"We Cater To Cowards"

Rothenberg DDS / TLC Dental Group

"We Cater To Cowards"

7197 Highbridge
Fayetteville, NY 13066
United States




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TLC Dental Group

Dental Dictionary

TLC Dental Group

Written for the Layman

Compiled & Edited by

Dr. Stephen J Rothenberg

Founder of
TLC Dental Group
Syracuse, NY

2015 Edition


I conceived the Dental Dictionary to assist TLC Dental Group patients in better understanding our dental services by providing them with  short yet meaningful definitions of common dental terms.

As a Syracuse, NY dentist drawing on many years of dental practice I have compiled a list of essential dental terms. For each entry I have spared you the task of searching the Web for a dental term and being greeted by an array of sparse dental glossaries and quasi dental dictionaries. In lieu of that ordeal, you may simply click on our Contents page and then click on the first letter of your desired dental word to quickly locate it.

Should you not find a dental term in this dictionary, you might consult two standard, unabridged dictionaries to which I am beholden: Mosby’s Dental Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionary of Dentistry.

In closing this Preface, I would acknowledge my mother Helen, my father Joseph, and particularly my wife Marsha who provided extensive and invaluable editorial assistance in this work. Without them I would not have a dental practice much less a dental dictionary.

Stephen J. Rothenberg, D.D.S.
Fayetteville, New York


Alphabetical Index

Please click on the first letter of your search word.



free of bacteria: not caused by bacteria


a decrease in severity


a loss of tooth structure caused by a hard toothbrush, poor brushing technique, or bruxism


a localized collection of puss commonly due to a deterioration of tissue by a bacterial infection and often accompanied by painful inflammation


a natural tooth or tooth structure used to anchor or support a fixed or removable prosthesis such as a bridge or dentures

Acrylic Resin

a synthetic resin used for both natural tooth restoration and many dental prostheses


a substance used as a catalyst to increase the rate of chemical reactions

Acid Etch

acid used in a diluted form to etch a selected area of a tooth to aid in the retention of some restorative or protective materials such as sealants, acrylic resins, and orthodontic brackets


the process by which bacteria in plaque break down carbohydrates thereby forming acid that demineralizes enamel

Acidulated Phosphate Fluoride

an agent applied immediately after teeth cleaning to aid in the prevention of dental caries


a severe condition

ADA Seal of Acceptance

an award for products and materials that have been tested to be safe and effective by the American Dental Association


a malignant epithelial tumor derived from glandular tissue


a benign epithelial tumor derived from glandular tissue


a modification of a denture or natural restoration

Adult Dentition

permanent adult teeth that have replaced the primary teeth


a micro-organism that needs oxygen to survive


tooth pain induced by a change in barometric pressure occurring at high altitudes and caused by caries, pulpitis, pulp necrosis, acute or chronic inflammation of the sinuses or inner ear


procedures that have a cosmetic purpose such as white fillings, whitening, and veneers

Air Abrasion

a process in which tiny particles of aluminum oxide are blasted in a stream of water at a tooth to remove surface decay, superficial stains, or prepare the tooth surface for bonding


a suffix pertaining to pain

Ala-Tragel Line

an imaginary line from the ala (the external cartilaginous covering of the nostrils) of the nose to the superior edge of the ear used as a reference to determine the occlusal (bite) plane in the fabrication of a prosthesis


a material that binds with water forming a viscous gum and is found in the cell walls of brown algae: it is often used for impressions: also called alginic acid and algin

Alginic Acid

see alginate


to position teeth for a proper line of occlusion or bite


an unfavorable systemic response to a foreign substance or drug

Alveolar Bone

a part of the jawbone surrounding and supporting the roots of teeth: alveolar bone deterioration is often associated with periodontal disease

Alveolar Ridge

the ridge of the alveolar bone containing the tooth sockets and teeth


a smoothing and reshaping of the alveolar bone that is sometimes needed after tooth extraction to prepare for dentures or other prostheses


a common filling material that is durable and easily condensed: also called a silver filling


the process of forming tooth enamel

Anaerobic Bacteria

bacteria that do not need oxygen to grow and are typically associated with periodontal disease


a diminution or elimination of pain without the loss of consciousness or sense of pressure and touch, often induced by nitrous oxide


medication that relieves the sensation of pain due to nerve pulse blockage: general anesthesia and IV Sedation are often used to produce a partial or complete state of unconsciousness

Angular Chelitis

a condition marked by ulcerations in the tissue at the corners of the mouth caused by vitamin B deficiency or a parasite fungus


limited tongue movement due to an abnormally short lingual frenum that binds the tongue to the floor of the mouth


a condition in which the roots of a tooth lose their normal ligamental attachment to the alveolar bone and become directly fused to it


the failure of some teeth to form

Anterior Teeth

the six to eight upper or lower front teeth also called the smile teeth


a drug that stops or slows the growth of bacteria


Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis is an acute form of gingivitis that is aggravated by stress and smoking: also called trench mouth


the opening at the tip of the root of a tooth

Aphthous Ulcer

a small red or white ulcer on the mucus membrane of the mouth, usually lasting ten to fourteen days unless a laser or chemical is used to destroy the lesion

Apical Foramen

an opening at a tooth’s root tip that allows the entry of nerve and blood vessels to the pulp


the surgical removal of the apex to treat a tooth not able to be saved by conventional methods


a removable dental devise or restoration


the curved form of the upper or lower teeth

Articulating Paper

a thin strip of paper coated with pigment that is used to check the contact between upper and lower teeth


free of micro-organisms that can cause infection


a suction device to remove fluid and debris from the mouth

Attached Gingiva

The fibrous tissue that surrounds the teeth and attaches to the cementum and the underlying bone


the loss of structure due to friction such as chewing or grinding


a device for the sterilization of dental instruments


the detachment of a tooth from its socket due to trauma


Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

a decay common to young children who lie down for long periods of time with a sippy cup or baby bottle thereby enabling liquid to pool and cling to the upper front teeth


retarding or inhibiting the growth of bacteria


the medicated cement placed under a dental restoration to insulate the nerve chamber

Basket Crown

a temporary crown used for a fractured tooth



Benign Migratory Glossitis

a condition in which red, raised patches resembling a relief map appear on the superior portion of the tongue: also call geographic tongue


a localized analgesic used to numb an area of the mouth before an injection: also used to control the pain of mouth ulcers and abraded or lacerated tissue


transitional teeth behind the cuspids: also called pre-molars


the area where two roots join on a posterior tooth


occurring on both sides


the removal of a small piece of tissue for microscopic examination


the way in which the upper and lower teeth meet when closing the mouth: also called occlusion

Bite Wing

decay detection x-rays with a focus on the portion of the tooth above bone level

Black Hairy Tongue

a discoloration caused by elongated papillae and an overgrowth of bacteria


the process of whitening and removing stains using chemical oxidizing agents


a mass of food that has been chewed and prepared for swallowing


the covering of a tooth surface with a composite resin to correct stained, damaged, or misshaped teeth

Bone Resorption

the loss of bone supporting the teeth, often caused by periodontal disease


devices used by Orthodontists to gradually reposition teeth to a more favorable alignment


an attachment on a fixed orthodontic appliance that is usually made from metal, plastic, or porcelain


a stationary prosthesis that attaches to natural teeth or implants to replace missing teeth: also called a fixed partial denture that is usually limited to one or two teeth


the involuntary grinding or gnashing of teeth usually while asleep: it may result in TMJ and cause teeth to chip, wear down, and break


the surface of the back teeth facing the cheek

Buccinator Muscle

the cheek muscle

Butt Joint

to join together two square ended surfaces thereby forming a butt joint: to place a restoration against the tissue covering the alveolar ridge



a chemical element found in dairy products that is needed for healthy teeth, bones, and nerves: calcium insufficiency may result in rickets and osteoporosis

Calcium Fluorapatite

a mineral formed during the remineralization of enamel when fluoride ions are present: it makes teeth more resistant to decay

Calcium Hydroxide

a crystalline compound used as both a restorative liner and a medicated protective pulp cap to encourage the formation of reparative dentin: this may preclude a root canal if done before there is complete nerve exposure


hard deposits of mineralized bacteria laden plaque, often stained yellow and brown, that form on teeth due to inadequate plaque control: it is a major cause of infectious disease; debridement and/or deep scaling are needed to chip off this cement-like substance in order to promote healing


a fungal infection caused by yeast species that is manifest by white or red patches on the oral mucosa and that may be associated with long term anti-biotic usage: also called candidosis or thrush


a cusped tooth located in each quadrant between the incisors and premolars: primary canines erupt approximately sixteen to eighteen months after birth; permanent canines erupt approximately nine to fourteen years after birth

Canker Sore

a whitish ulceration, often with a red halo, frequently caused by trauma or the herpes simplex virus

Cantilever Bridge

a fixed bridge that attaches at one end to adjacent teeth


a common term for a dental crown

Carabelli Cusp

an extra cusp formed on the lingual (tongue side) of some molars


dental decay caused by bacteria produced toxins: also called cavities

Caruncle Submaxillary

a small orifice located in the small papilia on either side of the frenum (muscle under the tongue): often called Wharton’s Duct


to shape or model filling material

Cavitron/Cavijet Plus

a clinically effective ultrasonic scaler and air polisher aiding in the disruption and removal of bacteria laden subgingival biofilm: it is an important instrument for improving periodontal hygiene and over all patient health while painlessly and efficiently removing more stain in less time than hand scaling


a carious lesion or hole in a tooth caused by bacteria produced toxins: also called caries

Cemento Enamel Junction

a line where the enamel of the tooth meets the root of the tooth


a thin bone-like calcified tissue covering tooth root


an antiseptic rinse that inhibits bacterial plaque: it is often prescribed for use with a Rotadent toothbrush to disrupt the regrowth of bacterial laden biofilm from forming under the gums




a device that holds a removable partial denture to stationary teeth

Cleft Palate

a congenital anomaly caused by the failure of fusion between the palatal bones leaving a split or opening in the roof of the mouth


the removal of plaque and tartar from teeth above the gum line: also called prophylaxis


the clamping of the jaws and teeth together: it is often associated with stress


a substance that assists in clotting blood

Composite Resin

a tooth colored filling that looks like a natural tooth


a discussion of a patient’s dental needs and the development of a treatment plan


a factor in a patient’s history that makes it unwise to perform a specific treatment or prescribe a specific medication


an amalgam or composite build-up serving to replace missing tooth structure and to provide a base, often in conjunction with a post, for the attachment of an artificial crown to the root of a normal tooth or a root canal treated tooth: also see Post

Core Build Up

a constructive base for the retention of a crown: also see Post


of or relating to the crown of a tooth

Cosmetic Dentistry

the area of dentistry that provides treatments to enhance dental appearance such as bleaching and veneers: also called aesthetic dentistry

Cross Bite

the reverse biting relationship of upper and lower teeth e.g., reverse horizontal overlap


a protective and functional dental restoration covering all or most of the natural tooth: it may be fabricated from porcelain, metal, substrate, or a combination of materials: also the portion of the tooth covered by enamel that is above the gum line

Crown Lengthening

the process of exposing more tooth for restorative purposes


the removal of chronically inflamed diseased tissue from a periodontal pocket


large pointed teeth at the corners of the mouth, located between the incisors and bicuspids: also called canine or eye teeth


the raised round high points on the chewing surface of the teeth


pathological space in bone or soft tissue containing fluid or semi-fluid material



Doctor of Dental Surgery


the gross removal of plaque and calculus that interfere with the ability to examine the patient’s oral condition


the process of losing calcium from tissue such as bone or enamel


the decomposition of tooth structure caused by toxins produced by bacteria

Deciduous Teeth

the customary first set of twenty teeth: their eruption starts approximately six months after birth and they are gradually replaced with permanent teeth: also called primary teeth and baby teeth

Dental Assistant

a person who helps a dentist or other dental auxiliary and whose duties may include preparing a patient for treatment, handing instruments to a practitioner during procedures, suctioning to maintain dryness in a prep area, sterilizing instruments, taking and developing x-rays, taking impressions, fabricating models, and making temporary crowns

Dental Floss

a waxed or unwaxed piece of nylon string that is inserted between the teeth and moved in an up/down fashion for the removal of plaque and food deposits between the teeth

Dental Hygienist

an accredited and licensed dental professional who specializes in preventive oral health, instructs patients on the importance of practicing good oral hygiene at home, and performs therapeutic dental treatments including prophylaxis (cleanings), fluoridation, periodontal bacteria pocket laser therapy, antibiotic placement in periodontal pockets, sealant application, digital imaging, x-ray execution and development, scaling and root planing, and dental hygiene examination

Dental Implant

a cylinder, usually of titanium, that is surgically placed in the bone of the upper or lower jaw to provide support for a dental restoration or appliance




the inner layer of tooth structure immediately under the surface enamel


an accredited, licensed medical health care practitioner who specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and conditions of the oral cavity: treatment categories include restoration (fillings, bondings, whitening, etc.), orthodontics (braces, etc.), prosthetics (dentures, crowns, bridges, etc.), endodontics (root canals, pulp caps, etc.), periodontics (gum and supporting bone therapy and surgery), exodontia (tooth extractions), and oral surgery (implants, lesions, etc.)


the arrangement of natural teeth in the dental arches of the mouth


a wide form of dental floss


a partial or complete set of artificial teeth that is removable

Desensitizing Agent

a gel or varnish applied topically to sensitive areas of the tooth surface that often develop due to recession


a deficiency condition involving carbohydrate metabolism that can cause lower resistance to infection, higher resistance to wound healing, decreased salivary flow leading to higher risk of tooth decay, gingiva, bone and teeth erosion due to gastrointestinal disturbances, and periodontal problems including periodontal abscesses,, fungating masses of granulation tissue protruding from periodontal pockets, and osteoporotic changes in the alveolar bone: periodontal maintenance is extremely important for the overall health of diabetic patients

Diagnostic Cast

a replica of the teeth made from an impression


a space between two adjacent teeth in the same arch

Direct Pulp Cap

a cap possessing a therapeutic compound that is placed over exposed pulp to promote healing


a circular, flat structure that separates the two opposing surfaces of a joint, e.g., a tempormandibular articular disc

Disclosing Agent

a vegetable dye used to reveal plaque or other deposits on tooth surface


an agent capable of destroying micro-organisms


a dental structure that is displaced from its natural position


the surface most distant to the center or midline of a tooth


the loss of enamel, usually in the gingival area, caused by the breakdown of an old restoration


the superior or top surface of the tongue

Dry Mouth

a condition of insufficient saliva in the mouth often caused by certain medications (antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure pills, etc.), diseases (Sjogren’s Syndrome, HIV/AIDS, etc.), medical treatments (head and neck radiation, removal of salivary glands, etc.), harmful habits (tobacco use, etc.), and nerve damage: also called xerostomia

Dry Socket

a common condition of localized alveolar osteitis associated with infection that occurs when a blood clot does not form or becomes dislodged after a tooth extraction


a medical condition in which swallowing becomes difficult


an abnormal tissue development



the condition of being without teeth

Edge to Edge Bite

a condition in which the lower teeth and upper teeth do not overlap thereby occluding abnormally and hitting at the incisal edge


the hard, shiny, protective tissue covering the portion of tooth above the gum line: it is the hardest substance in the human body


see odontoplasty


the branch of dentistry concerned with preserving the health of the dental pulp or nerve of the teeth and treating pulp and nerve related disease, injury, and infection: the most common procedure is a root canal


a specialist in endodontics

Epidermoid Carcinoma

a malignant carcinoma of the salivary gland


a flap-like structure that folds over the larynx when swallowing to prevent food from passing into the trachea or bronchi and instead directs it to the esophagus for digesting


of or relating to epithelium, cellular tissue covering surfaces, lining most body cavities, and forming glands


the wearing away of tooth structure by mechanical or chemical means


the emergence of a tooth from its developmental position to its ultimate position in the mouth: a lesion of the skin in the form of a blister or rash


see Zinc Oxide


the scooping out of soft decay


to remove diseased tissue


the natural loss of a deciduous (baby) tooth


the science and practice of removing teeth


the development of a boney outgrowth


the removal of a tooth


outside the mouth


a fluid that slowly oozes through the wall of a blood vessel, usually due to inflammation



denoting the lip or cheek side of a front or back tooth


a benign tumor usually consisting of fibrous connective tissue


a lay term for material used to fill a cavity or replace part of a tooth


a pit or groove in the enamel of a tooth

Fixed Bridge

a prosthesis that is cemented in place and used to replace one or more teeth

Fixed Removable Bridge

a partial denture

Flap Surgery

a procedure performed to lift gum tissue to expose and clean underlying tooth and bone structures


a temporary partial with one or more teeth to maintain aesthetics and/or a space until a permanent partial, bridge, or implant is fabricated and emplaced.


a thread like material that should be used daily to remove plaque and food particles from interproximal surfaces: also called dental floss


a naturally occurring inorganic ion used to prevent dental decay: it is utilized in fluoridated water systems and/or applied directly to the teeth

Food Impaction

food firmly wedged between the teeth


the surgical removal of the frenum along with the underlying fibrous tissue


muscle fibers covered by a mucous membrane that attach the cheek, lips and/or tongue to associated dental mucosa

Full Mouth X-Rays

a complete set of dental x-rays consisting of ten to fourteen periapical films and four bite wing x-rays: the term x-ray is often used for both conventional x-rays and digital imaging that many dentists prefer due to concerns about radiation


the area of tooth where the roots of a multi-rooted tooth divide: preventing bone loss in the furcation is crucial to maintaining tooth support and longevity


A dental condition caused by excessive fluoride absorption resulting in tooth enamel discoloration and damage



a rare condition in which twin teeth form from a single bud or follicle: they have only one pulp chamber and a dividing groove down the center: also called schizodontia

Genetic Test

a test to determine if a patient has or might develop a genetic condition or disease


of or relating to the chin

Geographic Tongue

See Benign Migratory Glassitis


of or relating to the gums


the singular form of gingivae


fibrous connective tissue covered by epithelium that surrounds the teeth and alveolar bone and extends to the mucogingival junction: also called the gums

Gingival Recession

a recession of the gingivae: it exposes the root of the tooth, which is not protected by enamel, thus leaving portions of the root exposed and susceptible to decay


the surgical removal of gingiva to create a new gingival margin: performed when gingivitis will not respond to non-surgical periodontal methods


an inflammation or infection of gingival tissue: the initial stage of periodontal disease, gingivitis is reversible but may progress to non-curable periodontal disease: also see Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis


a surgical procedure to reshape or repair gingival tissue


a desensitizing agent for treating and preventing dentinal hypersensitivity: gluma inhibits the growth of bacteria as a cause of sensitivity and works within the dentinal tubule complex by reacting with protein fluids to form a physiological seal within the tubules


a partial or complete removal of the tongue


either synthetic material or a portion of gum tissue removed from one site and transplanted or placed in contact with tissue in another site to repair a defect or supplement a deficiency


a common term for gingiva

Gum Disease

see Periodontal Disease

Gum Recession

a shrinkage of the gums due to abrasion, surgery, or periodontal disease leaving the roots of the teeth exposed and susceptible to sensitivity and decay

Gutta Percha

a compound used for root canal treatment to fill and obliterate the pulp canal and seal the apical foramen to prevent bacteria, nerve tissue, and blood supply from reentering the treated tooth


of or relating to the sense of taste


Harmful Dental Habits

habits adversely affecting oral health including thumb or finger sucking, nail biting, tongue thrusting, mouth breathing, cheek or lip biting, and some eating disorders


the condition of having bad breath: also called ozotomia

Hand Piece

a hand held instrument that controls rotary attachments for decay removal and dental polishing and shaping

Hard Palate

the anterior boney part of the roof of the mouth


a collection of blood in tissues that causes swelling usually after an injury

Herpes Labialis

a viral infection with skin and lip vesicles that rupture and leave ulcers


an acronym for The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996: as of April 14, 2003 healthcare providers have been required to comply with its provisions including those relating to patient privacy

Horizontal Overlap

see Overjet


a licensed dental professional who provides therapeutic services to arrest disease and secure healthy tissue in the mouth, preventative services to maintain good oral health, and educational services to inspire better oral health


the enlargement of a tissue or organ by an abnormal increase in the number of normal cells often caused by an irritation or injury


a sharp and painful reaction to stimulus that under normal circumstances would not cause a reaction


the underdevelopment of tissue


Ideal Occlusion

the correct way for unworn teeth to come together when biting


a condition for which the cause is not known

Immediate denture

a denture constructed for immediate placement after all teeth in the arch are extracted

Impacted Tooth

an unerupted or partially erupted tooth whose complete eruption is unlikely because it is lodged or firmly wedged due to other teeth or abnormal development : it may cause damage to other teeth or boney structures supporting adjacent teeth and usually must be surgically removed


An artificial device, usually made of a metal alloy or ceramic material, that is implanted in the jawbone as a means to attach an artificial crown, denture, or bridge


an imprint or mold from which to make a model

Incisal Edge

the biting and cutting edge of front teeth

Incision and Drainage

the surgical opening of an abscess to drain pus


the four front teeth referred to as central and lateral incisors, located in the upper and lower jaws, and used to cut and tear food: the central incisors are the two teeth in the middle of the mouth and the lateral incisors are next to the central incisor, one on each side

Indirect Pulp Cap

a protective dressing that is placed over a nearly exposed nerve to protect the pulp from additionally injury and to promote healing and repair via formation of secondary dentin


an invasion of body tissues by a pathogenic micro-organism


contagious or communicable

Inflammatory Gingival Enlargement

an inflamed enlargement of gum tissue caused by prolonged exposure to dental plaque: in early stages it is usually painless, appearing as a slight ballooning of interdental gingiva before progressing to more vascular engorgement: initial anti-biotic treatment may precede the removal of infectious bacteria by deep scaling and/or root planning by a dental professional


a dental restoration of metal, porcelain or composite material shaped to the form of a prepared cavity and retained in place by a cement luting.


the area between two adjacent teeth: interproximal decay is often called kissing decay because the decay is between two adjacent teeth


within the crown of a tooth


of or relating to inside of the mouth


oral washing out with an antiseptic solution


a suffix denoting inflammation



a common name for the bones that support the face including the alveolar bone that anchors the teeth: the upper jaw is called the maxilla and the lower jaw is called the mandible



a painless enlargement of scar tissue


an insoluble protein that causes tissue to harden

Kiss of Life

a common term for emergency mouth to mouth resuscitation

Koplik’s Spots

small red spots with bluish centers on the buccal and lingual mucosa of the mouth that are an early symptom of measles



of or relating to or around the lips

Lamina Propria

a layer of connective tissue below the mucosa membrane

Laminate Veneer

a thin composite or porcelain laminate made in a dental laboratory and bonded to the facial tooth surface, often used for cosmetic enhancements such as changing the color or shape of smile teeth


to make a small incision for drainage of an inflamed area


a voice organ located in the upper trachea

Laser Cavity Detection

a cavity detection method based on the characteristic of healthy tooth structure to reflect light differently than decayed tooth structure: a diode laser wand directs pulsed light onto a tooth and a computerized instrument measures density and calculates the possibility of tooth decay

Laser Periodontal Pocket Therapy

a form of dental therapy in which a diode laser is used at low levels to effectively eliminate periodontal causing bacteria in periodontal pockets

Laughing Gas

see Nitrous Oxide


tissue damage caused by disease or trauma often resulting in enlargement and impaired function: also see Primary Lesion, Secondary Lesion, and Yellow Lesion


a pre-malignant condition that appears as a white patch on the mucosal membrane: vizilite and other chemiliuminescent diagnostic devices can detect these abnormalities before they are visible to the naked eye enabling lifesaving treatment at an early age as most late stage oral cancers only have a three to five year survival rate

Lichen Planus

small, flat-topped, angular papules covered in gray striae that develop on mucus membranes and may become malignant: Vizilite and other chemiluminescent diagnostic devices can detect these abnormalities before they are visible to the naked eye enabling lifesaving treatment at an early stage as most oral cancers only have a three to five year survival rate


of or relating to the tongue: designating the tongue side as opposed to the cheek side of the mouth: also see Buccal and Facial

Lingual Frenum

a narrow mucous membrane attaching the tongue to the floor of the mouth

Local Anesthetic

an injection of medication that relieves the sensation of pain through nerve pulse blockage: also see Novocaine


a bonding compound used for joining purposes



the deviation of proper alignment of teeth or jaws


the lower jaw: adjective-mandibular


the point at which natural tooth structure and a restoration interface

Maryland Bridge

a bridge that does not require as much reduction of the abutment (anchor) teeth as a conventional bridge and one in which wing shaped flanges are bonded to the anchor teeth


the act of chewing


the upper jaw: adjective-maxillary, maxillar


a healing drug or medicine applied locally: often used in dentistry to irrigate periodontal pockets


the surface of a tooth nearest the midline


the removal of a small amount of tooth structure to eliminate superficial enamel discoloration and defects


an imaginary line dividing the mouth

Mixed Dentition

the stage of dental development when both deciduous (baby) teeth and permanent teeth are present: also called transitional dentition

Moderate Bone Loss

an amount of bone loss between 10% and 30% as measured with a periodontal probe and verified by x-rays or digital imaging

Moderate Periodontitis

a degree of periodontitis defined by 3 to 5 mm of clinical attachment loss


the broad back teeth used for grinding and chewing: an adult mouth has a total of twelve molars (including the four wisdom teeth or third molars), three on each side of the upper and lower jaws

Mouth Guard

a removable appliance used to protect teeth from sport injuries

Mucogingival Junction

a scalloped line on the facial side of a tooth where the attached gingiva and the alveolar mucosa come together


the epithelial lining of the oral cavity


a prefix that designates of or relating to muscle


of or relating to the muscles of the face


of or relating to muscle function

Myofunctional Appliance

an orthopedic device used to correct jaw disharmonies by utilizing the forces of the masticatory and facial muscles to modify the developmental growth of the jaws



a group of cells that have died and have no blood supply

Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis

an acute form of gingivitis characterized by severe and painful mouth sores and fetid breath: also called trench mouth and Vincent’s infection


a cordlike structure composed of multiple neurons or cells in fibers bundled with blood vessels and wrapped in connective tissue that transmits impulses between the brain or spinal cord and muscles and glands


nerve pain


of or relating to the nervous system

Night Guard

a removable appliance worn at night to prevent damage to the teeth and temporal mandibular joint caused by grinding, gnashing, and clenching of the teeth during sleep

Nitrous Oxide

an inhalation analgesic that consists of a controlled mixture of nitrogen and oxygen administered to a patient in order to decrease sensitivity to pain and/or anxiety: also called laughing gas


a generic name for local anesthetics such as Xylocaine, Lidocaine, Polocaine, and Marcaine: dentists have long discontinued the use of Novocaine itself: also see Local Anesthetic


a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug



to close an opening

Occlusal Surface

the flat chewing surface of the back of the teeth

Occlusal X-Ray

an intraoral x-ray, taken with the film held between the teeth in biting position, that reveals the teeth in an entire arch


contact between the biting or chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth


the condition of experiencing a toothache


of or relating to the development and origin of teeth


a cosmetic dental procedure in which small amounts of enamel are removed to change the length, shape, or surface of a tooth: also called enameloplasty and tooth contouring


a dental restoration of metal, porcelain or composite material shaped to replace part of a tooth, including one or more points or cusps, and retained in place by a cement luting; an onlay differs from a filling that is packed into a tooth and from an inlay that does not replace a cusp


the removal of an unneeded flap of tissue overlaying the crown of a partially or fully erupted tooth

Oral Cavity

the inside of the mouth

Oral Hygiene

the process of promoting cleanliness of the teeth and other mouth structures

Oral Surgeon

a dental professional with advanced education who performs many types of surgical procedures in and around the entire face

Oral Surgery

the removal of teeth and the repair and treatment of other oral problems such as tumors, cysts, and fractures


a specialized branch of dentistry that corrects malocclusion and restores the teeth to proper alignment and function: there are several different types of appliances used in orthodontics, one of which is commonly called braces


the process by which the bone in the jaw grows into and around a titanium implant


an inflammation of the bone


of or relating to bone


a systemic disorder resulting in the loss of bone density and a propensity for fracture


the vertical overlap of teeth


a denture designed to fit over teeth


the horizontal overlap of teeth: overjet is variable in nature and when substantial is sometimes called “buck teeth”


the condition of having bad breath: also called halitosis



the hard and soft tissues forming the roof of the mouth


a treatment that relieves pain but is not curative


diagnostic examination by careful touching with the hands and fingertips


an extraoral full-mouth digital x-ray that records the teeth of the upper and lower jaws on one film by moving the imaging source around a stationary patient


an elevation of tissue: a small nipple-shaped protuberance

Partial Denture

a removable appliance used to replace one or more lost teeth

Pediatric Dentistry

a specialized branch of dentistry that deals solely with treating children’s dental needs: also called pedodontics


A thin coating that forms daily on tooth enamel and acquires bacteria: if not brushed away, it becomes plaque.


of or relating to the area surrounding the root tip of a tooth


an inflammation of the gum tissue around the crown of a tooth


of or relating to the tissue and bone that support the tooth: from peri meaning around and odont meaning tooth

Periodontal Disease

the inflammation and infection of gums, ligaments, bone, and other tissues supporting the teeth: gingivitis (gums) and periodontitis (gums and bone) are the two main periodontal diseases: also called gum disease or pyorrhea

Periodontal Pocket

an abnormal deepening between the gingiva, tooth, and supporting bone: it is caused when disease and infection destroy the ligament that attaches the gum to the tooth and the underlying bone

Periodontal Surgery

a surgical procedure involving the supporting structures of teeth such as gingival tissue and the alveolar bone


the dental specialty focusing on the gum tissue and bone that secure the teeth


a dental specialist with expertise in surgically treating the effects of periodontal disease


the inflammation, infection, and disease of the supporting structures of the tooth, including the gum, the periodontal ligament, and the jawbone


the tissue that lines the pocket that holds the tooth in place

Permanent Teeth

the thirty-two adult teeth that replace the baby or primary teeth


a term for a crown that is made of porcelain fused to metal


the back of the mouth that leads to the esophagus


a depression on the surface of a tooth such as the one where the grooves of a molar converge


see Root Planing


a bio-film of sticky material containing saliva, food particles, and bacteria that accumulates on tooth surface both above and below the gingivae: when left on teeth it promotes gum disease and tooth decay


the most prominent point of the chin


an artificial tooth used in a bridge to replace a missing tooth


Non metal, non-resin inorganic compounds processed at high temperatures and then pressed, polished or milled for many dental restorations


a metal, ceramic, or fiber based peg that, often in conjunction with a core buildup, serves to attach an artificial crown to the root of a normal tooth or a root canal treated tooth: also see Core and Core Buildup

Posterior Teeth

a term referring to tissue and teeth in the back of the mouth (distal to the canines), including the maxiliary (upper) and mandibular (lower) premolars and molars


an insurance term for Participating Provider Organization


of or relating to a meal


the consent of an insurance company to a patient request, often with the assistance of a dental practice, for insurance coverage authorization of a proposed dental procedure

Precision Attachment

an interlocking device used to retain a removable bridge, a partial or a complete denture


an advance sign or symptom that warns of further dental complications


see Pretreatment Estimate

Pregnancy Gingivitis

gingivitus associated with pregnancy: increased levels of progesterone during pregnancy may make it easier for certain gingivitis causing bacteria to grow and make gum tissue more sensitive by exaggerating the body’s response to the toxins in bacteria laden biolfilm or plaque


a common name for cuspids and bicuspids

Pretreatment Estimate

an estimate of dental coverage provided to a patient by his insurance company: a dental practice drafts a patient treatment plan including projected expenses and diagnostic information such as x-rays, digital images, and perio charting. The patient’s insurance company evaluates the treatment plan and provides a provisional estimate of its coverage of the proposed treatment(s). Although not a payment guarantee, the Pretreatment Estimate is often deemed helpful by the patient.

Primary Lesion

tissue damage caused by disease or trauma including abscesses, ulcers, and tumors

Primary Teeth

the set of teeth that are subsequently replaced by permanent teeth: also called deciduous teeth or baby teeth


a scaling and polishing procedure performed to remove calculus, plaque, and stains from the crowns of the teeth above the gum line


an artificial restoration designed to replace a missing part: a partial denture is a removable prosthesis; a bridge is a fixed prosthesis; both these appliances are designed to restore the contour of the face and/or jaw as well as aid in the process of mastication (chewing)


a dental specialty dealing with the replacement of missing teeth and other oral structures


a dental specialist who restores and replaces teeth and other facial deformities with removable or fixed appliances

Provisional Prosthesis

a temporary bridge, denture or other prosthesis that is used pending a permanent prosthesis


the hollow chamber inside the crown of the tooth that contains its nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue


the removal of the entire pulp from the canals in the root of a tooth


an inflammation of the dental pulp or nerve usually accompanied by painful pulsation


the removal of a portion of the tooth’s pulp


an advanced form of periodontal disease that causes damage and infection to the bones surrounding the teeth: proper dental care can help avoid pyorrhea from developing and can also treat its effects



A dental term for the division of the jaws into four parts: the mouth has four quadrants, two upper and lower quadrants both divided at the midline of the mouth



an X-ray


the process of refitting a denture by replacing the base material


the biological root repair of external and internal sorption defects


a term for dental checkup and reevaluation: it may include prophylaxis, x-rays, digital imaging, perio-charting, and oral cancer examination


the process of recementing or regluing a dental appliance or prosthesis back in place


exposed root surface characterized by the abnormal loss of gum tissue due to infection or bone loss: it may cause sensitivity and susceptibility to root decay as well as early tooth loss


betokening the recurrence of disease after it has been eliminated

Red Spot on Mucosal Tissue

an abnormal red spot on mucosal tissue that should be addressed in the same manner as a white spot on mucosal tissue

Referred Pain

pain that is felt in an area other than the causal area


to resurface the tissue side of a denture with a base material for a tighter, more comfortable fit


a reversal of the decay process in which mineral salts are reintroduced into calcified tissue including bone, enamel, dentine and cementum: prescription strength fluoride will often enhance remineralization and thus prevent decay


the emplacement of an avulsed tooth in its socket; also called reimplantation


the physiological or pathological loss of substance: the roots of deciduous (baby) teeth resorp physiologically allowing them to lose support and exfoliate: permanent teeth may pathologically resorp due to periapical inflammation, tumors, cysts, impaction, infection, or trauma


a material or device used to replace a lost tooth structure (filling, inlay/onlay, crown) or to replace a lost tooth or teeth (implant, bridge, denture)


a removable dental appliance, usually used in orthodontics, that maintains space between teeth or holds teeth in a fixed position until the bone solidifies around them

Retrograde Filling

a sealing of the root canal by filling it from the root tip, generally done at the completion of an apicoectomy


the correction of a previously completed procedure


a part of the tooth below the crown, normally encased in the jawbone and not protected by enamel

Root Canal

the hollow part of the tooth’s root extending from the tip of the root into the pulp

Root Canal Therapy

the process of treating disease or inflammation of the pulp or root canal: this involves removing the pulp and root nerve(s) and filling the canal(s) with an appropriate material to permanently seal it

Root Caries

the decay of tooth root usually due to recession

Root Planing

the process of scaling and planing (smoothing) exposed root surfaces above and below the gum line to remove all calculus and plaque: one of the most effective treatments of early periodontal disease

Rubber Dam

a barrier used to isolate an operative field in dentistry



an alkaline secretion of the oral mucosa and salivary glands

Salivary Duct Stones

calcareous concentrations in the salivary duct that cause severe pain before, during, and after meals due to the blocked flow of saliva


glands that are under the tongue and in the cheeks that produce saliva


a procedure used to remove plaque, calculus, and stains from the teeth


a composite resin material used to seal the decay-prone pits, fissures, and grooves of teeth to prevent decay

Secondary Dentin

reparative tooth structure often produced in response to pulp capping procedures intended to prevent the need for root canal therapy

Secondary Lesion

a scar or crust generally derivative of a primary lesion

Sedative Restoration

a temporary medicated filling to calm the nerve in a tooth

Six Year Molar

the first permanent tooth to erupt, usually between the ages of five and six


pain from inflammation of the sinus that is often mistaken as tooth pain

Sleep Apnea

delayed or periodic interruption of breathing during sleep often caused by a closing of the upper airway and attendant snoring: sleep apnea appliances can mitigate this condition


a hole in the jawbone left after a tooth is extracted

Soft Palate

the soft tissue in the back third of the mouth

Space Maintainer

a dental appliance that fills the space of a lost tooth or teeth and prevents the other teeth from moving into the space


a device used to support, protect, or immobilize oral structures that have been fractured, loosened, reimplanted or traumatized: it also is used to stabilize and immobilize teeth for periodontal purposes

Stainless Steel Crown

a pre-made metal crown, shaped like a tooth, that is used to temporarily cover a seriously decayed or broken down tooth


an inflammation of the tissue under a denture


an attachment incorporated into a removable or fixed bridge to relieve pressure on the abutment teeth

Study Model

the cast of a tooth structure for diagnostic purposes

Subgingival Scaling

a process for removal of calculus and plaque found on the tooth roots below the gum line

Supernumery Tooth

an extra tooth in an atypical position

Supragingival Scaling

a process for removal of calculus and plaque found on the part of the tooth above the gum


a stitch to repair a wound


of or relating to the whole body


Tooth Contouring

See odontoplasty


a hard deposit of mineralized plaque: also called calculus


baby teeth pushing through the gums

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

the connecting hinge mechanism between the upper jaw and the base of the skull: also called the jaw joint

Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome or Disorder (TMD)

a syndrome or disorder associated with TMJ, usually involving pain or discomfort in the joints and ligaments that attach the lower jaw to the skull or in the muscles used for chewing

Third Molar

last of the three types of permanent teeth of which there are four, one on each side of the lower jaw, and one on each side of the upper jaw: some people are born without third molars and some are born without all four: also called wisdom tooth


see Candidiasis

Tissue Conditioning

material placed on tissue to promote healing


the muscular organ of the mouth that aids in chewing, swallowing, and speech

Tooth Bud

an early embryonic structure that forms into a tooth

Tooth Whitening

a chemical process to whiten teeth

Topical Anesthetic

a topical ointment that produces mild numbing and is often used to numb tissue before an injection


a bony elevation or protuberance of normal bone: usual locations are in the middle of the roof of the mouth and on the tongue side of the lower jaw bone


a tube running from the larynx to the bronchi: also called the windpipe


a physical injury or wound

Trench Mouth

see Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis

Trigger Point Injection

an anesthetic injection into tender muscles called trigger points to relieve pain


the spasm of mastication muscles that restricts the opening of the mouth


a protuberance on a bone



an open sore caused by inflammation breaking through the skin or a mucous membrane: also see Aphthous Ulcer and Viral Oral Ulcer

Under Bite

a condition in which the lower teeth protrude beyond the upper teeth

Unerupted Tooth

a tooth that has not yet pushed through the gum tissue


a symptom or condition that affects only one side

Ultrasonic Scaler

a dental instrument that vibrates at ultrasonic speed to remove plaque faster and easier than hand scaling


a flap of muscle tissue that hangs down from the soft palate to prevent food from entering the nose: it directs food down the throat and into the esophagus



a solution of resin or shellac that forms a protective and adherent barrier


A thin covering of tooth colored material bonded to the facial area of a tooth to restore damaged, misshapen, misaligned or discolored teeth


of or relating to the underside surface of the tongue

Vermilion Border

the border between the facial skin and the pink/red area of the upper and lower lips

Vertical Bite-Wings

a radiograph or digital x-ray that shows the coronal halves of the upper and lower teeth in a biting position

Vertical Dimension

the space between the upper and lower jaws: it may decrease over time due to wear or tooth loss

Vincent’s Infection

see Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis

Viral Oral Ulcer

a viral ulcer of the mouth: often a primary herpetic lesion transmitted through direct contact or saliva


Wax Up

trial dentures constructed of wax


the process of lightening teeth by means of a chemical oxidizing agent: the removal of deep stains and discolorations from teeth

White Spot on a Tooth

a white spot on a tooth produced by bacteria laden plaque that has demineralized the enamel: it is an early sign of decay

White Spot on Mucosal Tissue

An abnormal white spot on mucosal tissue that should be evaluated if it does not disappear within one or two weeks: chemiluminescent diagnostic exams can be done during a dental check-up and can detect abnormalities before they are visible to the naked eye thereby enabling lifesaving oral cancer treatment at an early stage and preventing late stage oral cancers with a three to five year survival rate.

Wisdom Teeth

a common term for third molars which typically erupt between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five although they may erupt later or not at all: they are nicknamed wisdom teeth because they erupt so much later than all the other teeth, supposedly at an age when you are wiser than you were as a child



a decrease in the production of saliva resulting in impediments of taste, eating, and speech as well as a greater incidence of decay and periodontal disease


visual films that distinguish between hard and soft tissues and are valuable diagnostic tools used to detect conditions not visible to the naked eye such as decay between teeth, bone levels, tumors, cysts, bone cancer, jawbone deformities, and the position of impacted teeth


a natural sweetener that does not promote tooth decay and may aid in remineralization



a type of fungus with the ability to ferment carbohydrates and to cause infections

Yellow Lesion

a primary lesion with a yellow hue from food pigments

Yellow Tooth Stains

stains on teeth produced by bacteria laden plaque that are more pronounced in people who neglect personal oral hygiene


Zinc Oxide

a dental paste that is used as a base under metal restorations due to its bacteriostatic property: it promotes reparative dentin formation in deep cavities and is preferred by many dentists for treatment of injured pulp: also called eugenol

Zygomatic Bone

the anterior part of the cheek bone

TLC Dental Group