Oral Health Definitions for Non-Dentists

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  • Amalgam - Silver-colored filling material; may also be referred to as a restoration or filling.

  • Bitewings - X-rays of the top and bottom molars and pre-molars to show decay between teeth or under fillings.

  • Bridge - A non-removable appliance that replaces one or more missing teeth with false teeth and attaches to healthy teeth.

  • Calculus (Tartar) - Hardened plaque on teeth, requiring scaling to remove.

  • Caries - Cavities and decay.

  • Complete Mouth Survey - (CMS) Multiple X-rays taken of the entire dental structure. For an adult, approximately 16-21 films.

  • Composite - A tooth colored filling material; also referred to as a filling.

  • Cosmetic Dentistry - Beautifying teeth and smile through bleaching, bonding, closing spaces, and improving appearance of teeth.

  • Crown - A gold or porcelain cap that covers a tooth.

  • Edentulous - Having no teeth.

  • Endodontics - Department/process providing root canal treatment for teeth with diseased pulp.

  • Gingiva - Gums.

  • Gingivitis - Inflammation of the gum tissue; common reversible gum disease that occurs when plaque is not removed.

  • Impacted - Describes a tooth not visible above the gum line.

  • Implant - An artificial tooth substitute, surgically implanted in the bone.

  • Inlays - A gold, porcelain or composite filling placed within the cusps of the tooth.

  • Occlusal - The chewing or grinding surface of a tooth.

  • Onlays - Porcelain or gold restorations covering at least one cusp of the tooth.

  • Operative Dentistry - Department providing fillings, crowns, and cosmetic dentistry.

  • Oral Pathology - Study of diseases and pain of mouth and jaw.

  • Oral Surgery - Department where extractions of teeth are performed as well as general surgical procedures in the jaws, and lower facial area.

  • Orthodontics - Department providing bands (braces) for straightening teeth.

  • Partial - (RPD; Removable partial denture) Removable replacement for missing teeth that rests on the gums with clasps that attach to remaining teeth.

  • Pediatric Dentistry - Department providing dentistry for children under the age of 16.

  • Periodontics - Department providing treatment for gum disease and resulting bone loss.

  • Plaque - Soft deposits of bacteria and debris that collect on teeth.

  • Pocket - Abnormally deep space between the gum tissue and the teeth where bacteria can enter, causing gum disease.

  • Preventive Dentistry - Teeth cleaning and instruction to prevent gum disease.

  • Prophylaxis - Prophy; a basic teeth cleaning.

  • Prosthesis - A cemented or removable replacement for missing teeth.

  • Prosthodontics - Department where crowns, bridges, partials, and dentures are made.

  • Pulpitis - An infection of the nerve inside a tooth.

  • Pulpotomy - Removal of only the pulp tissue in the crown of the tooth, an endodontic procedure.

  • Radiographs - X-rays.

  • Recall - Appointment for a patient who is returning for maintenance or follow up care.

  • Restoration - Filling used to restore the tooth.

  • Root Canal Therapy - (RCT, endodontic therapy) Removal of the nerve inside a tooth and subsequent filling of this space.

  • Scaling and Root Planing - Cleaning teeth to remove calculus and plaque above and below the gum line.

  • Third Molars (wisdom teeth) - The last teeth to come into the mouth.

  • Treatment Plan - A list of procedures and related costs recommended to treat patient’s dental needs.

  • Veneer - A porcelain facing placed on an anterior tooth.

tooth descriptions