top of page
Pile Of Books

Common Dental Terminology


(Tip: Use Control+F on PC or Command+F on a Mac to search for a certain term.)

Abutment: A tooth or implant used to support a prosthesis.


Acid Etching: Use of a chemical substance to prepare the enamel surface to provide retention for bonding.


Alloplastic: Refers to synthetic materials often used for tissue augmentation.


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


Alveoloplasty: Surgical procedure for recontouring alveolar structures, usually in preparation for a prosthesis.


Amalgam: An alloy used in dental restorations; always includes mercury.


Anterior: Refers to the teeth in the forward part of the mouth--incisors and canines.


Apicoectomy: Amputation of the root end of a tooth.


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


Avulsion: Separation of tooth from its socket due to trauma (evulsion).


Benign: Not malignant.


Biopsy: Process of removing tissue for determination of existence of pathology.


Bitewing Radiograph: Interproximal view radiograph of the coronal portion of the tooth.


Bridge: Fixed bridge is a prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth usually cemented to the abutment teeth adjacent to the space; removable bridge (partial denture) is a prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth on a framework that can be removed by the patient.


Bruxism: Involuntary clenching or grinding of the teeth.


Buccal: Pertaining to or around the cheek.


Calculus: Hard deposit of mineralized plaque which is attached to crowns and/or roots of teeth.


Canal: A relatively narrow tabular passage or channel; space inside the root portion of a tooth containing pulp tissue; the passage which transmits vessels and nerves through the jaw which branches are distributed to the teeth.


Caries: Correct technical term for decay.


Cast: See diagnostic cast or study model.


Cavity: Lesion or hole in tooth caused by caries.


Cephalometric Radiograph: A radiographic head film used to study the growth of the skull and head.


Cement Base: Material used under a filling to replace tooth structure lost by the decay process.


Cementum: Hard connective tissue covering the tooth root.


Chemical Curettage: Use of a caustic agent to facilitate subgingival and root curettage - see curettage.


Closed Reduction: Closing the space between the fractured bone without cutting through soft tissue or surrounding bone.


Compound Fracture: Break in bone so that the broken parts protrude through the soft tissue.


Coping: A thin covering of the coronal portion of the tooth usually without anatomic conformity. It can be used as a definitive restoration or as part of a transfer procedure.


Crown: Part of the tooth that is covered with enamel and normally projects beyond the gingival margin; artificial replacement is called by same name.


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


Curettage: Scraping or cleaning the walls of a cavity or gingival pocket.


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


Debridement: Removal of foreign matter.


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


Deciduous: To fall off or shed; a name used for the primary teeth.


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


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


Denture: An artificial substitute for natural teeth and adjacent tissues.


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


Diagnostic Cast: Plaster or stone model of teeth and adjoining tissues; also referred to as study model.


Direct Pulp Cap: Procedure in which the exposed pulp is covered with a dressing or cement that protects the pulp and promotes healing and repair.


Displaced Tooth: A partial evulsion of a tooth-may be mesial, distal, facial, lingual or incisal.


Distal: Toward the back of the dental arch (or away from the midline).


Dry Socket: Localized inflammation of the tooth socket following extraction due to infection or loss of blood clot.


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.


Evulsion: Complete separation of the tooth from its socket due to trauma (avulsion).


Excision: Surgical removal of bone or tissue.


Exostosis: Overgrowth of normal bone (see torus).


Extracoronal: Outside the crown of a tooth.


Exudate: Material such as fluid, cells, or other debris deposited in or on tissues, usually as a result of inflammation or necrosis.


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


Foramen: Natural opening into or through bone.


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


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 overlaying the crowns of unerupted teeth and encircling the necks of those that have erupted, serving as the supporting structure for sub-adjacent tissues.


Gingivitis: Inflammation of gingival tissue.


Gingivectomy: The excision or removal of gingiva.


Gingivoplasty: Surgical procedure to reshape gingivae to create a normal, functional form.


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


Hemisection: Surgical separation of a multirooted tooth so that one root and the overlaying portion of the crown can be surgically removed.


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.


Implant: Material inserted or grafted into tissue.


Implantation, Tooth: Placement of an artificial or natural tooth into a socket.


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.


Intentional Reimplanation: The intentional removal, radicular repair and replacement of a tooth into its own socket.


Interproximal: Between the adjoining surfaces of adjacent teeth.


Intracoronal: Referring to "within" the crown of a tooth.


Intraoral: Inside the mouth.


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


Labial: Pertaining to or around the lip.


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


Lingual: Pertaining to or around the tongue.


Malar: Pertaining to the cheek bone.


Malignant: Having the properties of dysplasia, invasion, and mestastasis.


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


Mandible: Lower jaw.


Mesial: Toward the midline of the dental arch.


Moulage: A cast of the face which may be wax or plaster.


Mucous Membrane: Lining to the oral cavity as well as other canals and cavities of the body; also called "mucosa."


Obturator: A disc or plate which closes an opening; a prosthesis that closes an opening in the palate.


Occlusal Radiograph: An intraoral radiograph made with the film being held between the occluded teeth.


Occlusion: Any contact between biting or chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth.


Onlay: A restoration that replaces a cusp or cusps of the tooth.


Open Reduction: Providing access to a fracture for purposes of anatomic approximation by cutting tissue or surrounding bone.


Operculectomy: Removal of the operculum.


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


Oral: Pertaining to the mouth.


Orthognathic: Functional relationship of jaws.


Osteoplasty: Surgical procedure that modifies the configuration of bone.


Osteotomy: Surgical cutting or transsection of bone.


Overdenture: Prosthetic device that is supported by retained roots or implants.


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


Palliative: Action that relieves pain but is not curative.


Panoramic Radiograph: An extraoral radiograph on which the maxilla and mandible are depicted on a single film.


Partial Denture: Usually refers to the prosthetic device that replaces the missing teeth on a framework that can be removed by the patient.


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


Periapical Radiograph: A radiograph made by the intraoral placement of film for disclosing the apices of the teeth.


Pericoronal: Around the crown of a tooth.


Periodontal: Pertaining to or around the root of a tooth.


Periodontitis: Inflammation of the supporting or surrounding structure of teeth.


Periradicular: Surrounding the entire root of the tooth.


Plaque: A soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth composed largely of derivatives from the saliva bacterial products.


Pontic: The term used for the artificial tooth on a bridge.


Primary Dentition: The first set of teeth; also known as deciduous.


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


Prosthesis: Artificial replacement of any part of the body; definitive prosthesis - a prosthesis to be used over an extended period of time; interim prosthesis - a provisional prosthesis designed for use over a limited period of time, after which it is to be replaced by a more difinitive restoration.


Pulp: The blood vessels and nerve tissue that occupies the pulp cavity of a tooth.


Pulp Cavity: The space within a tooth which contains the pulp.


Pulpectomy: Complete removal of diseased pulp tissue from the root canal space.


Pulpotomy: The removal of the coronal portion of the pulp.


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; usually includes five or more teeth.


Radiograph: X-ray.


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


Reline: Process of resurfacing the tissue side of a denture with a new base material.


Replantation, Tooth: The return of a tooth to its socket.


Retainer: Orthodontic retainer - appliance to stabilize teeth following orthodontic treatment; prosthodontic retainer - a part of a fixed bridge that attaches a pontic to the abutment tooth.


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


Root: The anatomic portion of the tooth that is covered by cementum and is normally suspended in the alveolus (socket).


Root Canal: The portion of the pulp cavity inside the root of a tooth.


Root Canal Therapy: Treatment of the pulp cavity to eliminate perapical disease and to promote healing and repair of periapical tissues.


Root Planing: A procedure designed to remove microbial flora, bacterial toxins on the root surface or in the pocket, calculus, and diseased cementum or dentin.


Scaling: Removal of plaque, calculus, and stain from teeth.


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


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: Of the membranes of the mouth.


Study Model: Plaster or stone model of teeth and adjoining tissues; also referred to as diagnostic cast.


Suture: Stitch used to repair incision or wound.


Temporary Removable Partial Denture: An interim prosthesis designed for use over limited period of time.


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


Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction: Problems with the jaw joint.


Torus: A bony elevation or protuberance of normal bone.


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


Unerupted: Teeth that have not penetrated into the oral cavity.


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


Zygomatic Bone: Quadrangular bone on either side of face that forms the cheek prominence (see malar).

bottom of page