Dental Dictionary

Dentists in Overland Park

This is designed to provide some basic information regarding terms you may hear during your dental visit. For additional information on any of these topics, talk with your dental team.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

abscess – severe and/or chronic localized inflammation in the gum tissue or at the tooth root that usually presents with infection, swelling, pain, and pus, and can cause damage to surrounding teeth and bone if left untreated

abutment – a natural tooth or dental implant that is used to support a fixed or removable dental prosthesis

acid etching – preparation of tooth enamel or dentin surface by the use of an acidic chemical to ensure successful bonding

acrylic resin – compound that may be used to fabricate dental prosthetics, such as denture teeth and crowns

ADA – American Dental Association, an organization of professional dentists within the United States, commonly known for providing public dental health education

adhesion – part of the bonding process, characterized by chemical or physical agents connecting two or more surfaces with or without the use of adhesive

adhesive – any substance that causes two or more surfaces to maintain connection with one another for an indefinite period of time

air abrasion – the use of a tool that blasts air and abrasive material at a tooth to remove small amounts of tooth structure

alloy/amalgam – compound made up of two or more elements and containing properties not found in the individual elements

alveolar – part of the jaw bone where teeth are anchored

anesthesia (local) – medication used to block pain in one area for treatment

anesthesia (general) – medication used to induce partial or complete unconsciousness during treatment

anterior – refers to teeth or tissues in the front part of the mouth

ANUG – Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis, a condition characterized by small ulcers in the gums and aggravated by stress or smoking

apex – tip of the tooth root

apicoectomy – surgical amputation of a tooth root to treat a dead tooth

appliance – oral device such as braces, mouth guards, or retainers

arch – curved structure of upper or lower teeth

archwire – metal wire used in braces to guide teeth into proper alignment

arthrogram – diagnostic x-ray involving injection of contrast dye into joint to view the bone structures

artificial crown – prosthetic tooth restoration that covers or replaces a tooth, may attach to partial tooth or dental implant

attrition – natural wear causing loss of structure

augmentation – procedure that treats a deficiency of soft tissue or bone structure

avulsion/evulsion – removal of tooth from socket due to trauma

back to top

B

band – metal ring cemented in place around a tooth to allow brackets to attach to the teeth

banding – orthodontic process of fitting and cementing bands to teeth

base – insulating substance used beneath restorations to protect tooth pulp from changes in temperature

benefit – payment for covered dental services by third party insurer

benign – a term used to indicate mild, non-threatening, or non-malignant

bicuspid – tooth located in front of the molars and behind cuspids

bilateral – term meaning both right and left sides are indicated

biopsy – the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination and/or testing

bioinert – material property indicating it causes no physical reaction, such as inflammation or immune response

bite/occlusion – physical relationship between upper and lower teeth when closed

bleaching – whitening of the teeth, generally using a chemical oxidizing agent and/or laser treatment

block injection – anesthetic placed to cause numbness over a large area of the jaw and mouth

block graft – bone graft stabilized with screw, generally used to correct large bone defect

bond – mechanical or chemical adhesion connecting two surfaces, orthodontic appliance seal

bonding –  process of attaching brackets to teeth for braces or restoring teeth with composite resin to repair tooth color or shape

bone atrophy/resorption – loss of bone in jaw, commonly caused by periodontal disease

braces – orthodontic devices used to reposition teeth over time to correct misalignment, generally consisting of brackets and archwires

bracket – ceramic or metal piece cemented to the tooth to hold an archwire for orthodontic treatment

bridge/partial denture – dental prosthetic device used to replace one or more missing teeth, generally attaches to surrounding teeth or implants for support

bruxism – involuntary grinding of the teeth, usually while sleeping, often causing tooth wear, sensitivity, headaches, and jaw pain

buccal – referring to or toward the cheek

Back to top

C

CAD/CAM – Computer -Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacturing

calcium – mineral necessary to the formation and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones

calculus – commonly called “tartar,” hard substance that forms on teeth due to insufficient plaque control, may be stained brown or yellow

canker sore – whitish mouth sore, usually lasts 10-14 days, may have red “halo”

cantilever bridge – dental bridge that only attaches to teeth on one side

cap – commonly used term for dental crown

caries – common term for tooth decay or “cavities”

cast/model – 3D reproduction used by filling an impression or mold with plaster and allowing it to dry

CAT scan – Computerized Axial Tomography scan, used to determine size, shape, and placement of bone, usually used for implant placement planning

cavity – missing tooth structure caused by decay, abrasion, or erosion

Cavitron – dental tool used in cleaning teeth, uses high-frequency ultrasonic waves

cellulitis – potentially dangerous infection of the soft tissue, characterized by extensive hard swelling

cementum – hard tissue that covers the outer surface of a tooth root

cephalometric imaging – x-ray scan of the head that shows the relative positioning of the face, teeth, and jaws

clasp – acrylic or metal portion of a partial denture that hooks to natural teeth

cleaning/prophylaxis – the removal of plaque and calculus from the teeth above the gumline

cleft palate – congenital deformity that is characterized by a partial or complete lack of fusion of soft and/or hard palate

coil spring – spring used between brackets and archwire to open or close space between teeth

complete denture – set of prosthetic teeth that are used to replace all upper or lower teeth

composite resin – tooth colored material composed of plastic with small particles of ceramic or glass, generally cured with a chemical catalyst or filtered light

coronal – referencing the crown of a tooth

cosmetic dentistry – dental services used to improve appearance, rather than health or function

cross bite – lower teeth lie in front of upper teeth when teeth are closed

crown – may refer to the visible tooth above the gumline or to a prosthetic dental restoration that replaces part or all of a natural tooth

crown lengthening – surgical manipulation of gum tissue to expose more tooth structure, often used in conjunction with other treatment

curettage – the removal of infected tissues from periodontal pocket or bone, often in conjunction with scaling and root planing (deep cleaning)

cusp – pointed or rounded mound on or near the chewing surface of a tooth

cuspid – tooth located between incisors and bicuspids, also known as “eye tooth” or “canine”

cyst – sac of tissue, usually hard or filled with fluid

Back to top

D

DDS – Doctor of Dental Surgery, this degree is equivalent to DMD

debridement – removal of plaque and calculus that is interfering with proper evaluation

debanding – removal of cemented orthodontic bands from teeth

debonding – removal of cemented orthodontic brackets from teeth

decay – the destruction of tooth structure

deciduous teeth – also known as “baby” or “primary” teeth, these first teeth generally arrive between the ages of birth and 3 and will fall out later as permanent teeth begin to erupt in their place

dental implant – small cylinder, generally titanium, implanted into the upper or lower jawbone to anchor a dental appliance or restoration

dentin – hard inner layer of the tooth, just beneath the enamel, forms the bulk of the tooth structure

dentistry – medical field characterized by the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and disorders of the teeth, mouth, gums, jaws, and other oral and maxillofacial areas by a trained and certified professional

dentition – the arrangement of teeth within the mouth

denture – set of one or more prosthetic teeth

diagnostic cast – impression used to aid in planning treatment

diagnostic imaging – photographs or radiographs taken for the purpose of diagnostic evaluation

diastema – the space between two adjacent teeth

discectomy – removal of intra-articular disc from a joint

displaced tooth – tooth that has grown or shifted into an incorrect placement within the mouth

distal – part of the tooth furthest from the center of the arch

DMD – Doctor of Medical Dentistry, this degree is equivalent to DDS

dressing – medicines, bandages, or other materials applied to a wound to promote healing

dry socket – painful localized inflammation of a tooth socket after extraction, caused by infection or loss of the blood clot needed for proper healing

Back to top

E

edentulous – term meaning “without teeth”

enamel – hard tissue exterior of a tooth, covers the dentin

endodontics – dental field concerned with care and treatment of tooth pulp and associated areas

endodontist – dental specialist focused on treating disease and injuries of the tooth pulp and associated areas

epidemiology – scientific study of disease incidence and prevalence in a population

equilibration – reshaping bite surfaces of teeth to correct imbalance, also known as occlusal adjustment

eruption – protrusion of teeth through gums

evulsion/avulsion – removal of tooth from socket due to trauma

excision – removal of tissue or bone through surgical means

exodontia – dental extraction

exostosis – bone overgrowth

extraoral – refers to the area outside the oral cavity

extracoronal – refers to the area outside the crown of a tooth

extraction – removal of a tooth

exudate – material containing fluid, cells, and/or debris caused by necrosis or inflammation

eyeteeth – common term for cuspid or “canine” teeth

Back to top

F

filling – term commonly used to describe a material such as metal, resin, or porcelain used to restore lost or damaged tooth structure

fistula – a boil in the gums, infected with pus

fixed denture/prosthesis – prosthetic which is attached to adjacent teeth or dental implants to be non-removable by the patient

flap surgery – surgical lifting of the gum tissue in order to expose and clean tooth and bone structures beneath

forceps – tool that may be used in the removal of teeth

fracture – crack or break in bone or tooth structure

frenectomy – surgical reshaping or removal of small amount of muscle tissue attaching lips to gums or tongue to mouth floor, generally done to improve function

frenum – thin muscle tissue that attaches cheek, lip, and/or tongue within the mouth

Back to top

G

general anesthesia – the use of medication to induce a controlled unconscious state in a patient during treatment, allows reduced or eliminated sensation of pain and reflexive motion

gingiva – also called gum tissue, soft tissue that surrounds teeth within the mouth

gingivectomy – surgical removal of gum tissue/gingiva

gingivitis – stage of periodontal disease where gum tissue is inflamed and/or infected, but loss of tissues has not occurred

graft – surgical addition of natural or synthetic tissue to repair or reinforce tissues with defect or deficiency

Guided Tissue Regeneration (GTR) – advanced surgical technique used to enhance bone regeneration/regrowth

gum recession – shrinkage of gums due to periodontal disease, surgery, or other cause resulting in exposure of teeth roots

Back to top

H

halitosis – chronic bad breath, generally caused by oral or gastrointestinal disorder

hematoma – blood swelling beneath the surface of the skin, gums, or other tissue

hygienist – dental professional who is trained and certified to perform dental cleanings, scaling and root planing, and other functions, provides patient education, and may administer local anesthetic or nitrous oxide

hyperplasia – abnormal increase in cell growth leading to enlargement of tissue

Back to top

I

imaging – includes, but is not limited to, X-rays, CAT scans, MRIs, photographs, and other visual diagnostic formats

immediate denture – teeth replacement prosthetic designed to be placed as soon as teeth are removed, generally will be replaced with permanent denture once healing is complete

immediate implant placement – dental implant placed during the same visit as the extraction of the tooth it replaces

impacted tooth – a tooth that is partially or fully unable to erupt and remains embedded in soft tissue or wedged against bone or another tooth

implant – to insert or graft material into tissue

implant, dental – small metal cylinder, usually titanium, placed in or on jawbone, used in conjunction with dental prosthetic as a tooth replacement solution

implant dentistry – field of study and practice involving the surgical placement and maintenance of dental implants and implant-anchored tooth replacement prosthetics

impression – mold of teeth and gums, made by biting a soft material, used for diagnostic and treatment planning purposes

incision and drainage – small surgical cut to drain pus from an abscess

incisors – four front center upper and lower teeth

infiltration – use of local anesthetic by placing under the gum tissue, effective in certain parts of the mouth only

inlay – filling made outside the tooth, then cemented or bonded in place to restore lost structure

interproximal – adjacent surfaces between teeth within the same arch

interocclusal – between upper and lower teeth of the bite

intracoronal – inside the tooth crown

intraoral – inside the oral cavity

intraoral camera – specially designed camera for use in photographing inside the mouth, used for diagnostic purposes

Back to top

J

jacket crown – prosthetic crown for a front tooth

jaw – common term referring to maxilla or mandible bone

Back to top

L

laminate veneer – thin material, generally tooth-colored, used to cover the front of a healthy tooth to restore the appearance from discoloration, damage, misalignment, or other such cosmetic issue

laughing gas – common term used for nitrous oxide, an odorless gas that produces a mild sedative effect when inhaled

lesion – tissue injury, generally due to trauma, infection, or illness

ligation – process of attaching archwire to braces in orthodontic treatment

ligature – thin wire used to hold archwire in the bracket in orthodontic treatment

lingual – refers to area or surface on or around the tongue, opposite of facial

lip bumper – archwire attached to a piece of molded plastic, holds back molars of lower jaw to provide more space for the other teeth

local anesthesia – medication used to block nerve impulses to provide partial or complete elimination of pain during treatment

Back to top

M

malocclusion – improper alignment of upper and lower jaw or teeth

mandible – lower jaw

mandibular canal – space within the mandible which holds the blood vessels and nerves for the lower jaw and teeth

mastication – chewing, generally of food

maxilla – upper jaw

maxillary sinus – open cavity inside the maxilla

molar – rearmost teeth, cusped, used for grinding food

mouthguard – appliance used to protect the mouth and teeth during rigorous activity, such as sports

Back to top

N

NSAID – analgesic medication, stands for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug

night guard – appliance used to protect teeth and jaw during sleep in cases of grinding

nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas, odorless inhalant that causes a mild sedative effect

Back to top

O

occlusion – lineup of upper and lower teeth surfaces when mouth is closed, also known as “bite”

onlay – prosthetic restoration that covers the occlusal (biting/chewing) surface of a tooth, but not the whole tooth

operculectomy – surgical removal of the operculum

operculum – tissue flap covering partially or fully unerupted tooth

oral – referring to the mouth

oral and maxillofacial surgeon – specialist with at least 4 additional years of specialized training beyond the dental degree, diagnoses and treats oral diseases, injuries, deformities, defects, or other issues, including surgical treatments of the oral and maxillofacial areas

oral and maxillofacial surgery – surgical treatment of the mouth, jaw, and related areas, may include extraction, repair of defects or fractures, removal of tumors or cysts, and others

oral cavity – the inside of the mouth

oral hygiene – establishment and maintenance of habits designed to keep mouth, gums, and teeth healthy

oral pathologist – dental specialist who focuses on study, diagnosis, and management of diseases affecting the oral cavity, jaws, and other connected areas

oral pathology – the study, diagnosis, and management of diseases affecting the oral cavity, jaws, and other connected areas

orthodontics – dental specialty concerned with the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of malocclusion and other neuromuscular or skeletal abnormalities of the orofacial structure

orthodontist – dental specialist who focuses on the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of malocclusion and other neuromuscular or skeletal abnormalities of the orofacial structure

orthognathic – refers to the functional relationship between the mandible and maxilla (upper and lower jaws)

osseous – refers to bone tissue

osteoplasty – surgical procedure that modifies bone structure

osteotomy – surgical procedure involving the cutting of bone structure

overbite – orthodontic issue, when upper front teeth significantly overlap the lower

Back to top

P

palate – hard and soft tissues that form the roof of the mouth, separating the oral and nasal cavities

palatal expander – orthodontic device used to widen the upper jaw

palliative treatment – treatment for the purpose of pain relief only

panoramic radiograph (x-ray) – radiograph that includes the full upper and lower teeth and jaws as a single flattened image, used for diagnostic purposes

partial denture – prosthetic device that is used to replace one or more missing teeth, but not the full upper or lower set, may be fixed or removable, also known as a bridge

pediatric dentist – dental specialist focusing on the dental treatment of infants, children, and adolescents

pediatric dentistry – dental specialty that focuses on preventive care and treatment for infants, children, and adolescents, includes care for special needs patients

periapical (PA) – area at the end of a tooth root

pericoronal – area around the crown of a tooth

peri-implantitis – inflammation of the tissue surrounding a dental implant

periodontal – refers to the tissues that surround and support the teeth

periodontal disease – includes gingivitis and periodontitis, inflammation of the periodontal tissues, may include the development of periodontal pockets, bone loss, and tooth loss, can be treated but not cured

periodontal surgery – surgery to treat diseased gum tissue in the mouth

periodontal pocket – a feature of periodontal disease, pocket-like deformity in the gums at the toothline

periodontics – dental specialty focusing on placement of dental implants and the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases that affect the tissues that surround and support the teeth

periodontist – dental specialist who focuses on placement of dental implants and the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases that affect the tissues that surround and support the teeth

periodontitis – inflammation of the periodontal tissues, may include the development of periodontal pockets, bone loss, and tooth loss, can be treated but not cured

permanent teeth – the second and final set of teeth, also known as adult teeth, usually 32 in total

plaque – soft, sticky substance that can accumulate on teeth, generally made up of food debris and bacteria

pontic – prosthetic tooth, part of a partial denture/bridge

post – thin rod that may be inserted into tooth root following root canal treatment, provides support for the tooth structure

preventive dentistry – aspect of dentistry that focuses on promotion of good oral hygiene habits to protect oral health and reduce or prevent development of oral health issues

prophylaxis – professional cleaning to remove plaque, calculus, surface stains from tooth structures, helps to prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease

prosthodontics – dental specialty focusing on the use of prosthetic tooth replacement and restoration of natural teeth

prosthodontist – dental specialist focusing on the use of prosthetic tooth replacement and restoration of natural teeth

pulp – connective tissue inside the tooth, contains nerves and blood vessels

pulp cap – medicated covering placed over small exposed area of pulp to aid in healing

pulpectomy – complete removal of tooth pulp

pulpitis – inflammation of pulp tissue, common cause of toothaches

pulpotomy – removal of diseased portion of pulp, leaving healthy pulp tissue intact

Back to top

R

radicular – refers to tooth root

radiograph – also known as an x-ray, image of bone and tooth structures produced through exposure to ionizing radiation

reimplantation – reinsertion of tooth into its socket following trauma that partially or completely removed it

reline – resurfacing of the tissue side of a removable denture to correct issue with fit

resin – material used in dental restorations and other dental treatments

resorption – loss of bone or structure

retainer – appliance used to ensure teeth do not return to prior misaligned state following orthodontic treatment

root – portion of the tooth that attaches the tooth into the gums and socket

root canal – pulp cavity inside the tooth root

root canal therapy – treatment of disease or injury to tooth pulp, generally involves the removal of part or all of the pulp and replacement with inert material

root planing – procedure used in the treatment of periodontal disease, involves deep cleaning of teeth at the roots to remove calculus and other substances

rubber dam – latex sheet used to isolate part of the mouth from saliva and potential contaminants during surgery

Back to top

S

scaling – professional deep cleaning to remove plaque, calculus, and surface stains from teeth, common treatment for periodontal disease

sealant – thin, resinous material that is applied to occlusal surfaces of rear molars to help prevent decay

separator/spacer – small rubber orthodontic ring used to create space between teeth before bands are attached

sinus graft – bone graft on the maxillary sinus to allow the placement of dental implants

sleep apnea – interruptions in breathing during sleep due to airway collapse

space maintainer – dental appliance used to fill space of prematurely lost baby tooth to prevent shifting of surrounding teeth

stomatitis – inflammation of mouth membranes

Back to top

T

tartar – commonly used term for dental calculus, hard, rough deposit on teeth that attracts plaque

temporomandibular joint disorder/dysfunction (TMD) – condition involving pain and tension in the jaw and facial area, may include restricted movement

temporomandibular joint (TMJ) – connecting hinge between lower jaw (mandible) and the base of the skull

treatment plan – set of procedures agreed upon by doctor and patient to address oral health concerns

trench mouth – gum disease involving severe mouth ulcers, loss of tissue, and halitosis

Back to top

U

usual, customary, and reasonable (UCR) fee – term meaning that a fee for a given procedure has been set according to a common consensus on its rate

unerupted tooth – tooth that has not yet emerged from the gum into the mouth

Back to top

V

veneer – thin facing bonded onto the front surface of a tooth to improve appearance

Back to top

W

wax – may be used to stop irritation from braces

wire tie – fine wire that holds the archwire in place in braces by twisting around the bracket

wisdom teeth – third and final set of molars in the rear of the mouth, generally erupt between ages 18 and 25

Back to top

Proudly Serving
Overland Park Since 2003

city seal

Schedule Your Visit

Have Any Questions?
Call Us Today at: (913) 203-1031

Our Doctors New Patients Book Online