third-party payers.

  1. upper right quadrant
  2. upper left quadrant
  3. lower left quadrant
  4. lower right quadrant

Artificial crown

artificial crown: Restoration covering or replacing the major part, or the whole of the clinical crown of a tooth, or implant.


avulsion: Separation of tooth from its socket due to trauma.

Barrier membrane

barrier membrane: Usually a thin, sheet-like usually non-autogenous material used in various surgical regenerative procedures.


benign: The mild or non-threatening character of an illness or the non-malignant character of a neoplasm.


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


bilateral: Occurring on, or pertaining to, both right and left sides.


biopsy: Process of removing tissue for histologic evaluation.

Bitewing radiograph

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: A prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth cemented or otherwise attached to the abutment natural teeth or their implant replacements.

Often called a “fixed partial denture”


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.

Often referred to as tartar.


canal: A relatively narrow tubular passage or channel.

root canal: Space inside the root portion of a tooth containing pulp tissue.

mandibular canal: The passage which transmits vessels and nerves through the jaw to branches that distributes them to the teeth.

Cantilever extension

cantilever extension: Part of a fixed prosthesis that extends beyond the abutment to which it is attached and has no additional support.


caries: Commonly used term for tooth decay.

carious lesion: A cavity caused by caries.

Cast, diagnostic cast or study model

diagnostic cast: A replica of teeth and adjoining tissues created digitally or by a casting process (e.g., plaster into an impression). “Study model” is another term used for such a replica. Diagnostic casts have various uses, most often the examination of relationships between oral tissues to determine how those relationships will effect form and function of a dental restoration or appliance being planned or to determine whether tissue treatment or modification might be necessary before a pre-definitive impression is taken to ensure optimal performance of the planned restoration or appliance.


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

Cement base

cement base: Material used under a filling to replace lost tooth structure.


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

Cephalometric image

cephalometric image: A standardized, extraoral projection utilized in the scientific study of the measurements of the head.


ceramic/porcelain: Refers to pressed, fired, polished or milled materials containing predominantly inorganic refractory compounds including porcelains, glasses, ceramics and glass-ceramics.


chairside: A procedure where the service is delivered completely in the patient’s oral cavity and without the use of a dental laboratory.

Often termed “direct”

Cleft palate

cleft palate: Congenital deformity resulting in lack of fusion of the soft and/or hard palate, either partial or complete.


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

Part of “parafunctional habits”

Clinical crown

clinical crown: That portion of a tooth not covered by tissues.

Complete denture

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

complete series: 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)

Comprehensive oral evaluation

comprehensive oral evaluation: The patient assessment that may include gathering of information through interview, observation, examination, and use of specific tests that allows a dentist to diagnose existing conditions.


consultation: In a dental setting, a diagnostic service provided by a dentist where the dentist, patient, or other parties (e.g., another dentist, physician, or legal guardian) discuss the patient’s dental needs and proposed treatment modalities.


coping: A thin covering of the coronal portion of the tooth usually without anatomic conformity. Custom made or pre-fabricated thimble-shaped core or base layer designed to fit over a natural tooth preparation, a post core, or implant abutment so as to act as a substructure onto which other components can be added to give final form to a restoration or prosthesis. It can be used as a definitive restoration or as part of a transfer procedure.

Core buildup

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.


coronal: Refers to the crown of a tooth.

Cracked tooth syndrome

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.

See also abutment crown, anatomical crown, and clinical crown.

Crown lengthening

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


curettage: Scraping and cleaning the walls of a real or potential space, such as a gingival pocket or bone, to remove pathologic material.


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


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

Often referred to as “canine” or “i tooth”


cyst: Pathological cavity, usually lined with epithelium, containing fluid or soft matter.

odontogenic cyst: Cyst derived from the epithelium of odontogenic tissue (developmental, primordial).

periapical cyst: An apical inflammatory cyst containing a sac-like epithelium-lined cavity that is open to and continuous with the root canal.


debridement: Removal of subgingival and/or supragingival plaque and calculus.


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.


definitive: (a) A restoration or prosthesis that is intended to retain form and function for an indefinite time, which could be the natural life of the patient. There is no scheduled replacement, although some maintenance may be necessary (e.g., cleansing; replacement of the replaceable component of an attachment), procedures that are documented with their applicable codes. (b) A procedure whose outcome is, by intent, not subject to change arising from subsequent delivery of another procedure; a change may occur if the dentist determines that a change in the patient’s clinical condition warrant’s delivery of another or alternative procedure.

Dental assessment

dental assessment: A limited clinical inspection that is performed to identify possible signs of oral or systemic disease, malformation, or injury, and the potential need for referral for diagnosis and treatment.

Dental prophylaxis

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


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.


dentition: The teeth in the dental arch.

adolescent dentition: Refers to the stage of permanent dentition prior to cessation of skeletal growth.

primary deciduous (dentition): Refers to the deciduous or primary teeth in the dental arch.

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

transitional dentition: Refers to a mixed dentition; begins with the appearance of the permanent first molars and ends with the exfoliation of the deciduous teeth.


denture: An artificial substitute for some or all of the natural teeth and adjacent tissues.

Denture base

denture base: That part of a denture that makes contact with soft tissue and retains the artificial teeth.

Diagnositc imaging

diagnostic imaging: A visual display of structural or functional patterns for the purpose of diagnostic evaluation. May be photographic or radiographic


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


direct: A procedure where the service is delivered completely in the patient’s oral cavity and without the use of a dental laboratory.


indirect: A procedure that involves activity that occurs away from the patient, such as creating a restorative prosthesis. An indirect procedure is also known as a laboratory procedure, and the laboratory’s location can be within or separate from the dentist’s practice.

Direct pulp cap

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.

Indirect pulp cap

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

Direct restoration

direct restoration: A restoration of any type (e.g., “filling”; crown) fabricated inside the mouth.

Indirect restoration

indirect restoration: A restoration fabricated outside the mouth.


discectomy: Excision of the intra-articular disc of a joint.

Displaced tooth

displaced tooth: A partial evulsion of a tooth.


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


dressing: Medication, bandages or other therapeutic material applied to a wound.

Dry socket

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


edentulous: Without teeth.


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


equilibration: Reshaping of the occlusal surfaces of teeth to create harmonious contact relationships between the upper and lower teeth; also known as occlusal adjustment.


evaluation: The patient assessment that may include gathering of information through interview, observation, examination, and use of specific tests that allows a dentist to diagnose existing conditions.


evulsion: Separation of the tooth from its socket due to trauma.


excision: Surgical removal of bone or tissue.


exostosis: Overgrowth of bone. Commonly known as a torus or tori (plural)


extraoral: Outside the oral cavity.


extracoronal: Outside the crown of a tooth.


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.


fascial: Related to a sheet or band of fibrous connective tissue enveloping, separating or binding together muscles, organs and other soft tissue structures of the body.

Female component

female component: The concave component of an attachment that fits into the projecting component of an attachment.

Male component

male component: The projecting part of an attachment that fits into the concave component of an attachment.


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

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

Follow-up care

follow-up care: Any care provided after a procedure; a service whose nature, scope and timing is determined by the clinical and professional judgment of the dentist.

Note: The term follow-up care is interchangeable with a variety of similar terms (e.g., normal post-operative follow-up; routine follow-up [or post-delivery or post-operative] care).


foramen: Natural opening into or through bone.


fracture: The breaking of a part, especially of a bony structure; breaking of a tooth. See simple fracture and compound fracture.


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.


gingivoplasty: Surgical procedure to reshape gingiva.

Glass ionomer

glass ionomer: A restorative material listed as a “resin” in the CDT manual’s “Classification of Materials” that may be used to restore teeth, fill pits and fissures, lute and line cavities.


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

allograft: Graft of tissue between genetically dissimilar members of the same species. Donors may be cadavers, living related or living unrelated individuals. Also called allogenic graft or homograft.

autogenous graft: Taken from one part of a patient’s body and transferred to another.

xenograft: a tissue graft or organ transplant from a donor of a different species from the recipient.

Guided tissue regeneration

guided tissue regeneration (GTR): A surgical procedure that uses a barrier membrane placed under the gingival tissue and over the remaining bone support to enhance regeneration of new bone.


hemisection: Surgical separation of a multi-rooted tooth.


histopathology: The study of disease processes at the cellular level.


hyperplastic: Pertaining to an abnormal increase in the number of cells in an organ or a tissue with consequent enlargement.

Imaging, diagnostic

imaging, diagnostic: This would include, but is not limited to, CAT scans, MRIs, photographs, radiographs, etc

Immediate denture

immediate denture: Prosthesis constructed for placement immediately after removal of remaining natural teeth.

Impacted tooth

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


implant: Material inserted or grafted into tissue.

dental implant: A device specially designed to be placed surgically within or on the mandibular or maxillary bone as a means of providing location and support for dental replacement prosthesis.

endosteal (endosseous): Device placed into the alveolar and basal bone of the mandible or maxilla and transecting only one cortical plate.

eposteal (subperiosteal): Subperiosteal implant that conforms to the superior surface of an edentulous area of alveolar bone.

transosteal (transosseous): Device with threaded posts penetrating both the superior and inferior cortical bone plates of the mandibular symphysis and exiting through the permucosa. It may be intraoral or extraoral.


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

Incisal angle

incisal angle: One of the angles formed by the junction of the incisal and the mesial or distal surfaces of an anterior tooth; called the mesioincisal and distoincisal angle respectfully.

Incision and drainage

incision and drainage: The procedure of incising a fluctuant mucosal lesion to allow for the release of fluid from the lesion.


incisor: A tooth for cutting or gnawing; located in the front of the mouth in both jaws.


inlay: A fixed intracoronal restoration; a fixed dental restoration made outside of a tooth to correspond to the form of the prepared cavity, which is then luted to the tooth.

Intentional reimplantation

intentional reimplantation: The intentional removal, radicular repair and replacement of a tooth into its alveolus


interim: (a) A restoration or prosthesis designed for use over a limited period of time; (b) A procedure that whose outcome is, by intent, subject to change arising from subsequent delivery of another procedure. The “interim” period of time for a restoration, a prosthesis or a procedure, is determined by the clinical and professional judgment of the dentist. – See provisional and temporary.


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


intracoronal: Referring to within the crown of a tooth.


intraoral: Inside the mouth.


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

Keratinized gingiva

keratinized gingiva: The oral surface of the gingiva extending from the mucogingival junction to the gingival margin. In gingival health, the coronal portion of the sulcular epithelium may also be keratinized.

Often referred to as “attached gingiva.”


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

Laboratory, dental

dental laboratory: a centre that fabricates appliances and restorations for patients outside of the mouth.


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

Line angle

line angle: An angle formed by the junction of two planes; used to designate the junction of two surfaces of a tooth, or of two walls of a tooth cavity preparation.


lingual: Pertaining to or around the tongue; surface of the tooth directed toward the tongue; opposite of facial.

Local anesthesia

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

Maintenance, periodontal

maintenance, periodontal: Therapy for preserving the state of health of the periodontium.


malignant: Having the properties of dysplasia, invasion, and metastasis.


malocclusion: Improper alignment of biting or chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth.

Mandible mandible: The lower jaw.


maxilla: The upper jaw.

Maryland bridge

Maryland bridge: Fixed partial denture featuring retainers which are resin bonded to natural teeth that serve as an abutment.


medicament: Substance or combination of substances intended to be pharmacologically active, specially prepared to be prescribed, dispensed or administered by authorized personnel to prevent or treat diseases in humans or animals.

Medicament, topical

medicament, topical: Pharmacological substance especially prepared to be applied on tissues of the oral cavity.

Photo shows silver diamine fluoride placed on carious lesions.


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


metals, classification of:

The noble metal classification system has been adopted as a more precise method of reporting various alloys used in dentistry. The alloys are defined on the basis of the percentage of metal content and listed in order of biocompatibility.

High Noble Alloys—Noble Metal Content > 60% (gold + platinum group*) and gold > 40% Au)

Titanium and Titanium Alloys—Titanium (Ti) > 85%.

Noble Alloys—Noble Metal Content > 25% (gold + platinum group*).

Predominantly Base Alloys—Noble Metal Content) < 25% (gold + platinum group*).

*metals of the platinum group are platinum, palladium, rhodium, osmium and ruthenium


microabrasion: Mechanical removal of a small amount of tooth structure to eliminate superficial enamel discoloration defects.


microorganisms: A minute living organism, such as a bacterium, fungus, yeast, virus or rickettsia.

Mixed dentition

Mixed dentition: begins with the appearance of the permanent first molars and ends with the exfoliation of the deciduous teeth.

Sometimes referred to as “transitional” dentition.


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.

Mucous membrane

mucous membrane: Lining of the oral cavity as well as other canals and cavities of the body; also called mucosa.


obturate: With reference to endodontics, refers to the sealing of the canal(s) of tooth roots during root canal therapy procedure with an appropriately prescribed material such as gutta percha in combination with a suitable luting agent.


occlusal: Pertaining to the biting surfaces of the premolar and molar teeth or contacting surfaces of opposing teeth or opposing occlusion rims.

Occlusal radiograph

occlusal radiograph: An intraoral radiograph made with the film, phosphorous plate, emulsion or digital sensor being held between the occluded teeth.


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


odontogenic: Refers to tooth-forming tissues.


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. (American College of Prosthodontics; The Glossary of Prosthodontic Terms)

Operculectomy operculectomy: Removal of the operculum.

operculum: The flap of tissue over an unerupted or partially erupted tooth.


oral: Pertaining to the mouth.

Oral diagnosis

oral diagnosis: The determination by a dentist of the oral health condition of an individual patient achieved through the evaluation of data gathered by means of history taking, direct examination, patient conference, and such clinical aids and tests as may be necessary in the judgment of the dentist.


orthognathic: Functional relationship of maxilla and mandible.

Orthotic device

orthotic device: Apparatus used to support, align, prevent or correct deformities, or to improve the function of movable parts of the body.


Osteitis: inflammation of the bone


osteoplasty: Surgical procedure that modifies the configuration of bone.


osteotomy: Surgical cutting of bone.


overdenture: A removable prosthetic device that overlies and may be supported by retained tooth roots or implants.


palate: The hard and soft tissues forming the roof of the mouth that separates the oral and nasal cavities.


palliative: Action that relieves pain but is not curative.

Panoramic radiograph

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.

Papoose board

papoose board: A behavior management technique utilizing immobilization to control the actions of a patient who is receiving dental treatment.


parafunctional: Other than normal function or use.

Partial denture

partial denture: Usually refers to a prosthetic device that replaces missing teeth. See fixed partial denture or removable partial denture.


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

Periapical abscess

periapical abscess: a collection of pus around the the end of the tooth root.

Periapical cyst

periapical cyst: An apical inflammatory cyst containing a sac-like epithelium-lined cavity that is open to and continuous with the root canal.

Periapical radiograph

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 abscess

Periodontal abscess: a collection of pus around the supporting structures of the tooth. Not isolated to the end of the root tip like in a periapical abscess but rather extending up around the roots of the tooth.

Periodontal disease

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

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.


periodontist: A dental specialist whose practice is limited to the treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth.


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

Remember that “itis” means inflammation.


periodontium: tissue complex comprising gingival, cementum, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone which attaches, nourishes and supports the tooth.


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

Permanent dentition

permanent dentition: Refers to the permanent (“adult”) teeth in the dental arch that either replace the primary dentition or erupt distally to the primary molars.


pin: A small 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. Esily removed compared to tartar or calculus.


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.


premedication: The use of medications prior to dental procedures.

Often shortened to “premed”


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

Preventative dentistry

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.

Primary dentition

primary dentition: The first set of teeth; see deciduous and dentition.


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


prosthesis: Artificial replacement of any part of the body.

definitive prosthesis: Prosthesis to be used over an extended period of time.

dental prosthesis: Any device or appliance replacing one or more missing teeth and/or, if required, associated structures. (This is a broad term which includes abutment crowns and abutment inlays/onlays, bridges, dentures, obturators, gingival prostheses.)

fixed prosthesis: Non-removable dental prosthesis which is solidly attached to abutment teeth, roots or implants.

fixed-removable prosthesis: Combined prosthesis, one or more parts of which are fixed, and the other(s) attached by devices which allow their detachment, removal and reinsertion by the dentist only.

interim prosthesis: A provisional prosthesis designed for use over a limited period of time, after which it is to be replaced by a more definitive restoration.

removable prosthesis: Complete or partial prosthesis, which after an initial fitting by a dentist, can be removed and reinserted by the patient.


provisional: a restoration or prosthesis placed for a longer time period to enable healing, stabilization or diagnostic purposes – see interim and temporary.


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

Pulp cavity

pulp cavity: The space within a tooth which contains the pulp.


pulpectomy: Complete removal of vital and non-vital pulp tissue from the root canal space.

Note: “ectomy” means to remove


pulpitis: Inflammation of the dental pulp. Remember: “itis” means inflammation


pulpotomy: Removal of a portion of the pulp, including the diseased aspect, with the intent of maintaining the vitality of the remaining pulpal tissue by means of a therapeutic dressing.


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.


radicular: Pertaining to the root.


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


rebase: Process of refitting a denture by replacing the base material.


recalcification: Procedure used to encourage biologic root repair of external and internal resorption defects. See apexification.


closed reduction: The re-approximation of segments of a fractured bone without direct visualization of the boney segments.

open reduction: Re-approximation of fractured bony segments accomplished through cutting the adjacent soft tissues and bone to allow direct access.

Reimplantation, tooth

reimplantation, tooth: The return of a tooth to its alveolus.


reline: Process of resurfacing the tissue side of a removable prosthesis with new base material.

Removable partial denture

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


resin: Resinous material of the various esters of acrylic acid, used as a denture base material, for trays or for other restorations.

orthodontic retainer: Appliance to stabilize teeth following orthodontic treatment.

prosthodontic retainer: A part of a prosthesis that attaches a denture to an abutment tooth, implant abutment, or implant body.

Retrograde filling

retrograde filling: A method of sealing the root canal by preparing and filling it from the root apex.

In contrast, an orthograde filling is when a filling is done after a root canal treatment from the crown of the tooth.


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.

Residual root

residual root–Remaining root structure following the loss of the major portion (over 75%) of the crown.

Root canal

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

root canal therapy: The treatment of disease and injuries of the pulp and associated periradicular conditions.

Root planing

root planing: A treatment procedure designed to remove cementum or surface dentin that is rough, impregnated by calculus, or contaminated with toxins or microorganisms.

Rubber dam

rubber dam: A barrier technique used to prevent the passage of saliva or moisture, or to provide an isolated operative field.

Salivary gland

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.

Note: A “scaler” is the instrument used to perform this task.


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


sedation: the reduction of irritability or agitation by administration of sedative drugs, generally to facilitate a medical procedure or diagnostic procedure.

Sedative filling

sedative filling: A temporary restoration intended to relieve pain.


sextant: One of the six relatively equal sections into which a dental arch can be divided. Sometimes used for recording periodontal charting.


site: A term used to describe a single area, position, or locus. For periodontal procedures, an area of soft tissue recession on a single tooth or an osseous defect adjacent to a single tooth; also used to indicate soft tissue defects and/or osseous defects in edentulous tooth positions.

Space maintainer

space maintainer: A passive appliance, usually cemented in place, that holds teeth in position.


splint: A device used to support, protect, or immobilize oral structures that have been loosened, replanted, fractured or traumatized. Also refers to devices used in the treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders.


stomatitis: Inflammation of the membranes of the mouth.

Succedaneous tooth

succedaneous tooth: A permanent tooth that replaces a primary (deciduous) tooth.

Supernumerary teeth

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


suture: Stitch used to repair incision or wound. Sutures can be absorbable or nonabsorbable.


temporary: a restoration or prosthesis placed for a shorter time interval for use while a definitive restoration or prosthesis is being fabricated – see interim and provisional.

Temporary removable denture

temporary removable denture: An interim prosthesis designed for use over limited period of time.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)

temporomandibular joint (TMJ): The connecting hinge mechanism between the base of the skull (temporal bone) and the lower jaw (mandible).

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD)

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

Tissue conditioning

tissue conditioning: Material intended to be placed in contact with tissues, for a limited period, with the aim of assisting the return to a healthy condition.


torus: A bony elevation or protuberance of bone. See exostosis.

Note: Torus is singular, tori is plural


transitional: Relating to a passage or change from one position, state, phase or concept to another.

Example: Transitional dentures are temporary dentures that are used throughout the treatment plan.


transplantation: Surgical placement of biological material from one site to another.

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

Treatment plan

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.


tuberosity: A protuberance on a bone.


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


unilateral: One-sided; pertaining to or affecting but one side.


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.

Vertical bitewing

vertical bitewing: A dental image with a central projection on which the teeth can close, holding it in a vertical position for the radiographic examination of several upper and lower teeth simultaneously.

Vertical dimension of occlusion (VDO)

vertical dimension: The vertical height of the face with the teeth in occlusion or acting as stops.


vestibuloplasty: Any of a series of surgical procedures designed to increase relative alveolar ridge height.

Note: “plasty” means to change or alter

Wax pattern

wax pattern: A wax form that is the positive likeness of an object to be fabricated.

Sometimes called a “wax up”


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


X-ray: a type of radiation that produces images that show varying levels of black and white to produce what is termed a radiograph

Zygomatic bone

zygomatic bone: Quadrangular bone on either side of face that forms the cheek prominence. See malar.