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Patient Center

Dental Topics

NOTE: You can click on the letters of the alphabet below to view topics that begin with that letter.

A – H
I – O
P – V
W – Z



Abfraction – Loss of tooth surface near the gum line, or at the cervical areas of the teeth, which is caused by compressive and tensile forces during tooth flexure. This is enamel loss in wedge-shaped notches, which are susceptible to decay and can become very sensitive because of dentin exposure. Depending on the extent of the loss of tooth surface, treatment may or may not be required.

Abrasion – loss of tooth structure not due to normal wear and tear, but because of non-masticatory friction. Examples of this include using a hard toothbrush or incorrect brushing technique. Teeth suffering from abrasion(s) may be heat/cold sensitive. Correcting the brushing technique and/or using a softer toothbrush will stop further abrasions from occurring. Tooth-colored bonding will fix tooth abrasions.

Abscess – an infected area of the gum which is an accumulation of puss in a localized area of the gum. It is caused by tooth decay that infects the pulpal tissue which is located inside the tooth. If the tooth decay is left untreated the tissue will disintegrate and puss will accumulate in the pulpal and periapical tissues which causes a periapical abscess.

Abutment – support or retention of a fixed or removable prosthesis by a tooth, root or implant.

Acetaminophen – analgesic that is non-narcotic, used to treat mild to moderate pain and fever. Tylenol is the trade name.

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) – disease caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) causing some of these symptoms: persistent fever, weight loss, diarrhea and generalized lymphadenopathy.

Acromegaly – a hormone disorder due to an overproduction of the growth hormone from the pituitary gland. Characteristics of the disorder include enlarged hands, feet, jaws, spacing between teeth, sinuses and vocal cords as well as deepening of the voice. Denture patients suffering from acromegaly will have to replace their false teeth frequently due to the enlargement of the jaws.

Acrylic resin – used to make temporary crowns and denture teeth which is created from acrylic acid.

ADA (American Dental Association) – the professional organization recognizing dentists in the United States

Adverse drug reaction – harmful, unintended reaction to a normal dose of an administered drug

Aglossia – abnormal development of the tongue where the entire tongue did not form or it is entirely missing

Alginate – used to make dental impressions due to its high-capacity for water absorption. Alginate is extracted from seaweed.

Allograft – graft tissue from human cadavers that are processed and prepared at tissue banks, where they go through radiation, chemical and freezing processes. The grafts are from human cadavers that are genetically dissimilar from patients requiring the use of allografts.

Alloplastic grafts – graft materials that are synthetic

Adhesive dentistry – dental restorations involving bonding of composite resin or porcelain fillings to the teeth

Air abrasion – a newer technology that uses air and abrasive to blast away the tooth structure. Using this method generally doesn’t require the need for anesthetic.

Allergy – harmful reaction in the body to a foreign substance. Some reactions can be localized while others can be severe and effect the entire body causing symptoms both on the inside and outside of the body.

Alveolar bone – part of the jaw bone where the roots of the teeth are anchored.

Amalgam – aka silver fillings. Most common filling material made up of silver, tin, zinc, copper and an alloy of mercury. This type of filling material does not bond to the tooth structure.

Analgesia – pain reliever, generally applied topically.

Anesthesia – reduction of pain sensation either partially or completely. Local anesthesia involves numbing a specific area of the body, while general anesthesia is for the purpose of either partial or complete unconsciousness.

Anterior teeth – twelve front teeth, six in the upper jaw and six in the lower.

Antibiotic – drug that fights against bacteria.

ANUG (Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis) – aka trench mouth or Vincent’s disease which can be aggravated by smoking and/or stress. This disease causes ulcers in the gingival papillae.

Apex – root tip.

Apicoectomy – treatment for a dead tooth involving removal of the root tip or apex.

Arch – the alignment of the upper (or lower) teeth.

Attrition – opposite of abrasion as this is loss of tooth structure is caused by natural wear.

Augmentation – the correction of a hard or soft tissue deficiency. This can be done using a graft or other means.

Autogenous graft – tissue (graft) removed from one part of the body and used or transplanted to another part of the same person’s body.


Base – part of a dental restoration where cement is placed under the restoration to protect the pulp from temperature changes.

Bicuspid or pre-molar – teeth that grow behind the cuspids. These are transitional teeth.

Bifurcation (trifurcation) – site of root separation (either two or three) from the root trunk located in the posterior teeth

Biopsy – removal of a small piece of tissue for the purpose of an microscopic exam

Bioinert – material property that does not cause an adverse reaction in the body

Biomaterial – material compatible with living components and materials used to replace a part or function in contact with the biological system

Biointegration – bonding of biomaterial or an implant with living tissue

Bioabsorbable – material property that dissolves inside the body due to the body’s natural mechanisms

Bite – relation of placement of the upper and lower teeth with each other upon closure (or occlusion)

Bite wings – x-ray film holder held between the teeth to obtain an all inclusive x-ray of both the upper and lower crowns. Bite wings have a projecting fin which is the part held firmly between the teeth during the x-ray.

Black hairy tongue – lengthy papillae on the tongue. This condition gives way to excess growth of microorganisms.

Bleaching – treatment of natural teeth to increase white appearance. This can be done either chemically or by laser.

Block injection – injection to anesthetize a nerve trunk covering a large area of the jaw.

Block graft – used when to treat a large bone defect where the bone allograft or autogenous bone is set in the recipient with screws.

Bonding – a tooth-colored adhesive material or resin used to fix and/or change the shape and/or color of a tooth for the purpose of dental restoration.

Bone resorption – diminished bone supporting the roots of the teeth which is generally a result of gum disease otherwise known as periodontal disease. The microorganisms in plaque release toxins which cause the decrease in supportive jaw bone.

Bone augmentation – procedure that uses a graft to correct bone deficiency.

Bone atrophy – caused by bone loss where the dimension of the bone has been decreased.

Braces – device used to gradually re-align teeth either for esthetics or necessity regarding bite, applied and maintained by orthodontists.

Bridge – a dental prosthesis of a permanent nature to replace one or more missing teeth. They are generally bonded or cemented to adjacent teeth for support.

Bruxism – grinding of teeth involuntarily, generally when unconscious such as during sleep. Grinding causes destruction of the teeth (excessive wear) and may cause sensitivity as well.

Bruxomania – grinding of the teeth during consciousness that is persistent and can in many cases be related to anxiety.


CAD/CAM – computer aided design/ computer aided manufacturing.

Calcium – element required for the health of nerves, teeth and bone.

Calculus – residue on the teeth that hardens, aka tarter, that stains the teeth yellow or brown.

Canker sore – sore in the mouth or on the lips that is whitish lasting about ten to fourteen days; alternatively referred to as an aphtous ulcers.

Cantilever bridge – a bridge that only attaches to adjacent teeth on one end.

Cap – dental crown.

Caries – decay in the teeth aka cavities.

Cast or model – mold or impression used to make reproductions generally using plaster.

CAT scan – computed axial tomography scan used to help determine exact bone availability for implant placement.

Cavitron – dental tool using high-frequency, ultrasonic waves to clean teeth

Cellulitis – infection in the soft tissue that causes considerable swelling and generally begins due to lack of treatment of a tooth. This can be a dangerous and painful condition, so it should be treated immediately.

Cementum – tissue that is hard covering the roots of the teeth.

Chart – folder where dental or medical records are stored for each patient.

Clasp – part of a removable partial denture made with either metal or acrylic, that latches on to the natural teeth for support to be held in place.

Cleaning – deep cleansing of teeth where plaque and tarter (calculus) are removed.

Commercially pure titanium – metal that is biocompatible and can be used for dental implants.

Composite resin – a material made up of mostly plastic, but containing some small particles of ceramic or glass too.

Complication – an unfavorable situation that arises due to another situation or a negative reaction due to an illness or condition. Complications may or may not be reversible, depending on the type of complication among many other individual factors of the situation.

Cosmetic (aesthetic) dentistry – dentistry that involves enhancing the appearance of the teeth by either changing the color or shape of the teeth or both.

CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) – procedure used to resuscitate an individual suffering from a heart attack, or other condition that causes the heart to stop working or a the body to stop breathing.

Cross bite – alignment of the upper and lower teeth in reverse where that the bottom teeth are in front of the upper teeth when the mouth is closed.

Crown – natural crowns are the part of the teeth that sit above the gum line, whereas a dental crown is a restorative piece that covers all or most of the natural crown.

Curettage – procedure where diseased tissue is removed from the periodontal pocket.

Cusp – elevation on the rear, or posterior, teeth.

Cuspid or canine – teeth located where the anterior teeth transition to the posterior teeth, commonly called the “eye teeth.” These teeth have the longest roots and are generally more pointed than the others.

Cyst – a tissue sac that can be soft or hard and may or may not be filled with fluid.


DDS – Doctor of Dental Surgery

DMD – Doctor of Medical Dentistry

Deciduous teeth – first set of teeth, most commonly known as the “baby teeth.” There are 20 in this set of teeth which begin growing in around 5 to 6 months of age and are generally finished growing in by the age of 3.

Dentin – layer of the tooth inside that is sensitive and lies directly under the enamel surface.

Dental implant – a cylinder surgically implanted into the bone of either the upper or lower jaw for the purpose of providing support to apply a dental restoration.

Dentition – arrangement of teeth in the mouth.

Denture – false or artificial teeth, which can either be partial or a full set that is removable.

Diastema – a gap or space between two teeth.

Diagnostic wax-up – creation of wax teeth in a lab based on planned restoration, which can be used to evaluate the plan and create a template or guide for the restoration procedure.

Disuse atrophy – decrease in density of the teeth due to inactivity.

Donor site – section of the body where a graft is harvested.


Enamel – outside layer of the tooth above the gum line, comprised of hard tissue.

Endodontist – specialist who works on infections, injuries and diseases of the tooth pulp or nerve chamber.

Epidemiology – study of disease within the population.

Eruption – occurs when teeth break through the gum line.

Exfoliate – occurs when deciduous teeth, otherwise known as “baby teeth,” fall out to make room for the permanent, adult set.

Exodontia – practice of teeth removal, tooth extraction or dental extractions.

Explorer – dental instrument that is sharp and used to find decay on the surface of the teeth.

Extraction – removal of a tooth.

Eye teeth – the upper and lower cuspid teeth also known as canines.


Facing – overlay placed on the visible portion of the tooth to change the color and/or shape of the tooth. These are tooth colored and generally comprised of either porcelain, acrylic or composite.

Failed implant – dental implant rejected by the body that becomes symptomatic and/or mobile.

Filling – tooth restoration placed in the portion of the crown that previously decayed once it has been thoroughly cleaned and drill. Fillings can be porcelain, resin or metal and are used to restore functionality to the crown.

Fistula – a boil on the gum otherwise known as a site of infection in the mouth that oozes pus.

Fixed prosthesis – dental restoration that is not permanent, but cannot be removed by the patient none-the-less.

Flap surgery – procedure where the gum is lifted to expose and clean the tooth and bone underneath.

Forceps – instrument used to remove teeth.

Forensic dentistry – use of dental records for evidential/legal purposes.

Full denture – dental prosthesis that is removable by the patient and replaces either the upper or lower teeth.

Full mouth reconstruction – restoration of the natural teeth using bridges and/or implants throughout the mouth to restore normal function of the teeth and jaw together.

Frenectomy – procedure involving the reshaping or removing of the tissue connecting the upper and lower lips to the gums or the tongue to the bottom of the mouth.


GTR (guided tissue regeneration) – newer technique involving the guiding of bone growth and the prevention of ingrowths of the epithelial tissue.

General anesthesia – state of unconsciousness that is controlled, effecting the body either fully or partially, causing the lessening of feeling or pain sensation as well as the cessation of natural reflexes by physical stimulation.

Geographic tongue – changes in the tongue’s appearance, specifically regarding its texture and/or color. It is not problematic, nor requires treatment.

Gingival – tissue of the gums.

Gingivitis – oral condition causing gum inflammation.

Grafting material – either a synthetic or natural substance used to repair tissue deficiency or defect.

Gum recession – shrinkage of the gums causing the exposure of the roots.


Halitosis – chronic bad breath.

Heimlich maneuver – technique used for a choking victim to relieve an obstructed airway.

Hematoma – blood in a localized area under the tissue surface caused by a broken blood vessel, usually occurs in conjunction with swelling, or otherwise known as a bruise.

HMO or DMO – health maintenance organization or dental maintenance organization, which generally provides a list of either health care or dental providers that are part of the plan and available to patients.

Hygienist – dental facilitator of teeth cleaning as well as patient education.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy – treatment for the purpose of restoring mobility to patients suffering from chronic and or sever pain. Treatment takes place in a pressurized chamber providing high concentrations of oxygen. This treatment is used for dental patients who experience radiation therapy in the neck and/or head areas so as to reduce the risks of osteoradionecrosis.

Hyperemia – localized increase of blood flow.

Hyperplasia – increase in number of cells causing excessive swelling of the tissue.


Impacted tooth – tooth that either remains under the gum line or only partially erupts.

Implant dentistry – specific field of dentistry that focuses on the diagnosis, placement and maintenance of both full and partial dental implants.

Implant – artificial tooth root or anchor surgically placed in the jaw bone for tooth restoration purposes.

Implant supported prosthesis – dental restoration placed adjacently to dental implants, from which it’s support relies.

Impression – mold made of either the full mouth, the upper teeth, lower teeth or partial mouth that includes the teeth and gums.

Incisors – upper and lower front teeth, eight in total, not including the canine or eye teeth/cuspids.

Infiltration – anesthetic procedure that is localized and placed under the gum to allow seepage of the anesthetic into the bone.

Inlay – composite resin bonded or cemented into place.

Interproximal – surfaces of adjacent teeth.

Interocclusal – space between upper and lower teeth when the jaws are closed.

Intraoral camera – very small camera used to magnify a condition and/or record video inside the mouth.

In vitro – outside of the living organism.

In vivo – inside the living organism.

Isografts – tissue graft pulled from an identical match and transplanted to the other, which takes place with identical twins.


Jacket crown – porcelain crown made for a front tooth.


Laminate – veneer made of either thin porcelain or plastic created in a dental lab, then bonded on the tooth.

Laughing gas – otherwise known as nitrous oxide which can be used as a sedation agent, relaxing anxious patients.

Lesion – open sore/injury caused by trauma, infection or a tumor.

Local anesthesia – blockage of nerve impulses to a localized area to lessen feeling and/or pain sensation.


Malocclusion – misalignment of the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed.

Mandible – lower jaw.

Mandibular canal – pathway of the lower jaw where the nerves and blood vessels supporting the teeth are located.

Maryland bridge – a bridge that bonds specifically to the back of the adjoining teeth. This type of bridge requires less reduction of the adjacent teeth and is generally used to replace missing teeth in the back of the mouth.

Mastication – process of chewing food.

Maxilla – upper jaw.

Maxillary sinus – air pocket inside the bone of the upper jaw.

Meniscus – disc-shaped cartilage.

Milk teeth – “baby” or deciduous teeth.

Molars – back teeth used for grinding foods.

Moniliasis – also known as thrush; a fungus that can infect the mouth after taking anti-biotics.

Mucogingival junction (MGJ) – connection where the gum tissue around the teeth is connected to the mucous lining of the lips and cheeks.


NSAID – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

Nerve – transmitting tissue that senses pressure and temperature and relays the information to the brain.

Nerve canal – area inside the tooth where the nerve tissue is located.

Nerve repositioning – surgery used for the purpose of implant surgery, when bone loss is extensive. It involves the redirection of the nerve in the mandibular canal to allow for longer implants.

Night guard – appliance placed in the mouth at night to prevent teeth grinding while sleeping and additional wear on the crowns.

Nitrous oxide – commonly referred to as laughing gas and used during dental treatments to reduce anxiety.

Novocain – local anesthetic injected into the site where dental work will be performed to numb the local area.


Occlusion – relationship of the teeth in both jaws when closed.

Onlay – restoration created in the lab to cover one or more cusps a tooth; generally made of porcelain or metal.

Onlay graft – graft for bone replacement to increase the height or width of a bone.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeon – a specialist dedicated to providing surgery of the mouth and jaw.

Oral cavity – mouth.

Oral hygiene – brushing and flossing to keep the mouth clean, which includes the daily cleaning of the teeth, tongue and gums.

Oral and maxillofacial surgery – surgery of the mouth necessary to fix issues caused by injuries, deformities or diseases.

Oral pathologist – specialist focusing on oral diseases.

Oral pathology – field of dentistry involving the treatment of disease effecting the teeth, jaws and oral cavity.

Orthodontics – specialty treating the crooked teeth and misaligned jaws.

Osseous – bone.

Osteonecrosis – death of bone.

Osteoradionecrosis – death of bone due to excessive radiation exposure.

Overbite – overlapping of the front teeth when jaws are closed.

Overdenture – denture fitting over dental implants or remaining tooth roots.

Overjet – overlap of the front teeth horizontally when the jaws are closed.


Palate – roof of the mouth comprised of both hard and soft tissues.

Palliative treatment – treatment for pain relief that is non-invasive.

Panoramic radiograph – elongated film showing the radiographic view of the entire upper and lower jaws.

Parasthesia – altered sensation of the skin generally described as numbness, prickly or tingling.

Partial denture – removable denture used to replace either one tooth or a section of teeth.

Pathology – study of disease.

Periapical (PA) – end of the roots of the teeth.

Peri-implantitis – inflammation of the gums around a an implant.

Periodontal surgery – procedures involving the treatment of diseased gums.

Periodontist – specialist who treats problems with the gums and other hard and soft tissues of the oral cavity.

Pediatric dentistry – field of dentistry treating children.

Pedodontics – dentistry for children.

Permanent teeth – final set of teeth, generally 32 total.

Pit – tiny defect in the tooth enamel.

Plaque – sticky substance on the teeth made up of food debris and bacteria, caused by poor dental hygiene that will harden into tarter if not removed.

Pontic – portion of a fixed bridge that replaces one or two missing teeth.

Porcelain crown – tooth restoration comprised of porcelain.

Porcelain fused to metal (PFM) crown – tooth restoration comprised of metal and covered with porcelain.

Porcelain veneers – thin layer of porcelain created in a lab to bond to the natural tooth to either re-shape it, enhance the tooth’s color, straighten the appearance of the teeth, or replace missing tooth structure.

Prognosis – expected treatment outcome.

Prophylaxis – regular cleaning of the teeth and full oral cavity to prevent decay and disease.

Prosthesis – man-made replacement of a missing piece of the body; also referred to as an appliance.

Prosthodontist – specialist who focuses on teeth replacement with either a fixed or removable appliance.

Pulp – blood vessels, connective tissue and nerves inside the tooth.

Pulp chamber – portion of the inside of the tooth where the pulp is located.

Pulpectomy – removal of the entire pulp due to infection.

Pulpitis – most common type of tooth ache caused by inflammation of the pulp.

Pulpotomy – removal of the pulp partially, most commonly performed on children.


Reimplantation – re-insertion of an injured tooth back into the socket.

Root canal – passage of the tooth where the nerves and blood vessels are located.


Saliva – transparent fluid in the oral cavity that lubricates the teeth and gums.

Saliva ejector – tube used during dental procedures using suction removing the saliva and blood from the mouth.

Salivary glands – glands producing saliva located in the cheeks and under the tongue.

Scaling – dental cleaning involving removal of calculus (tarter) and plaque from the teeth.

Sealants – thin material comprised of resin that is bonded in the fissures and pits of the rear teeth to prevent decay and cavities. Generally applied in younger years after the permanent teeth have erupted and grown in fully.

Secondary dentin – pulp response to repair tooth due to irritation producing new tooth structure.

Sinusitis – inflammation and/or infection of the sinus cavities.

Sleep apnea – cessation of breathing periodically during sleep.

Supernumerary tooth – extra tooth.

Suppuration – discharge of pus.


Tarter – dental calculus, which are calcified deposits stuck to the teeth.

Tissue bank – lab specializing in harvesting, processing and sterilizing tissues from animals and humans.

TMD – Temperomandibular disorder which is a condition causing facial pain and prohibiting normal movement of the jaw.

TMJ – Temperomandibular joint which is the area where the lower jaw meets the skull.

Tooth bud – early phase of tooth growth.

Tooth whitening – process that lightens the color of the teeth making them brighter which can be accomplished either using lasers or chemicals.

Topical anesthetic – pain relieving gel.

Torus – bony protrusion located on the lower jaw or he palate in some people; it does not cause oral function issues.

Transplant – applying a natural tooth to the empty socket of a another tooth.

Trench mouth – gum disease caused by halitosis, mouth ulcers and loss of tissue.


Unerupted tooth – tooth that has not penetrated the gum; generally considered not grown in yet.


Veneer – false tooth front bonded to the natural tooth to enhance its color and/or appearance; made of porcelain or composite.


Wisdom teeth – last set of molars that come in between the ages of 18 and 25 years.


Xenografts – graft material harvested from various species.

Xerostomia – also known as dry mouth; decreased production of saliva.

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A Little About Us

Advanced Family Dental & Orthodontics, PC & Affiliates is a full service general dentistry practice with specialty care in the areas of orthodontics, periodontics, oral surgery, cosmetic dentistry, dental implants, Invisalign and more.

American Dental Association