Abscess: Acute swelling and the development of a pus-filled sore, often a secondary part of infection.

Alveolar: Something that is related to the bone to which a tooth is attached.

Alveoplasty: Surgery to reshape the jaw-bone structures, usually in order to implant a fake tooth or other oral prosthesis.

Anesthesia: This is the process of reducing the sensation of pain through the use of drugs or other means.

Local: this type of anesthesia in dentistry is usually an injection to reduce pain response in a particular area of the mouth, i.e. on either side of a tooth that’s

being drilled.

Conscious Sedation: this is not quite being, ‘knocked out,’ but not quite being awake. It isA minimally depressed level of consciousness during which patients can respond to stimulus normally, and breathe on their own.

 Deep Sedation: This is the point where the body begins to lose protective reflexes (blinking because something touches your eye), and the patient no longer can respond purposefully to normal stimulus.

General: This is, ‘going under,’ or a state in which the mind is completely unconscious and even basic bodily functions must be monitored by an anesthesiologist.

Anterior: ‘of the front,’ the anterior teeth are located near the front of the mouth.

Arthrogram: A process which uses a contrast medium or, ‘dye’ that is injected into a joint which is then X-rayed to show cracks and abnormalities in the bone.

Avulsion: An avulsion is when a tooth is separated from its socket in the jawbone by trauma; Having your tooth ‘knocked out.’

Balance Billing: A process which bills the patient for only the difference between the cost of their treatment and what their insurance company has paid for.

Benign: The mild character of an illness; Non-cancerous.

Bleaching: bleaching is a tooth-whitening process that uses carbamide peroxide, which reacts with water in the saliva and teeth to form hydrogen peroxide. The peroxide molecules penetrate the dentin and remove bacterial pigment deposits.

Bridge: See- Fixed Partial Denture and or Removable Partial Denture.

Bruxism: The tendency to grind one’s teeth.

Cavity: A carious legion or area on a tooth that has been significantly damaged by decay.

Carcinogenic: cancer-causing.

Cariogenic: A substance or condition that causes tooth decay.

Claim: Claims are used to request payment for a procedure or treatment from your insurer

Claimant: The person who is requesting payment for their treatment..

Claims Reporting Fraud: Presentation of false facts or charges to the insurance provider to secure a higher payment for services than is needed.

Cleft Palate: Birth deformity in which the soft palette and the hard palette are not joined in the roof of the mouth.

Composites: tooth-colored restorative materials. Not dentures but individual “false teeth,” usually for replacing lost or damaged ones.

Cosmetic dentistry: Dental work aimed at making the teeth “look” better. aesthetic improvement of the color and shape of teeth performed by a general dentist. Tooth bleaching is a common cosmetic dentistry procedure.

Deciduous: A quality of the ‘baby teeth,’ meaning that they will fall off or be shed

Deductible: The number of dollars the person paying for the insurance must pay before their policy will kick in to help.

Dentition: All of the teeth in the ‘dental arch’. Permanent dentition refers to your adult teeth, whereas deciduous dentition refers to the ‘baby teeth.’

Direct Pulp Cap: The exposed pulp of the tooth is covered with cement with the hope of maintaining pulp vitality.

Dry Socket: Swelling of a tooth socket following the removal of that tooth, also known as osteitis.

Enamel: The hard tissue surrounding the softer and more sensitive interior portion of the tooth.

Endodontist: An endodontist is the doctor who only treats illness of the tooth pulp or root. 

Exostosis: Overgrowth of bone

Extraoral: Outside the oral cavity

Fee Schedule: A list created by a dentist that outlines the costs of all of the procedures they offer.

Filling: The restoration or replacement of interior portions of the tooth using either metal, amalgam, plastic, or porcelain.

Fixed Partial Denture (Removable Partial Denture): An artificial replacement for missing teeth which is bonded with cement to either the surrounding teeth (called abutment teeth), or an implanted structure.

General dentist: This doctor can diagnose and examine any oral problems or illnesses for all age groups, as well as coordinating care from specialists for those problems that could best be treated by an endodontist or periodontist.

Geriatric dentist: A dentist who primarily treats senior citizens

Gingiva: The soft tissue of the gum from which teeth grow and are surrounded.

Graft: The application of a piece of your own tissue or a piece of specialized plastic to soft tissues to help repair them.

HMO Health Maintenance Organization: An HMO is a healthcare group responsible for maintaining the health of a certain group as well as assuming the financial risk for those services.

Imaging (diagnostic): Any process such as CAT scan, X-ray, MRI, photo, or radiographs used to assist in the diagnosis of dental conditions.

Impacted Tooth: A tooth positioned against another tooth, preventing it from breaking through the gums fully or at all.

Keratin: A protein substance found in hair, epidermis, and horns of most animals.

Labial: Having to do with, facing towards, being near the lip.

LEAT or Least Expensive Alternative Treatment: A stipulation in some dental insurance programs which only allows the most affordable option for care to be covered by the insurance benefits.

Liability: A responsibility, a risk one assumes.

Limited Oral Evaluation: An examination in which only a particular concern such as oral trauma or acute infection is considered.

Malignant: Having the qualities of dysplasia, invasion or metastasis. A tumor is malignant if it is cancerous and or aggressive in nature.

The upper jaw bone.

Maximum Benefit: A yearly limit on the amount of insurance dollars that your insurer will provide.

Mesial: Toward the middle of the pallete or dental arch.

Microair abrasion: This procedure uses pressurized air and tiny particles of aluminum oxide to remove decayed dental tissue instead of the traditional method of drilling.

Mucous Membrane: The thin soft lining of the entire oral cavity as well as other orifices of the body.

Occlusion: The incidence of contact between the teeth of the upper and lower jaw

Occlusal surface: The occlusal surface is the flat part of the tooth you chew with.

Odontoplasty: Deals with the lengthening, shaping, or changing of the tooth as well as the removal of enamel imperfections or projections.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeon: These surgeons treat and correct diseases, injuries, and natural defects of the mouth and jaws through surgery

Oral pathologist: This doctor examines the mouth for ‘pathogens,’ which are disease causing agents like bacteria, viruses and cancer cells.

Orthodontics: The study and reparation of crooked teeth.

Orthodontist: Realigns crooked teeth, mostly through the use of corrective appliances like braces and retainers.

Palliative: Something that reduces pain but doesn’t offer curative value to the injury or condition.

Pediatric dentist: Provides dental care for children until young adult-hood.

Periapica: Near the end of the tooth root, soft tissues surrounding the tooth root.

Periodontists: diagnoses and treats illness of the support structures of the teeth, particularly periodontitis and periodontal disease.

Periarticular: An area at least partially surrounding the root of a tooth.

Pontic: One of the false teeth on a denture prosthesis

Preauthorization: Act by where insurance companies approve a treatment ahead of time as part of the standard coverage of a policy.

Premium: The periodic cost to maintain health insurance from a given provider.

Preventive Dentistry: Efforts to take care of dental problems before they become diseases like oral cancer or periodontitis.

Prosthesis: An artificial replacement of any part of the body.

Prophylaxis: This is the process of undergoing a professional cleaning from a dentist or dental hygienist.

Public health dentist: These dentists use research and statistics to design and implement strategies that improve the overall dental and oral health of a community.

Pulp: The soft connective tissue inside of tooth which contain blood vessels and nerve tissue.

Pulpitis: Inflammation of the dental pulp.

Pulpotomy: The removal of a portion of the pulp to preserve the integrity of the rest by means of surgery, also known as a pulp amputation.

Quadrant: One of the four segments of the two dentition arches. Upper left and right, and bottom left and right.

Radiosurgery: Surgical process that uses radio waves to create incisions that are both pressure-less and bloodless.

Relative Value System: A system used by insurance companies to assign dollar values to medical procedures based on their complexity, and overhead costs.

Restorative dentistry: Fixing damage done to teeth by disease or trauma, usually performed by a general dentist.  

Stomatitis: Condition in which the thin membrane linings of the mouse become swollen.

Subscriber: The person who is representative of their family on a company’s insurance contract.

Surcharge: A predetermined dollar amount which a patient must pay to the doctor in addition to any benefit monies which may be paid by the insurance company, similar to a “co-pay.”

Third Party: Usually referring to the insurance company, the third party in an insurance context refers to any party other than the patient (first), and the doctor (second).

Torus: This is a bump in the bone, an elevation or protuberance.

Trismus: A muscle condition in which the muscles of the jaw become swollen, preventing the patient from chewing normally or without pain.

Veneer: A thin material used to improve the appearance of various dental procedures, composite, porcelain, plastic or resin bound to the facial side of the tooth to improve aesthetics. These make your teeth look cleaner and brighter, but can sometimes result in teeth that look abnormally large.

Xerostomia: Dry mouth and sometimes a burning sensation or oral decay caused by decreased salivary secretion.

Zygomatic Bone: The bone in the face which forms the cheek, quadrangular.

Dental Glossary


Dental Word Meanings  | Understanding Dental Words