Home / Glossary

Glossary of Terms



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

Acute​ ​Apical​ ​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. May also be known as acute periapical abscess, acute alveolar abscess, dentoalveolar abscess, phoenix abscess, recrudescent abscess, secondary apical abscess.

Chronic​ ​Periapical​ ​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.


A tooth or implant fixture used as a support for a prosthesis.

Acid Etching

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


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


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.


The diminution or elimination of pain.

Local Anesthesia

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


Mandibular and maxillary centrals, laterals and cuspids. The designation of permanent anterior teeth.


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


Amputation of the apex of a tooth.


Separation of tooth from its socket due to trauma.


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


A premolar tooth; a tooth with two cusps.


Process of removing tissue for histologic evaluation.

Bitewing Radiograph

Interproximal radiographic view of the coronal portion of the tooth/teeth.


Process of lightening of the teeth, usually using a chemical oxidizing agent and sometimes in the presence of special light.


Process by which two or more components are made integral by mechanical and/or chemical adhesion at their interface. Example composite filling material bonded to the tooth.


The parafunctional grinding of the teeth.


Pertaining to or toward the cheek (as in the buccal surface of a posterior tooth).


Hard deposit of mineralized substance adhering to crowns and/or roots of teeth or prosthetic devices.

Root​ ​canal

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


Commonly used term for tooth decay.


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


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

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.

Clinical Crown

That portion of a tooth not covered by tissues.

Complete Denture

A prosthetic for the edentulous maxillary or mandibular arch, replacing the full dentition. Usually includes six anterior teeth and eight posterior teeth.


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

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.

Cracked Tooth Syndrome

A collection of symptoms characterized by transient acute pain experienced when chewing.


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.


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


Single cusped tooth located between the incisors and bicuspids.


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

Periapical​ ​Cyst

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


Removal of subgingival and/or supragingival plaque and calculus which obstructs the ability to perform an evaluation.


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


Having the property of falling off or shedding; a term used to describe the primary teeth.


The evaluation, diagnosis, prevention and/or treatment (nonsurgical, surgical or related procedures) of diseases, disorders and/or conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and/or the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body.


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


Surface or position of a tooth towards the back of the dental arch.

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. Hardest substance in the human body.


Endodontics is the branch of dentistry which is concerned with the morphology, physiology and pathology of the human dental pulp and periradicular tissues.


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.


Separation of the tooth from its socket due to trauma.


Surgical removal of bone or tissue.


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


A material usually resulting from inflammation or necrosis that contains fluid, cells, and/or other debris.


The surface of a tooth directed toward . the cheeks or lips (i.e., the buccal and labial surfaces) and opposite the lingual surface.


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

Fixed bridge

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


Natural opening into or through bone.


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


Muscle fibers covered by a mucous membrane that attaches the cheek, lips and or tongue to associated dental mucosa.


The anatomic area of a multirooted tooth where the roots diverge.


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


The excision or removal of gingiva.


Inflammation of gingival tissue without loss of connective tissue.


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

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. Usually used to secure a dental prosthesis.

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.


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


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


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


Pertaining to or around the lip.

Laminate 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.


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.

Maintenance, Periodontal

Therapy for preserving the state of health of the periodontium.


Pertaining to the cheek bone.


Having the properties of dysplasia, invasion, and metastasis.


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


The lower jaw.


The upper jaw.


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


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


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

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


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


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.


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


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.

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.


Other than normal function or use.

Partial Denture

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

Pediatric Dentist

A dental specialist whose practice is limited to treatment of children from birth through adolescence, providing primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care; formerly known as a pedodontist.


The area surrounding the end of the tooth root.

Periapical Radiograph

A radiograph made by the intraoral placement of film, phosphorous plate, emulsion or digital sensor, for disclosing the apices of the teeth.


Pertaining to the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth.

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.


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.


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.


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

Permanent Dentition

Refers to the permanent or adult teeth in the dental arch.


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


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


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.


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

Precision attachment

Interlocking device, having a male component integrated into a removable prosthesis that fits precisely into a female component embedded in the body of abutment teeth or implant abutments, to stabilize or retain the prosthesis when it is seated in the mouth.


The use of medications prior to dental procedures.


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


Artificial replacement of any part of the body.

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.


Prosthodontics is the dental specialty pertaining to the diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance of the oral function, comfort, appearance and health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues using biocompatible substitutes.


Formed or preformed for temporary purposes or used over a limited period; a temporary or interim solution; usually refers to a prosthesis or individual tooth restoration.


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.


Inflammation of the dental pulp.


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.


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.


Pertaining to the root.

Radiographic/Surgical Implant Index

An appliance, designed to relate osteotomy or fixture position to existing anatomic structures.


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


Procedure used to encourage biologic root repair of external and internal resorption defects.


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

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, Acrylic

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 restoration to the abutment tooth, implant abutment, or implant.


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 Planing

A definitive treatment procedure designed to remove cementum and/or dentin that is rough, may be permeated by calculus, or contaminated with toxins or microorganisms.

Rubber Dam

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

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.


Removal of plaque, calculus, and stain from teeth.


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

Sedative filling

A temporary restoration intended to relieve pain.


Inspection of the salivary ducts and glands by radiograph after the injection of a radiopaque medium.


Surgical procedure by which a stone within a salivary gland or its duct is removed, either intraorally or extraorally.

Space maintainer

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


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 of the mouth.

Stress breaker

That part of a tooth-borne and/or tissue-borne prosthesis designed to relieve the abutment teeth and their supporting tissues from harmful stresses. supernumerary teeth​: Extra erupted or unerupted teeth that resemble teeth of normal shape.


Stitch used to repair incision or wound.

Temporomandibular (TMJ)​

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

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD or TMJ)

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


Of or pertaining to therapy or treatment; beneficial. Therapy has as its goal the elimination or control of a disease or other abnormal state.

Tissue Conditionin

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


A bony elevation or protuberance of bone.


Restricted ability to open the mouth, usually due to inflammation or fibrosis of the muscles of mastication.


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

Vertical Dimension

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


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

Zygomatic Bone

Quadrangular bone on either side of face that forms the cheek prominence.