Dental Clinical Terms describe the various ailments, procedures and elements that come under oral health care. A few of these terms are part of the public lexicon but many terms will be unfamiliar to the layperson.

Apart from being helpful in educating patients about complex dental terms, this glossary of dental clinical terms will also serve as a valuable reference source for dental clinicians and general oral health care providers in general

Glossary – Dental Clinical Terms

(This glossary explains terminologies used in the diagnosis and treatment of a patient). To go to a specific area, click on that particular letter below:

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

Dental Clinical Terms – A

The abscess could be defined as a localized chronic inflammation or infection at the tip of your dental roots. It generally causes an excessive collection of pus along with the destruction of your tissues. A very common symptom of abscess is frequent swelling.

Acute Periradicular or Acute Apical Abscess
Acute Periradicular can be defined as an inflammatory reaction to the necrosis and pupal infection – most often characterized by spontaneous pain, rapid onset, pus formation, tenderness of tooth against pressure, and eventual swelling.

It is also generally known as a recrudescent abscess, secondary apical abscess, acute alveolar abscess, phoenix abscess, and dentoalveolar abscess.

Chronic Periradicular or Chronic Periapical Abscess –
Chronic periradicular is also an inflammatory reaction to necrosis and pupal infection. However, it can be characterized by little or almost no discomfort, ground onset, and irregular pus formation and discharge via the associated sinus tract. It can also be called suppurative apical periodontitis, chronic alveolar abscess, chronic dentoalveolar abscess, and suppurative periradicular periodontitis.

Abutment –
This dental clinical term has different meanings based on the scenarios it gets used with. For an implant case – the fixture placed between the restorative prosthesis and the implant body would be called an abutment. While the tooth used to support one end of a denture would be called as an abutment in the case of a natural tooth.

Abutment Crown –
An abutment crown could be defined as a supporting aid for a dental prosthesis.

Accession –
Accession is the process of putting together an additional test specimen (a healthcare provider has already collected that) for specimen collection at a laboratory to record the identification data of an essential specimen in a laboratory-maintained file. It is meant to assign the specimen to an identification code.

Acid Etching –
It can be defined as a process of preparing the tooth enamel or dentin surface using an acidic chemical to assist retention for bonding.

Adhesion –
Adhesion could be referred to as an aspect of bonding. It is mainly the state in which two different surfaces are kept holding together using physical or chemical forces and sometimes even both, with or without the help of an adhesive.

Adhesive –
An adhesive could be defined as a substance that can help create a close adherence between two or more surfaces. Or you may call it a central/intermediary component that can help hold two or more forces together.

Adjunctive –
Adjunctive could be referred to as any secondary treatment you might be getting alongside the primary dental treatment or therapy you’ve come up for.

Adult Detention –
This is the permanent (adult) teeth that exist inside the dental arch and often replace the primary detention or appear far wide from the primary molars.

Allogenic –
Teeth belong to similar species but are different in terms of genetics.

Alloplastic –
It can be referred to as the synthetic material that is often used inside dental clinics for tissue replacement or augmentation.

Alloy –
It can be defined as a compound made of two or more different elements, each of which has entirely distinct properties without any chance of co-occurrence. They are also called amalgam at times.

Alveolar –
The alveolar is the bone to which each of your teeth is attached.

Alveoloplasty –
Alveoloplasty is a surgical process that is often performed for the recontouring of your tooth-supporting bones. It may also be used during the preparation of a prosthesis at times.

Amalgam –
It is an alloy made up of silver, mercury, copper, tin, and other metallic elements that could help enhance its mechanical and physical properties. Amalgam is mainly used for direct dental restorations.

Anatomical Crown –
It can be defined as part of the tooth which is usually covered with enamel.

Ancillary –
A part or portion or process that is auxiliary or supplementary to some other part or portion or process.

Anesthesia – Anesthesia could be defined as a process meant to control the level of anxiety or pain for the patient while undergoing a dental procedure. There’s proper regulation set by the state dental boards, which lays down the ideal delivery of any anesthesia-inducing agent for the dentist or any other healthcare professional. The anesthesia policy by ADA can easily be found online at You can refer to the website to fully understand the policy thoroughly.

Following is the list of terms that are often found in the CDT code nomenclatures and descriptors whenever they refer to the methods of anxiety and pain control for patients –

Analgesia – the elimination or diminution of pain.

Anxiolysis – the elimination or diminution of anxiety.

Deep Sedation –this can be referred to as a state where a patient is sent into a drug-induced depression of consciousness. The patients cannot easily be aroused out of this state but surely respond through painful or repetitive stimulation. The ability of the patients to maintain their ventilatory function independently may get impaired under deep sedation. They might need assistance in maintaining a patent airway, and spontaneous ventilation could be inadequate for them. However, the cardiovascular function remains maintained most of the time.

General Anesthesia -this can be referred to as a state of drug-induced unconsciousness out of which the patients cannot be aroused even via painful or repeated stimulation. It often impairs the patients’ ability to maintain their ventilatory function independently. The patients are likely to need help maintaining a patent airway, and they might even need positive pressure ventilation because of the drug-induced depression of neuromuscular functions. The cardiovascular function might also get impaired under general anesthesia.

Inhalation – This could be referred to as a technique of administration where a volatile or gaseous agent is introduced into the patients’ lungs and whose core effect occurs through its absorption into the gas/blood interface.
Intravenous -This is another technique of administering where the anesthetic agency is directly introduced into the venous system of the patients.
Local Anesthesia -Another process of administration where topical anesthesia or a regional drug injection is used to eliminate sensation, specifically in the area of pain.

Minimal Sedation – This can be referred to as a scarcely depressed state of unconsciousness that has been produced by a pharmacological method. Minimal sedation, unlike other methods, does not really impact the patients’ ability to maintain their airways and respond to verbal commands and tactile stimulation. The coordination and cognitive function might get modestly impaired, but the cardiovascular and ventilatory functions remain unaffected.

Moderate Sedation – This is another drug-induced depression of unconsciousness. The patient might be able to purposefully respond to the verbal commands, either with or without light tactile stimulation. There’s no need to help maintain the patent airway in a moderate sedation case, nor any spontaneous ventilation is required. The cardiovascular function also remains fully maintained.

Non-Intravenous –This is an administration technique where the anesthetic agent is not directly introduced into the patient’s venous system.
Regional Block Anesthesia – this is one form of local anesthesia that is meant to induce numbness in the areas of the face and mouth.
Trigeminal Block Anesthesia – another form of local anesthesia that comes as an injection of medication and helps by relieving facial pain.

Routes of Administration –
Eternal – this can be referred to as any administration technique that works around absorbing the agent through an oral mucosa or the gastrointestinal tract.

Inhalation – this can be defined as an administration technique where the volatile or gaseous agent is induced through the lungs. The core effect of inhalation occurs when the agent is absorbed through the gas/blood interface.

Parenteral – another administration technique that involves bypassing the drug through the gastrointestinal tract, i.e., intravenous, intramuscular, submucosal, intranasal, intraosseous, subcutaneous.

Transdermal – and administration technique where the drug gets introduced to the patients using iontophoresis or patch through the skin.

Transmucosal – another administration technique where the drug is introduced to the patients across mucosa such as rectal, sublingual, and intranasal.

Anomaly –this could be referred to as any kind of abnormality from the normal anatomic growth, structure, and development.

ANSI/ADA/ISO Tooth Numbing System
Anterior – maxillary and mandibular central, cupids, and laterals. The Universal/National tooth numbering system designates the permanent anterior teeth 6 through 11 as maxillary and 22 through 27 as mandibular. The primary teeth from C through H are designated as maxillary and M through R as mandibular. It can also be referred to as the teeth and tissues that are located in the frontal portion of the mouth.

Anxiolysis –the elimination or diminution of anxiety.

Apex –this could be referred to as the top or end of a tooth’s end.

Apexification –This is a process of induced root development that encourages the formation of calcified barriers in a tooth with an open apex or an immature root formation. The process might involve placing an artificial apical barrier before the nonsurgical endodontic obturation.

Apexogenesis – This is a vital pulp therapy often performed to encourage the continued development and physical formation of the tooth root.
Apicoectomy -amputation of a tooth’s apex.

Arch, Dental – This could be referred to as a curved composite structure of the residual ridge and the natural dentition or just the remains after losing the natural teeth.

Areas of Oral Cavity – this can be defined as a digital numeric system meant to report the oral cavity regions to a third party. They include –
Entire oral cavity – 00
Maxillary arch – 01
Mandibular arch – 02
Upper right quadrant – 10
Upper left quadrant – 20
Lower left quadrant – 30
Lower right quadrant – 40

Arthrogram – this is a diagnostic X-ray technique that is used to view bone structures post the injection of a contrast medium into a joint.

Artificial Crown – this could be defined as the replacement, coverage, or restoration of a major party of the entire clinical crown of an implant or tooth.

Attachment – this is a mechanical device often used for the prosthesis’s stabilization, retention, or fixation.

Avulsion –This is a process meant for separating a tooth from its socket because of a trauma.


Dental Clinical Terms – B

Basic Cleaning – A preventive procedure dentists advise patients for cleaning minor plaque from their teeth. Basic cleaning is a separate procedure and is not included as part of a general exam. Patients with an existing or past history of gum disease are not recommended the procedure.

Barrier Membrane – Paper-thin material used in regenerative surgeries.

Behavior Management – Procedures or therapies used to influence or regulate a patient’s behaviour during dental treatment. Utilization of a papoose board, education, or anxiety-relief strategies are all examples.

Benign – The non-malignant nature of a neoplasm; illness classified as non-threatening

Bicuspid – Also known as a Premolar tooth, this type of tooth has two cusps.

Bilateral – Refers to both left and right sides

Biological Material – Agents that have an altering effect on wound healing or the host-tumor relationship. These materials may contain cytokines, growth factors, and vaccinations, but not genuine hard or soft tissue grafts. These chemicals are added to graft material or used by themselves in hard and soft tissue surgical operations to accelerate healing or regeneration. Additionally referred to as biological response modifiers

Biopsy– The procedure for removing tissue in order to examine it for the cause of disease

Bitewing Radiograph– Interproximal radiography image of the tooth’s coronal portion. A dental radiograph in which the long axis of the picture is oriented horizontally or vertically, revealing essentially the coronal hemispheres of the maxillary and mandibular teeth, as well as portions of the interdental alveolar septa.

Bleaching – Procedure for lightening the color of teeth using pastes, solutions, or the application of light or heat. A Cosmetic procedure, not necessary for hygiene purposes. Performed through external application in teeth.

Bonding – The process by which a dental appliance such as dentures, is adhered to the teeth. The bonding agent is usually a composite resin that is also used for shaping teeth.

Bounded Tooth Space – See tooth bounded space

Bridge – See Fixed Partial Denture

BruxismParafunctional condition of involuntarily gnashing or grinding teeth

Buccal– Referring to or towards the cheek

Dental Clinical Terms – C

Calculus – Hard deposit composed of minerals occurring on crown and roots of teeth

Canal – A narrow passage

Root canal – The canal in the root of the tooth containing the pulp. The pulp contains connective tissue, nerves and blood vessels

Mandibular canal – The passage located on the internal part of the mandible through which vessels and nerves pass and branch out to the teeth

Cantilever extension – A form of dental prosthesis that has a fixed abutment on one end and is unsupported on the other end.

Caries – Another term for tooth decay

Carious lesionCavity caused by tooth decay

CastDiagnostic Cast or Study Model

Cavity– -Missing portion of a tooth caused by decay, abrasion or erosion

Cement base – Material used under a filling to repair a broken tooth

Cementum – Hard connective tissue on the exterior of the root of a tooth

Cephalometric Image – An image of the head used for the purpose of gauging head measurements.

Ceramic – See porcelain/ceramic

Chairside – See Direct

Classification of Metals – See Metals, classification of

Cleft palate – A birth defect resulting in a split in the roof of the mouth due to the hard and/or soft palate remaining fully or partially unfused.

Clenching – Pressing down of the jaws and teeth with force as a response to stress or physical exertion.

Clinical crown – Portion of the tooth above the gum line, not covered by tissue.

Closed Reduction– See reduction

Complete denture – Also known as a full denture, a device for replacing missing teeth that covers the whole mouth.

Complete Series – A series of intraoral radiographs consisting of 14 to 22 periapical and posterior bitewing pictures that are designed to show the crowns and roots of teeth, as well as the periapical and alveolar bone crest

Composite – A resin usually containing synthetic materials such as quartz, silica, ceramic or glass particles etc that is used for dental fillings.

Compound fracture – A fracture or breaking of the bone accompanied by an open wound through which the bone is exposed.

Comprehensive Oral Evaluation -See Evaluation

Conscious Sedation – See minimal sedation in Anesthesia

Consultation – A discussion on the diagnosis and treatment of a patient’s dental needs, usually done between a dentist and a patient/patient’s guardian

Contiguous – Next to the other; adjacent

Coping – An artificial covering made of ceramic or titanium placed on the tooth as an intermediate layer on which other materials are added for repair work.

Core buildup – Replacement of the missing part of the crown of a tooth using filling material so that it can form a base for affixing an artificial crown

Coronal – Pertaining in the crown of the tooth

Cosmetic dentistry – The oral care procedures, usually elective in nature, aimed at improving the aesthetic appearance of the teeth.

Cracked tooth syndrome – A condition of transient acute pain symptomatic of tooth that has completely cracked but no part of it has broken off yet.

Crown – An artificial cap created to be fitted over a damaged tooth. It is made of metal, ceramic and/or types of polymer. Also see, Abutment crown, anatomical crown, and clinical crown

Crown lengthening – Exposing a tooth by surgically removing parts of the gum around the tooth to make it longer in length.

Culture and sensitivity test – A culture is a test to find the cause of a particular infection whether fungal or bacterial. The sensitivity test checks which set of antibiotics can treat that particular infection.

Curettage – A treatment in which a space, such as a gingival pocket, is scraped of diseased tissue or tartar buildup.

Cusp – A pointed or rounded occlusion on the top of a tooth. Cuspids have one cusp, premolars have two cusps, and molars have multiple cusps.

Cuspid – A tooth with a single cusp

Cyst – Closed cavity pathological in nature usually contains liquid material

Odontogenic cyst – Cyst formed from odontogenic epithelium (developmental, primordial)

Periapical cyst – An inflammatory cyst at the apex that has a sac-like epithelium-lined cavity that is connected to and continuous with the root canal.

Cytology – The study of a single cell type usually in order to examine it for disease

Dental Clinical Terms – D

Debridement – The removal of calculus and dental plaque around the gumline, often for making dental examination easier.

Decay – Decomposition of the tooth structure due to acid-producing bacteria

Deciduous – Characterized by shedding or falling off, See also, Transitional Dentition

Deep sedation – See definition in Anesthesia

Also called Permanent
1) A repair or prosthetic that is designed to preserve its form and function indefinitely, which may include the patient’s natural life. There is no scheduled restoration, but some maintenance may be required (e.g., cleansing; replacement of a changeable component of an attachment), processes that are documented with the appropriate codes.
2) A procedure whose outcome is intended to be unaffected by the subsequent delivery of another treatment; however, a modification may occur if the dentist believes that a change in the patient’s clinical condition requires the delivery of another or substitute procedure.

Dental assessment – A basic examination of the soft tissue in the mouth, the gums and the occlusion of the teeth in order to assess if further diagnostics are required.

Dental Prophylaxis – See Prophylaxis

Dentin – Hard tissue under the enamel and cementum forming the bulk of the tooth.

Dentition – The arrangement of the teeth in the dental arch

Adolescent Dentition – The stage of teeth after the primary teeth have been shed and right before the stage where growth of teeth has ceded.

Primary Dentition – Also referred to as deciduous dentition, this is the stage where primary teeth are in the dental arch.

Permanent Dentition – Also referred to as Adult dentition, this is the stage where final 32 teeth have emerged in the dental arch.

Transitional Dentition – An intermediate stage where the permanent teeth are beginning to appear and the deciduous teeth are being expelled.

DDS – Doctor of Dental Surgery

DMD – Doctor of Dental Medicine

Dental Prophylaxis – The removal of dental plaque, calculus and stains through scaling and polishing procedures.

Dental Prosthesis – An artificial replacement for a tooth or multiple teeth.

Dental Specialist – A dentist trained in a particular dental specialty, such as Periodontics

Denture – An artificial replacement for natural teeth

Denture Base – The base where artificial teeth are affixed to the denture and connected to the soft tissue

Diagnostic cast – A cast model of a patient’s teeth and adjoining tissue created for the purpose of examination before a restorative appliance is made

Diagnostic Imaging – A photographic or radiographic image of a patient’s dental structure used as a diagnostic aid.

Diastema – A gap between two adjacent teeth, usually in the upper front teeth.

Direct – A form of dental treatment that does not require dental laboratory services as it is performed directly in the oral cavity

Direct pulp cap – The treatment of exposed pulp using therapeutic material and covering it with a protective dressing to promote healing

Direct restoration – A dental restoration, such as a filling, that is fabricated directly inside the mouth

Discectomy – Excision of the intra-articular disc of a joint

Displaced Tooth – Also referred to as dental luxation, it is the movement of the tooth from its fixed position.

Distal – The most distant position from the median line of the dental arch

Dressing – The therapeutic material, such as medication or gauze, applied to a wound

Dry Mouth – Also known as Xerostomia, it is the condition where the salivary glands do not produce enough saliva leading to oral dryness. The condition, if left untreated, may lead to tooth decay and other oral ailments.

Dry Socket – Also known as Alveolar Osteitis, it is sometimes an aftereffect of tooth extraction characterized by inflammation of the site of the tooth extraction.

Dental Clinical Terms – E

Edentulous – Lacking teeth

Enamel – The hard, thin, outer covering of the tooth, specifically the dentin of the crown.

Enteral – A form of oral sedation, such as that used for nitrous oxide administration. See also Anesthesia

Equilibration – Also referred to as occlusal equilibration, a corrective procedure to align the surfaces of the upper and lower teeth so that they fit together properly.

Evulsion – Forcible extraction of tooth from its socket usually as a result of trauma

Excision – Surgically cutting out bone or tooth

Exfoliative – Shedding the top layer of the skin or any epidermal surface

Exostosis – Excess growth of bone extending from existing bone. See torus

Extracoronal – Exterior to the crown of the tooth

Extraction – The permanent removal of a tooth or parts of a tooth

Exudate – Fluid released from a site of inflammation usually contains cellular debris

Dental Clinical Terms – F

Facial – A tooth’s surface that faces the cheeks or lips (i.e., the buccal and labial surfaces) and is opposite the lingual surface.

Fascial – Refers to a film or strip of fibrous connective tissue that envelops, separates, or connects muscles, organs, and other bodily soft tissue components.

Female Component -The concave portion of an attachment that fits into the attachment’s projecting component. See semi and precision attachment

Filling – A colloquial word for replacing missing tooth structure with materials such as metal, alloy, plastic, or porcelain.

Fixed Partial Denture – A prosthetic tooth replacement for one or more missing teeth that is cemented or otherwise attached to the abutment natural teeth or implant-replaced teeth.

Follow-up care – Any care offered following a procedure; a service the type, scope, and frequency of which are decided by the dentist’s clinical and professional judgement.

Foramen – Natural entry into or passage through bone

Fracture – The disintegration of a component, particularly a bony structure; the disintegration of a tooth. There are two types of fractures: simple fracture and complicated fracture.

Frenum – Muscle fibers wrapped in mucous membrane that connect the cheek, lips, and/or tongue to the corresponding dental mucosa

Furcation – The anatomical region of a multirooted tooth at the point at where the roots diverge

Dental Clinical Terms – G

General Anesthesia – See definition under Anesthesia

Genetic Test – A laboratory test used to assess whether or not an individual has a genetic ailment or disease or is at risk of contracting the disease.

Gingiva – Soft tissues that cover the crowns of unerupted teeth and around the necks of erupted teeth.

Gingivectomy – Gingiva excision or removal

Gingivitis – Gingival tissue inflammation without loss of connective tissue

Gingivoplasty – Gingiva reshaping surgery

Glass Ionomer – A restorative material classified as a “resin” in the CDT manual’s “Classification of Materials” section that can be used to reconstruct teeth, fill pits and fissures, and lute and line cavities.

Gold Foil – A thin pure gold leaf that self-adheres when condensed into a cavity. One of the first forms of restorative dentistry, it is compressed or condensed into a retentive cavity.

Graft – A portion of tissue or alloplastic material that is placed touching tissue in order to correct a defect or to remedy a deficiency.

Allograft – Tissue graft between members of the same species who are genetically distinct. Donors may be cadavers, living related or unrelated individuals, or a combination of the two. Additionally referred to as an allogenic graft or homograft.

Autogenous Graft – Transferred from one area of a patient’s body to another

GTR – Guided Tissue Regeneration

Guided Tissue Regeneration (GT) – A surgical treatment that involves the placement of a barrier membrane beneath the gingival tissue and over the residual bone support to promote bone regrowth.

Dental Clinical Terms – H

Separation of a multi-rooted tooth surgically

The study of disease states at the cellular level.

Comparable in structure. See graft

Referring to an unnatural rise in the number of cells in an organ or tissue, resulting in its expansion

Dental Clinical Terms – I

Imaging, diagnostic -This includes, but is not limited to, computed axial tomography (CAT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), photos, and radiography.

Immediate Denture – Prosthesis designed for quick installation following the extraction of remaining natural teeth

Impacted Tooth – A partially erupted or unerupted tooth that is situated against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue, making complete eruption improbable.

Implant – Inserted or grafted material into tissue

Dental Implant – A device that is surgically implanted within or on the mandibular or maxillary bone to provide location and support for a dental replacement prosthesis.

Endosteal (endosseous) – Device inserted into the mandible or maxilla’s alveolar and basal bones and transecting only one cortical plate

Eposteal (Subperiosteal) – Subperiosteal implant that corresponds to the superior alveolar bone surface of an edentulous area

Transosteal (transosseus) – Threaded post device that penetrates both the superior and inferior cortical bone plates of the mandibular symphysis and exits via the permucosa. It might be intraoral or extraoral in nature.

Implant Rodex – See radiographic/surgical implant index.

Implantation, tooth – Implantation of a natural or prosthetic tooth into an alveolus

Incisal – Relating the incisor and cuspid teeth’s biting edges

Incisal Angle – One of the angles created by the intersection of an anterior tooth’s incisal and mesial or distal surfaces; also known as the mesioincisal or distoincisal angle.

Incision and Drainage – Incising a fluctuant mucosal lesion to enable fluid to drain from the lesion

Incisor – A tooth used for cutting or chewing; situated in both jaws at the front of the mouth.

Indirect – A procedure that takes place away from the patient, such as the creation of a restorative prosthesis. Indirect procedures are also referred to as laboratory procedures, and the laboratory may be located within or apart from the dentist’s office.

Indirect Pulp Cap – A procedure in which the nearly exposed pulp is dressed to protect it from further harm and to promote healing and restoration through the production of secondary dentin.

Indirect Restoration – A repair that is created outside the mouth

Inhalation – See definition under anesthesia

Inlay – A fixed intracoronal restoration; a dental repair that is created outside of the tooth to match the shape of the prepared cavity and then luted to the tooth.

Intentional Reimplantation – The deliberate extraction, radicular repair, and reinsertion of a tooth into its alveolus.

Interim – (a) A restoration or prosthesis intended for temporary usage; (b) A procedure whose outcome is intentionally subject to change as a result of the subsequent delivery of another procedure. The duration of the “interim” period for a restoration, a prosthesis, or a procedure is established by the dentist’s clinical and professional judgement. See temporary and provisional

Interproximal – Between adjacent tooth surfaces in the same arch

Intracoronal – Referring to a tooth’s crown “inside”

Intraoral – Located within the mouth.

Intravenous – See anesthesia

ISO Tooth Numbering System – See Specification No. 3950

Dental Clinical Terms – J

A colloquial term that refers to either the maxilla or the mandible

Dental Clinical Terms – K

Keeper or keeper assembly – Any of a variety of devices used to secure something in place. See Precision Attachment

Keratin – A protein found in all of the body’s cuticular tissues, including hair, epidermis, and horns.

Keratinized Gingiva – The breadth of the gingival oral surface, from the mucogingival junction to the gingival border. The coronal region of the sulcular epithelium may also be keratinized in gingival health.

Dental Clinical Terms – L

Labial – Concerning or revolving around the lip. See Facial

Laboratory – See Indirect

Laminate Veneer – A fine coverage of the tooth’s facial surface made of tooth-colored material that is used to repair discoloured, broken, malformed, or misaligned teeth.

Lesion – A wound or injury; a region of unhealthy tissue

Limited Oral Evaluation – See Evaluation

Line Angle – An angle created by the intersection of two planes; used to denote the intersection of two tooth surfaces or two cavity preparation walls.

Lingual – Referring to or surrounding the tongue; the surface of the tooth facing the tongue; the polar opposite of facial.

Local Anesthesia – See Definition under Anesthesia

Locus -A location or a site

Dental Clinical Terms – M

Maintenance, Periodontal -Therapy aimed at protecting the periodontium’s health

Malar – Concerning the cheek or cheekbones. See Zygomatic Bone

Male Component – The projecting portion of an attachment that inserts into the attachment’s concave component. See semi and precision attachment.

Malignant – Having dysplasia, invasion, and metastatic characteristics.

Malocclusion – Incorrect alignment of the upper and lower teeth’s biting or chewing surfaces

Mandible – Lower jaw

Maryland Bridge – Fixed partial denture with resin-bonded retainers that act as an abutment

Maxilla – Scientific term for upper jaw

Medicament – A chemical or combination of substances that is pharmacologically active and has been particularly manufactured for prescription, dispensing, or administration by authorized persons in order to prevent or treat disease in people or animals.

Medicament, Topical – A pharmacological product that has been specifically formulated for use on oral cavity tissues.

Membrane – See Barrier Membrane

Mesial – Nearer the body’s midline or the surface of a tooth closer to the dental arch’s center

Metals- Classification of The noble metal classification model has been implemented as a more exact technique of classifying various dental alloys. The alloys are classified according to their metal content and are listed in order of biocompatibility.

  1. High Noble Alloys – Noble Metal Content > 60% (gold + platinum group*) and gold > 40% Au)
  2. Titanium and Titanium Alloys
    Titanium (Ti) > 85%
  3. Noble Alloys
    Noble Metal Content > 25% (gold + platinum group*)
  4. Predominantly Base Alloys
    Noble Metal Content) < 25% (gold + platinum group*)
  5. *The platinum group of metals consists of platinum, palladium, rhodium, osmium, and ruthenium.

Microabrasion – Procedure where a little quantity of tooth structure is mechanically removed to correct superficial enamel discoloration issues.

Microorganisms – A microscopic living entity, for example, a bacterium, fungus, yeast, virus, or rickettsia.

Minimal Sedation – See definition under Anesthesia

Mixed Dentition – See Transitional Dentition

Moderate Sedation – See definition under Anesthesia

Molar – Teeth on either side of the jaw back of the premolars (bicuspids); teeth used to grind with wide crowns and broad chewing surfaces.

Moulage – A cast is used to create a positive duplicate of a body component from a negative impression.

Mouthguard – Individually molded device intended to be worn primarily to aid in the prevention of harm to the teeth and their surrounding tissues. Occasionally referred to as a mouth guard

Mucous Membrane – Lining of the mouth cavity and various canals and cavities throughout the body; alternatively referred to as “mucosa.”

Dental Clinical Terms – N

Non-autogenous – A transplant from a donor who is not the recipient

Non-intravenous – See definition under Anesthesia

Normal Post-operative – Follow-up – See Follow-up Care

Dental Clinical Terms – O

Obturate – In endodontics, this term refers to the process of sealing the canal(s) of dental roots during root canal therapy with a substance such as gutta percha in combination with an appropriate luting agent.

Obturator – A disc or plate that closes an aperture; a palate prosthesis that closes a palate opening.

Occlusal – Referring to the premolar and molar teeth’s biting surfaces, opposing teeth’s contacting surfaces, or opposing occlusion rims

Occlusal Radiograph – A radiograph of the intraoral cavity taken with a film, phosphorous plate, emulsion, or digital sensor set between the occluded teeth.

Occlusal Surface – A posterior tooth or occlusion rim surface that is meant to come into contact with the opposing occlusal surface.

Occlusion – Any contact between the maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) teeth’s biting or masticating surfaces

Odontogenic – Pertaining to the tooth-forming tissues.

Odontogenic Cyst – See Cyst

Odontoplasty – Adjustment of the length, size, and/or contour of the tooth; this procedure involves the extraction of enamel protrusion.

Onlay – A dental restoration that is placed outside the oral cavity and covers one or more cusp points and adjacent occlusal surfaces, but not the complete external surface. It is retained with the use of luting cement.

Open Reduction – Re-adhesion of shattered bony segments which is performed by severing neighboring soft tissues and bone to provide direct access.

Operculectomy – Operculum removal

Operculum – A tissue flap covering an unerupted or partly erupted tooth.

Oral – Concerning the mouth

Oral Diagnosis – A dentist’s determination of an individual patient’s oral health status through the review of data obtained through history collection, direct examination, patient discussion, and such clinical aids and testing as the dentist deems necessary.

Orthognathic – Referring to the maxilla and mandible’s functional relationship.

Orthotic Device – Apparatus used to support, align, prevent, or repair abnormalities in moveable bodily components, or to increase their function

Osteitis – See Dry Socket

Osteoplasty – Surgical process that alters the bone’s shape

Osteotomy – Cutting of the bone using surgical methods

Overdenture – A detachable prosthetic device that is worn over the retained tooth roots or implants and may be supported by them.

Dental Clinical Terms – p

Palate – The combination of hard and soft tissues that construct the roof of the mouth and divide the oral and nasal cavities

Palliative – Pain-relieving action that is not curative

Panoramic Radiograph – An extraoral presentation in which the entire mandible, maxilla, teeth, and other adjacent features are depicted in one image, as if the jaws had been flattened.

Papoose Board – A behavior management strategy that is uses immobilization to restrict the actions of a patient getting dental treatment.

Parafunctional – Apart from routine functions or usage

Partial Denture – In most cases, this term refers to a prosthetic device used to replace missing teeth.

Periapical – The region immediately surrounding the bottom of the tooth root

Periapical Access – See Abscess

Periapical Cyst -See Cyst

Periapical Radiograph – A radiograph taken intraorally with a film, phosphorous plate, emulsion, or digital sensor to reveal the tooth apices.

Pericoronal – Surrounding the tooth’s crown

Periodic Oral Evaluation– See Evaluation

Periodontal – Concerning the teeth’s supporting and the tissues that surround it

Periodontal Abscess – See Abscess

Periodontal Disease – Inflammation of the gingival tissues and/or periodontal membrane of the teeth, leading to an exceptionally deep gingival sulcus, perhaps culminating in periodontal pockets and alveolar bone loss.

Periodontal Pocket – Gingival sulcus that has been pathologically extended; a characteristic of periodontal disease

Periodontics – Periodontics is a dental specialty that involves the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders affecting the supporting and surrounding tissues of teeth or their substitutes, as well as the maintenance of these structures and tissues as regard their health, function, and aesthetics.

Periodontist – A dental expert whose work is restricted to the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses affecting the teeth’s supporting and surrounding tissues.

Periodontitis – Inflammation and degeneration of the connective tissue supporting or surrounding the teeth, resulting in their loss of attachment.

Periodontium – A tissue structure that attaches, nourishes and maintains the tooth, formed by the gingival, cementum, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone.

Periradicular – Encircling a part of the tooth’s root

Permanent – See Definitive

Permanent Dentition – Refers to the dental arch’s permanent (“adult”) teeth, which either replace the primary dentition or emerge distally from the primary molars. See Dentition

Pin – A tiny rod that is cemented or driven into the dentin in order to aid in the stabilization of a restoration.

Plaque – A soft, sticky substance that forms on teeth and is primarily formed of bacteria and their byproducts.

Pontic – The phrase used to refer to a false tooth attached to a fixed partial denture (bridge)

Porcelain/Ceramic – Refers to materials, including a high proportion of inorganic refractory compounds, such as porcelains, glasses, ceramics, and glass-ceramics, that have been pressed, fired, polished, or milled.

Post – A rod-shaped component intended for insertion into a prepared root canal area to give structural support. This device can be made of metal, carbon fiber, or fiberglass, and is often secured with the relevant luting agents.

Posterior – Refers to teeth and tissues in the back of the mouth (distal to the canines); premolars and molars on both the maxillary and mandibular sides. Permanent posterior teeth are classified by the Universal/National tooth numbering system as teeth 1–5 and 12–16 (maxillary), and 17–21 and 28–32 (mandibular); primary teeth are designated by the Universal tooth numbering system as A, B, I, and J (maxillary), and K, L, S, and T (mandibular) (mandibular).

Precision Attachment – An interlocking device consisting of two components, one of which is secured into an abutment or abutments and the other of which is incorporated into a detachable partial denture in order to stabilize and/or maintain it.

Premedication – Prepping of patients with drugs before dental treatments.

Premolar – See Bicuspid

Preventive Dentistry – Aspects of dentistry related with enhancing oral health and function through the prevention or reduction of oral disorders or abnormalities, as well as the occurrence of oro-facial traumas.

Primary Dentition – The initial set of teeth. See deciduous and dentition.

Prophylaxis – Plaque, calculus, and stains are removed from tooth structures. It is meant to alleviate local irritants.

Prosthesis – Artificial substitution of any body part

Definitive Prosthesis – Prosthesis intended for prolonged use

Dental Prosthesis – Any device or appliance that replaces one or more missing teeth and/or accompanying structures, as necessary. (This is a broad phrase that encompasses crowns and inlays/onlays for abutment, bridges, dentures, obturators, and gingival prostheses.)

Fixed Prosthesis -A dental prosthesis that is permanently linked to the abutment teeth, roots, or implants.

Fixed-removable Prosthesis – Combined prosthesis in which one or more components are fixed and the remaining components are attached via devices that allow for their detachment, removal, and reinsertion solely by the dentist

Interim Prosthesis –  A provisional prosthesis is one that is intended to be worn for a limited length of time before being substituted by a more permanent replacement.

Removable Prosthesis -Complete or partial prosthesis that can be removed and reinserted by the patient following an initial fitting by a dentist.

Provisional – a repair or prosthesis that is retained for an extended amount of time in order to facilitate healing, stability, or diagnostic purposes. See Interim and Temporary

Pulp – The pulp cavity of a tooth is filled with connective tissue that houses blood vessels and nerve tissue.

Pulp Cap – See direct pulp cap; indirect pulp cap.

Pulp Cavity – The cavity contained within a tooth that contains the pulp

Pulpectomy – Complete pulp tissue removal from the root canal chamber, including essential and non-essential pulp tissue

Pulpitis – A condition characterized by dental pulp inflammation.

Pulpotomy – Surgically removing a section of the pulp, including the diseased portion, with the goal of preserving the viability of the remaining pulpal tissue using a therapeutic dressing.

Dental Clinical Terms – Q

Quadrant – One of the four equal parts that can be segmented to form the dental arches; starting at the arch’s midline and stretching distally to the terminal tooth.

Dental Clinical Terms – R

Radicular – Of or related to the root

Radiographic/surgical implant index – A device used to correlate the site of an osteotomy or fixture with pre-existing anatomic features.

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

Rebase – Refitting a denture by changing the foundation material.

Recalcification – A technique for promoting organic root repair of exterior and internal resorption faults. See Apexification

Reduction – Closed reduction Segments of a shattered bone re-approximated without a direct view of the boney segments.

Open reduction -Re-approximation of shattered bony segments performed by severing neighboring soft tissues and bone to create a path for complete access.

Regional block anesthesia -Definition under Anesthesia

Reimplantation, tooth – A tooth’s return to its alveolus

Reline – Repaving the tissue side of a detachable prosthesis with a new base material.

Removable partial denture – A detachable partial denture is a prosthetic device that can be adjusted by the patient to replace one or more lost teeth.

Resin – Resinous compound composed of different acrylic acid esters that is used as a building material for dentures, trays, and other restorative treatments

Resin-based composite – See Composite

Resin infiltration – Administration of a composite resin designed to infiltrate and fill the sub-surface pore system of an incipient caries lesion in order to strengthen, secure, and limit the course of the lesion, as well as hide obvious white areas

Retainer – Orthodontic retainer Post-orthodontic treatment, an appliance used to stabilize the teeth.

Prosthodontic retainer – A prosthetic component that connects a denture to an abutment tooth, implant body or implant abutment.

Retrograde filling – A method of root canal closing that involves preparing and filling the channel from the apex of the root.

Revision – The act of updating; a subsequent or additional surgical treatment used to address a condition.

Root – The anatomic section of the tooth that is encased in cementum and is positioned in the alveolus (socket) where the periodontal apparatus attaches it; the radicular component of the tooth.

Residual root – Following the loss of the majority or over 75% of the crown, the leftover root component

Root canal – The section of the pulp cavity located within the tooth’s root; the compartment located within the tooth’s root that holds the pulp.

Root canal therapy – The diagnosis and treatment of pulp illness and injury, as well as concomitant periradicular disorders

Root planing – A method of treating cementum or surface dentin that is abrasive, calculus-impregnated, or contaminated with pollutants or microbes.

Routine follow-up care – See follow-up care

Routine post-delivery care – See follow-up care

Routine post-operative care – See follow-up care

Rubber dam – A barrier technique used to prevent saliva or moisture from infiltrating the operating field or to create an insulated operative field.

Dental Clinical Terms – S

Salivary Gland – The parotid glands, submandibular glands, and sublingual glands are exocrine glands that create saliva and secrete it into the mouth.

Scaling – Procedure for plaque, calculus, and stain removal from teeth

Sealant – A resinous compound that is used to coat the contact surfaces of posterior teeth in order to avoid occlusal caries.

Sedation – See Anesthesia

Sedative Filling – A brief restorative procedure used to alleviate pain.

Semi-precision attachment – A denture that is secured by a mechanism of ]mechanical interlocking pieces. A partial denture’s precisely formed extension fits into or onto a corresponding reception area or projection of a crowned natural tooth.

Sextant – One of the six generally equal parts of a dental arch, for example: tooth numbers 1–5, 6–11, 12–16, 17–21, 22–27, and 28–32. Also used for periodontal charting.

Sialodochoplasty – Surgical treatment used to close a defect in and/or restore a section of a salivary gland duct.

Sialography – Radiographic examination of the salivary ducts and glands following injection of a radiopaque medium and taking a CT or MR scan

Sialolithotomy – A surgical treatment that involves the removal of a stone from within a salivary gland or its duct

Simple Fracture – Bone fracture that has not been subjected to external contaminants

Site – A term that refers to a discrete area, place, or locus. For periodontal operations, a recession of soft tissue on a single tooth or a periodontal induced bone loss adjacent to a single tooth; sometimes used to refer to soft tissue and/or osseous abnormalities in edentulous tooth placements.

Space Maintainer – A passive device, usually set in place, that maintains the position of the teeth.

Specification No. 3950 – This system is intended to denote parts of the oral cavity and to designate permanent and primary dentition uniquely. This standard has not yet been used to identify supernumerary teeth. (ANSI/ADA/ISO 3950–1984 Dentistry Classification System for Tooth and Oral Cavity Areas)

Splint – An appliance used to stabilize, protect, or restrain loosened, replanted, shattered, or injured oral structures. Additionally, it refers to equipment used to treat temporomandibular joint diseases.

Stomatitis – Inflamed, irritated or sore mouth.

Stress Breaker – That portion of a tooth- and/or tissue-borne prosthetic that is meant to reduce detrimental strains on the abutment teeth and their underlying tissues.

Study Model – Representation of teeth and adjacent tissues made of plaster or stone; also called a diagnostic cast. Also check diagnostic cast.

Succedaneous Tooth – A tooth that is permanent in nature and replaces a primary (deciduous) teeth

Supernumerary Teeth – Additional erupted or unerupted teeth that mimic normal-shaped teeth

Suture – surgical threads that are sterile and used to surgically mend cuts.

Dental Clinical Terms – T

Temporary – A temporary restoration or prosthetic installed for use while a permanent replacement or prosthesis is being created — also check interim and provisional.

Temporary Removal Denture – A temporary prosthesis intended for usage for a brief length of time.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) -The mechanism that connects the base of the skull (temporal bone) to the lower jaw (mandible)

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction – Defect in the functionality of the temporomandibular joint; also refers to symptoms that manifest in other places as a result of the dysfunction.

TMJD – See Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

Therapeutic – Of or relating to therapy or treatment; advantageous. The purpose of therapy is to eradicate or manage an illness or other aberrant state.

Tissue Conditioning – Material meant to be in contact with tissues for a brief amount of time in order to aid in their recovery

TMD – Check temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD).

TMJ – Check temporomandibular joint

Tomography – A radiographic technique that generates a picture of a detailed cross-section of tissue features at a predefined depth.

Tooth Bound Space – A gap produced by one or more missing teeth that is surrounded by teeth.

Torus – A bony prominence sometimes also known as Exostosis

Tracheotomy – A surgical operation that involves the creation of a hole in the trachea (windpipe) to facilitate breathing.

Transitional – Referring to a shift or change from one condition or straight to another

Transitional Dentition – Mixed dentition that begins with the eruption of permanent first molars and concludes with the shedding of deciduous teeth.

Transplantation – Transfer of organic material from one location to another via surgery.

Transplantation of Tooth – Relocation of a tooth from one socket to another, within or outside the same individual

Transseptal – Passing through the septum

Treatment Plan – The sequential roadmap for the patient’s care as established by the dentist’s diagnostic opinion and is used to restore and/or maintain optimal oral health.

Trigeminal Division Block Anesthesia – See Anesthesia

Trismus – Limited capacity to expand the mouth, frequently as a result of inflammation or fibrosis of the chewing and swallowing muscles

Tuberosity – A large prominence of the bone

Dental Clinical Terms – U

Unerupted– Tooth that has not emerged through the gums and into the oral cavity

Unilateral – one-sided

Universal/National Tooth Numbering System – Notation system for teeth, commonly used in the US

Dental Clinical Terms – V

Veneer – Check Laminate Veneer

Vertical Bitewing – A dental image having a central projection on which the teeth can lock, held vertically enabling radiographic evaluation of the oral cavity

Vertical Dimension – The length of the face vertically with the teeth in occlusion or serving as stops.

Vestibuloplasty – Any of a number of surgical treatments aimed at increasing the height of the alveolar ridge

Dental Clinical Terms – W

Wax Pattern – A wax model of an object created in its positive likeness.

Dental Clinical Terms – X

Xerostomia – Condition of diminished salivary secretion resulting in a dry and occasionally stinging feeling in the mucosal surface and/or cervical caries.

Dental Clinical Terms – Y

Yeast – A form of unicellular fungus

Dental Clinical Terms – Z

Zygomatic bone – Bone on either side of the face that forms the prominence of the relevant eye socket and cheek.

Other Dental Related Resources

Dental Codes (2022)

Dental Administrative Terms