Glossary of Terms

Discover the difference between various dental procedures as well as technical words you might hear around the office but may not be familiar with. This list of terms is provided by the American Dental Association (ADA).


Tooth wear caused by forces other than chewing such as holding objects between the teeth or improper brushing.


A tooth (or implant) that supports a dental prosthesis.

Alveolar bone

The part of the jaw that surround the roots of the teeth.

Alveolar process

The curving part of the jaw into which the teeth are rooted.


The socket in the alveolar bone into which the tooth’s root fits.


An alloy used in direct dental restorations.


Loss of pain sensations without loss of consciousness.


A condition where two hard tissues are fused together. When this happens to a tooth and the alveolar bone, the tooth partially erupts.


General Anesthesia: A controlled state of unconsciousness, accompanied by a partial or complete loss of protective reflexes, including loss of ability to independently maintain airway and respond purposefully to physical stimulation or verbal command, produced by a pharmacologic or non-pharmacologic method or combination thereof;

Analgesia/Intravenous Sedation

A medically controlled state of depressed consciousness while maintaining the patient’s airway, protective reflexes and the ability to respond to stimulation or verbal commands. It includes intravenous administration of sedative and/or analgesic agent(s) and appropriate monitoring.

Local Anesthesia

The loss of pain sensation over a specific area of the anatomy without loss of consciousness.

Regional Anesthesia

A term used for local anesthesia. See Local Anesthesia.


Removal of the tip of a tooth root.


Occurring on, or pertaining to, both right and left sides.


Process of removing tissue for histologic evaluation.

Bitewing radiographs

X-rays used to reveal the crowns of several upper and lower teeth as they bite down.


A cosmetic dental procedure that whitens the teeth using a bleaching solution.


A composite resin applied to a tooth to change its shape and/or color. Bonding also refers to how a filling, orthodontic appliance or some fixed partial dentures are attached to teeth.


See Fixed Partial Denture and/or Removable Partial Denture.


Constant grinding or clenching of teeth during they day or while asleep.


Hard deposit of mineralized material adhering to crowns and/or roots of teeth.


A relatively narrow tubular passage or channel.

Root Canal

Space inside the root portion of a tooth containing pulp tissue.


Promotes tooth decay.


Commonly used term for tooth decay.


Decay in tooth caused by caries; also referred to as carious lesion.


Hard connective tissue covering the tooth root.

Cleft Lip

Birth defect in which one or more fissures form in the upper lip, which takes place while the fetus is growing.

Cleft Palate

Congenital deformity resulting in lack of fusion of the soft and/or hard palate, either partial or complete.


The clamping and pressing of the jaws and teeth together in centric occlusion, frequently associated with psychological stress or physical effort.


A dental restorative material made up of disparate or separate parts (e.g. resin and quartz particles).

Conscious Sedation

A state in which patients are awake and can breathe and swallow on their own but are less aware of what is taking place.


Anatomical Crown: That portion of tooth normally covered by, and including, enamel; Abutment Crown: Artificial crown serving for the retention or support of a dental prosthesis; Artificial Crown: Restoration covering or replacing the major part, or the whole of the clinical crown of a tooth; Clinical Crown: That portion of a tooth not covered by supporting tissues. Crown Lengthening: A surgical procedure exposing more tooth for restorative purposes by apically positioning the gingival margin and/or removing supporting bone.


The pointed portion of the tooth.


Pathological cavity, usually lined with epithelium, containing fluid or soft matter.


Removing foreign matter or dead tissue.


The lay term for carious lesions in a tooth; decomposition of tooth structure.

Dental Prophylaxis

Scaling and polishing procedure performed to remove coronal plaque, calculus, and stains.

Dental Prosthesis

An artificial device that replaces one or more missing teeth.