Glossary of Terms

Source: American Dental Association

Dr. Orobitg wants you to understand the terms associated with your dental health. Education is very important to us, and we encourage you to ask questions about anything involved in your dental care you might not understand.


Tooth wear caused by forces other than chewing such as holding objects between the teeth or improper brushing.


An infection of a tooth, the oral soft tissues, or the upper or lower jawbones.


A tooth (or implant) that supports a dental prosthesis.


Transplant within the same species from one individual to a genetically different recipient.

Alveolar Bone

The part of the jaw that surround the roots of the teeth.

Alveolar Mucosa

The loosely attached mucous membrane covering the basal part of the jaw and continuing into the floor of the mouth inwardly and into the cheek vestibule outwardly.

Alveolar Process

The curving part of the jaw into which the teeth are rooted.


The socket in the alveolar bone into which the tooth’s root fits.


An alloy used in direct dental restorations.


Loss of pain sensations without loss of consciousness.


  • General Anesthesia: A controlled state of unconsciousness, accompanied by a partial or complete loss of protective reflexes, including loss of ability to independently maintain airway and respond purposefully to physical stimulation or verbal command, produced by a pharmacologic or non-pharmacologic method or combination thereof;
  • Intravenous Sedation/Analgesia: A medically controlled state of depressed consciousness while maintaining the patient’s airway, protective reflexes and the ability to respond to stimulation or verbal commands. It includes intravenous administration of sedative and/or analgesic agent(s) and appropriate monitoring.
  • Local Anesthesia: The loss of pain sensation over a specific area of the anatomy without loss of consciousness.
  • Non-Intravenous Conscious Sedation: A medically controlled state of depressed consciousness while maintaining the patient’s airway, protective reflexes and the ability to respond to stimulation or verbal commands. It includes administration of sedative and/or analgesic agent(s) by a route other than IV; (PO, PR, Intranasal, IM) and appropriate monitoring.
  • Regional Anesthesia: A term used for local anesthesia. See Local Anesthesia.


A condition where two hard tissues are fused together.

Anterior Teeth

The six upper or six lower front teeth.


A drug that prevents or slows bacterial growth.


An acronym for Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis, commonly known as trench mouth, where the gums become red, swollen and painful due to a spirochete infection.


The tip of the root of a tooth.


The surgical removal of the root tip to treat a dead nerve.

Attached Gingiva

The dense gum tissue tightly bound down to the tooth and underlying bone that extends from the gum margin to the alveolar mucosa.


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


A premolar tooth; a tooth with two cusps.

Bifurcation (trifurcation)

The juncture of two (three) roots in posterior teeth, primarily molars.


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


Process of removing tissue for histologic evaluation.

Bite (occlusion)

The relationship of the upper and lower teeth when closed together.


X-rays that show both the upper and lower teeth in one view, generally used to detect decay.


A cosmetic dental procedure that whitens the teeth using a bleaching solution.


A composite resin applied to a tooth to change its shape and/or color. Bonding also refers to how a filling, orthodontic appliance or some fixed partial dentures are attached to teeth.

Bone Resorption

A decrease in bone supporting the roots of teeth, generally caused by periodontal disease.


A fixed dental appliance that is cemented or bonded to the teeth adjacent to a space, and which replaces one or more missing teeth.


Constant grinding or clenching of teeth during the day or while asleep.


Hard deposit of mineralized material adhering to crowns and/or roots of teeth.


A relatively narrow tubular passage or channel.

  • Root Canal: Space inside the root portion of a tooth containing pulp tissue.


Commonly used term for tooth decay.


Promotes tooth decay.

Cast (or model)

The reproduction of mouth structures made by pouring plaster or stone into a mold.


An ultrasonic cleaning instrument.


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


Hard connective tissue covering the tooth root.

Cleft Lip

Birth defect in which one or more fissures form in the upper lip, which takes place while the fetus is growing.

Cleft Palate

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


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


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

Connective Tissue Graft

A gingival graft using connective tissue as the donor.

Conscious Sedation

A state in which patients are awake and can breathe and swallow on their own but are less aware of what is taking place.


  • Anatomical Crown: That portion of tooth normally covered by, and including, enamel;
  • Abutment Crown: Artificial crown serving for the retention or support of a dental prosthesis;
  • Artificial Crown: Restoration covering or replacing the major part, or the whole of the clinical crown of a tooth;
  • Clinical Crown: That portion of a tooth not covered by supporting tissues.

Crown Lengthening: A surgical procedure exposing more tooth for restorative purposes by apically positioning the gingival margin and/or removing supporting bone.


The removal of diseased tissue from the inner lining of a periodontal pocket.


The pointed portion of the tooth.

Cuspid (or canine)

The “eye teeth”, found between the laterals and the premolars.


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


Doctor of Dental Surgery — a degree identical to a DMD.


Removing foreign matter or dead tissue.


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

Deciduous Dentition

Refers to the deciduous or primary teeth in the dental arch.

Dental Implant

A synthetic device surgically placed in the bone of the upper or lower jaw to act as a root to hold a dental restoration or appliance.

Dental Prophylaxis

Scaling and polishing procedure performed to remove coronal plaque, calculus, and stains.

Dental Prosthesis

An artificial device that replaces one or more missing teeth.

Dental Specialist

A dentist who has received postgraduate training in one of the recognized dental specialties.


That part of the tooth that is beneath enamel and cementum.


The teeth in the dental arch.


An artificial substitute for natural teeth and adjacent tissues.

Denture Base

The part of the denture that holds the artificial teeth and fits over the gums.


A space between teeth.

Direct Restoration

A restoration fabricated inside the mouth.


Doctor of Medical Dentistry – a degree identical to a DDS.

Dry Mouth

See Xerostomia

Dry Socket

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




Hard calcified tissue covering dentin of the crown of tooth.


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


Wearing down of tooth structure, caused by chemicals (acids).


When a tooth emerges or pushes through the gums.


Surgical removal of bone or tissue.


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

Eye Teeth

The lay term for the canine (cuspid) teeth.


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


An opening in the gum from which pus drains from an infection site, often called a gum boil.

Fixed Appliances

Orthodontic devices, commonly known as braces, that are bonded to the teeth to produce different tooth movements to help reposition teeth for orthodontic therapy.

Fixed Partial Denture

A fixed partial denture is a prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth cemented or attached to the abutment teeth or implant abutments adjacent to the space.

Flap Surgery

The reflection back of gum tissue to expose underlying tooth and bone structures for treatment.


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

Free Gingival Graft

A gingival graft where the donor tissue is dissected and separated from the patient before being reattached in a different location.

Frenotomy with Fenestration

The severing of the loose muscle tissue that attaches from the upper or lower lips to the gum, or from the tongue to the floor of the mouth.


A loose bundle of muscles and fibers that connect from the upper or lower lips to the gum, or from the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

Full Denture

A removable dental appliance that replaces all upper or lower teeth

Full-Mouth X-Rays

A combination of 14 or more periapical and 4 bitewing films of the back teeth. This series of x-rays reveals all the teeth (their crowns and roots) and the alveolar bone around them.


The “fork-shaped” junction of the roots of a tooth.

General Anesthesia

A deep level of sedation in which patients lose consciousness, feel no pain, and have no memory of what is taking place around them.


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

Gingival Grafting

The surgical addition of new gingiva where inadequate attached gingiva exists, which may include recovering roots exposed by recession.

Gingival Hyperplasia

An overgrowth of gingival tissues.


The excision or removal of gingiva.


Inflammation of gingival tissue without loss of connective tissue.


Surgical procedure to reshape gingiva.


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

Guided Tissue Regeneration (GTR)

A technique of excluding certain tissue during surgical healing so other desired tissues may have time to form.

Gum Recession

The exposure of the root of a tooth due to movement of the gum, generally resulting from abrasion, periodontal disease or surgery.


Bad breath.

Imaging, Diagnostic

This would include, but is not limited to, CAT scans, MRIs, photographs, radiographs, etc.

Immediate Denture

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

Impacted Tooth

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


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 for dental replacement.

Implantation, Tooth

Placement of an artificial or natural tooth into an alveolus.


A mold made of the teeth and soft tissues from which models are made.

Incision and Drainage

The surgical incision of an abscess to drain suppuration (pus).


The upper and lower four front teeth, which include the central and laterals.


An indirect intracoronal restoration; a dental restoration made outside of the oral cavity to correspond to the form of the prepared cavity, which is then cemented into the tooth.


Between the teeth.


Inside the mouth.

Intravenous Sedation

Medications used intravenously (through the bloodstream) to produce varying levels of sedation.


A common name for either the maxilla or the mandible.


Pertaining to or around the lip.


An injury or wound; area of diseased tissue.


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

Local Anesthesia

A partial or complete elimination of pain sensation in a specific area, commonly referred to as “Novocaine.”

Maintenance, Periodontal

Therapy for preserving the state of health of the periodontium.


Having the properties of dysplasia, invasion, and metastasis.


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


The lower jaw.

Maryland Bridge

A type of fixed partial denture not requiring crowns. The prosthesis is bonded to the natural teeth to secure it.


The chewing of food.


The upper jaw.


The back teeth used for grinding food, including the 6 and 12-year molars and the wisdom teeth.

Mouth Guard

Device that fits over the teeth to prevent injury to the teeth, mouth or lips. May also refer to a device that prevents tooth grinding or treats temporomandibular disorders.

Mucogingival Junction

The meeting of the attached gingival and the alveolar mucosa.

Mucous Membrane

Lining of the oral cavity as well as other canals and cavities of the body; also called “mucosa.”

Night Guard

An appliance worn at night to reduce tooth wear and temporomandibular damage caused by grinding or clenching the teeth during sleep.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

A disorder in which breathing stops for short periods of time during sleep.


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


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


An indirect restoration made outside the oral cavity that overlays a cusp or cusps of the tooth, which is then cemented to the tooth.


Pertaining to the mouth.

Oral And Maxillofacial Surgeon

A dental specialist whose practice is limited to the diagnosis, surgical and adjunctive treatment of diseases, injuries, deformities, defects and esthetic aspects of the oral and maxillofacial regions.

Oral Mucosa

The pink-red tissues that line the mouth.


A dental specialist whose practice is limited to the interception and treatment of malocclusion of the teeth and their surrounding structures.

Orthognathic Surgery

Surgery performed to correct facial imbalances caused by abnormalities of the jaw bones.


The process by which bone heals around an implant.


Surgical procedure that modifies the configuration of bone.


Surgical cutting of bone.


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


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


Action that relieves pain but is not curative.

Parotid Glands

Major salivary glands located in front of and below the ears.

Partial Denture

Usually refers to a prosthetic device that replaces missing teeth; see Fixed Partial Denture or Removable Partial Denture.


An individual who has established a professional relationship with a dentist for the delivery of dental health care. For matters relating to communication of information and consent, this term includes the patient’s parent, caretaker, guardian, or other individual as appropriate under state law and the circumstances of the case.

Pediatric Dentist

A dental specialist whose practice is limited to treatment of children from birth through adolescence; formerly known as a pedodontist.


See Pediatric Dentist.


A thin nonbacterial film from saliva that covers the teeth.

Periapical X-Ray

An x-ray that shows several entire teeth (crowns and roots) and includes a small amount of the periapical bone (surrounding the root tips).


Pertaining to the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth.

Periodontal Abscess

An infection in the gum pocket that can destroy hard and soft tissues.

Periodontal Chart

The record of a patient’s periodontal health, which includes the depth of the sulcus or pocket around each tooth.

Periodontal Disease

Inflammatory process of the gingival tissues and/or periodontal membrane of the teeth, resulting in an abnormally deep gingival sulcus, possibly producing periodontal pockets and loss of supporting alveolar bone.

Periodontal Pocket

Pathologically deepened gingival sulcus; a feature of periodontal disease.


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


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

Permanent Dentition

Refers to the permanent teeth in the dental arch.


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


A replacement tooth mounted on a fixed or removable appliance.


An elongated projection fitted and cemented within the prepared root canal, serving to strengthen and retain restorative material and/or a crown restoration.


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

Pre-molar (or bicuspid)

The side teeth behind the cuspids and in front of the molars.

Precision Attachment

Interlocking device, one component of which is fixed to an abutment or abutments and the other is integrated into a fixed or removable prosthesis in order to stabilize and/or retain it.


The use of medications prior to dental procedures.


The measurement of sulcus or pocket depth around a tooth.


Scaling and polishing procedure performed to remove coronal plaque, calculus and stains.


Artificial replacement of any part of the body.


A dental specialist whose practice is limited to the restoration of the natural teeth and/or the replacement of missing teeth with artificial substitutes.


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

Pulp Cavity

The space within a tooth which contains the pulp.


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


Surgical removal of a portion of the pulp with the aim of maintaining the vitality of the remaining portion by means of an adequate dressing; pulp amputation.


An older term for periodontal (gum) disease.


An image produced by projecting radiation, as x-rays, on photographic film. Commonly called x-ray.


A cyst that can develop under the tongue on the floor of the mouth.


To replace the denture base.

Regeneration Surgery

Surgery performed to reform hard or soft tissue lost due to periodontal disease.


To resurface the side of the denture that is in contact with the soft tissues of the mouth to make it fit more securely.

Removable Appliance

Removable orthodontic appliances used to effect simple tipping movements of one tooth or several.

Removable Partial Denture

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


To dissolve.


A filling or crown used to repair a damaged tooth.


  • Orthodontic Retainer: Appliance to stabilize teeth following orthodontic treatment.
  • Prosthodontic Retainer: A part of a fixed partial denture that attaches a pontic to the abutment tooth, implant abutment, or implant.

Ridge Augmentation

A procedure designed to increase the amount of bone height or width in the upper or lower jaw.


The anatomic portion of the tooth that is covered by cementum and is located in the alveolus (socket) where it is attached by the periodontal apparatus; radicular portion of tooth.

Root Canal

The portion of the pulp cavity inside the root of a tooth; the chamber within the root of the tooth that contains the pulp.

Root Canal Therapy

The treatment of disease and injuries of the pulp and associated periradicular conditions.

Root Caries

Tooth decay that forms on the roots.

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.

Root Resection

The removal of one or more roots, retaining the crown of the tooth.


Removal of plaque, calculus, and stain from teeth.


Plastic resin placed on the biting surfaces of molars to prevent bacteria from attacking the enamel and causing caries.


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.


Inflammation of the membranes in the mouth.

Sublingual Glands

Major salivary glands located in the mucosa on the floor of the mouth.

Submandibular Glands

Walnut-sized major salivary glands located beneath the tongue.


The normal space found between the gum and tooth.




Stitch used to repair incision or wound.


The common term for dental calculus.

Temporary Removable Denture

An interim prosthesis designed for use over limited period of time.

Temporomandibular (TMJ)

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

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

Abnormal functioning of temporomandibular joint; also refers to symptoms arising in other areas secondary to the dysfunction.


A bony elevation or protuberance of bone.


Tooth/teeth that have not penetrated into the oral cavity


In the construction of crowns or pontics, a layer of tooth-colored material, usually, but not limited to, composite, porcelain, ceramic or acrylic resin, attached to the surface by direct fusion, cementation, or mechanical retention; also refers to a restoration that is cemented to the facial surface of a tooth.

Wisdom Teeth

The third (last) molars.




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