Dental Terminology And Their Uses




Dental Terminology

One of the learning parts of dentist/dental team is to understand the basic part of dental/medical terminology. It may seems difficult at first, long, but later look impressive-looking words and understandable. By learning what the word parts mean, it is much easier to understand what a brand new word is, even if you have never seen or heard it before. Most medical terms originated in either Greek or Latin.

Basic Dental instruments Names and Pictures pdf


  • Abrasion: loss of tooth structure caused by a hard toothbrush, poor brushing technique, or Bruxism (grinding or clenching the teeth).
  • abscess: an infection of a tooth, soft tissue or bone
  • abutment: tooth or teeth that support a fixed or removable bridge
  • adhesive dentistry: contemporary term for dental restorations that involve “bonding” of tooth colored composite resin or porcelain fillings to natural teeth
  • air abrasion: removal of tooth decay by blasting a tooth with air and abrasive particles, a relatively new technology that may avoid the need for anesthetic
  • allergy: unfavorable systemic response to a foreign substance or drug
  • alveolar bone: the jaw bone that anchors the roots of teeth
  • amalgam: a most common filling material, also known as “silver fillings”, containing mercury (app 50%), silver, tin, copper and zinc commonly used for fillings in past years (white “composite” fillings are preferred by most patients.
  • analgesia: a state of pain relief; an agent lessening pain
  • anesthesia: partial or complete elimination of pain sensation; numbing a tooth is an example of local anesthesia; general anesthesia produces partial or complete unconsciousness
  • anterior teeth: the six upper or six lower front teeth (canines, laterals & central incisors)
  • antibiotic: a drug that stops or slows the growth of bacteria
  • ANUG: an acronym for Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis, commonly known as trench mouth or Vincent’s disease, aggravated by stress and/or smoking
  • apex: the tip of the root of a tooth
  • apicoectomy: surgical removal of  an infected root tip to treat a dead tooth
  • arch : describes the alignment of the upper or lower teeth
  • attrition: loss of structure due to natural wear
  • base: cement placed under a dental restoration to insulate the pulp (nerve chamber)
  • bicuspid or pre-molar: transitional teeth behind the cuspids (canines)
  • bifurcation (trifurcation): exposure of the juncture of two (three) roots in posterior teeth
  • biopsy: removal of a small piece of tissue for microscopic examination
  • bite wings: caries (decay) detection x-rays
  • bite: relationship of the upper and lower teeth on closure (occlusion)
  • black hairy tongue: elongated papillae on the tongue, promoting the growth of more microorganisms
  • bleaching: chemical or laser treatment of natural teeth for whitening effect
  • block injection: anesthesia of a nerve trunk that covers a large area of the jaw; a mandibular block injection produce numbness of the lower jaw, teeth, half the tongue
  • bonding: adhesive dental restoration technique; a tooth-colored composite resin to repair and/or change the color or shape of a tooth
  • bone resorption: decrease in bone supporting the roots of teeth; a common result of periodontal (gum disease), can result in tooth loss if left untreated.
  • braces: devices used by orthodontists to gradually reposition teeth to a more favorable alignment
  • bridge: stationary dental prosthesis (appliance) fixed to teeth adjacent to a space; replaces one or more missing teeth, cemented or bonded to supporting teeth or implants adjacent to the space
  • bruxism: grinding or gnashing of the teeth, most commonly while the patient is asleep
  • bruxomania: persistent “nervous” grinding of the teeth while the patient is awake
  • calcium: chemical element needed for healthy teeth, bones and nerves
  • calculus: hard residue that forms on the teeth composed of old plaque and food particles commonly known as “tarter”
  • calculus: hard residue, commonly known as “tarter,” that forms on teeth due to inadequate plaque control, often stained yellow or brown
  • canker sore: mouth sore appearing whitish, often with a red halo, of ten to fourteen day duration
  • canker sore: mouth sore appearing whitish, often with a red halo, of ten to fourteen day duration
  • cantilever bridge: fixed bridge that attaches to adjacent teeth only on one end
  • cap: common term for dental crown
  • caries: tooth decay or “cavities”
  • cast or model: reproduction of oral structures made by pouring plaster or stone into a mold
  • Cavitron: dental tool that uses high frequency ultrasonic waves to gently clean teeth
  • cellulitis: soft tissue infection causing extensive, hard swelling, a potentially dangerous condition requiring immediate attention
  • cementum: hard tissue that covers the roots of teeth
  • chart: log of dental or medical records
  • clasp: device that retains a removable partial denture to stationary teeth; can be metal or acrylic (matches teeth and gums)
  • cleaning: removal of plaque and calculus (tarter) from teeth, generally above the gum line; preventive procedure that is usually done every 6 months (may need to be done more frequently for some individuals)
  • composite resin: material composed of plastic with small glass or ceramic particles; usually cured with filtered light or chemical catalyst
  • cosmetic (aesthetic) dentistry: treatments performed to enhance appearance; not a recognized specialty
  • CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation): Artificial procedures employed by a rescuer after cessation of breathing or heart stoppage
  • Cross bite: reverse biting relationship of upper and lower teeth; aka “under bite,” as in Class III malocclusuion (prognathic jaw)
  • crown: (1) the portion of a tooth above the gum line; (2) dental restoration covering all or most of the natural tooth
  • curettage: removal of diseased tissue from the lining of a periodontal pocket
  • cusp: mound on posterior teeth that aids in chewing
  • cuspid or canine: the four “eye teeth”
  • cyst: a soft or hard tissue sac, hard or filled with fluid
  • DDS: Doctor of Dental Surgery – equivalent to DMD
  • decay: destruction of tooth structure caused by toxins produced by bacteria
  • deciduous teeth: commonly called “baby teeth,” the first set of (usually) twenty teeth
  • dental implant: a (usually) titanium cylinder surgically placed in the bone of the upper or lower jaw to provide support for a dental restoration or appliance
  • dentin: inner layer of tooth structure, immediately under the surface enamel
  • dentition: the arrangement of natural or artificial teeth in the mouth
  • denture: removable (partial or complete) set of artificial teeth
  • denturism: the production of dentures dispensed directly by laboratory technicians
  • diastema: open space between teeth
  • DMD: Doctor of Medical Dentistry – equivalent to DDS
  • enamel: hard tissue covering the portion of tooth above the gum line
  • endodontist: specialist who treats injuries, diseases and infections of the tooth pulp (nerve chamber)
  • epidemiology: study of the incidence of disease in a population
  • eruption: process of teeth protruding through the gums
  • exfoliate: process of shedding deciduous (baby) teeth
  • exodontia: practice of dental extractions
  • explorer: sharp instrument used to detect decay on the surface of teeth
  • extraction: removal of a tooth
  • eyeteeth: the four upper and lower canine (cuspid) teeth
  • facing: tooth colored overlay on the visible portion of a crown; may be acrylic, composite or porcelain
  • FAGD: Fellowship Academy of General Dentistry
  • filling: restoration of lost tooth structure with metal, porcelain or resin materials
  • fistula: channel emanating pus from an infection site; a gum boil
  • flap surgery: lifting of gum tissue to expose and clean underlying tooth and bone structures
  • forceps: instrument used for removal of teeth
  • forensic dentistry: practice of gathering legal evidence for body identification or judicial issues
  • fossa: valley found on the surface of posterior teeth
  • freeway space: distance between the upper and lower teeth with the lower jaw in rest position
  • frenectomy: removal or reshaping of thin muscle tissue that attaches the upper or lower lips to the gum, or the tongue to the floor of the mouth
  • full denture: removable dental prosthesis (appliance) replacing all upper or lower teeth
  • full mouth reconstruction: extensive restorations of natural teeth with crowns and or fixed bridges to manage restorative and bite problems.
  • general anesthesia: controlled state of unconsciousness, accompanied by a partial or complete loss of pain sensation, protective reflexes, and the ability to respond purposefully to physical stimulation or verbal command
  • geographic tongue: benign changes in the usual color and texture of tongue; does not require treatment
  • gingiva: gum tissue
  • gingivectomy: surgical removal of gum tissue
  • gingivitis: inflammation of gum tissue
  • GTR: (guided tissue regeneration) a new technique for replacing bone tissue
  • gum boil: See fistula.
  • gum recession: exposure of dental roots due to shrinkage of the gums as a result of abrasion, bone loss from periodontal disease or surgery
  • halitosis: bad breath of oral or gastrointestinal origin
  • Heimlich Maneuver: techinque employed by rescuer for obstruction of victim’s airway
  • hematoma: swelling of effused blood beneath tissue surface
  • HMO or DMO: health (dental) maintenance organization which specifies a health care (dental) provider a patient may see. Profitability depends on minimization of treatment.
  • hydrogen peroxide: disinfecting solution used in dental irrigation procedures or as mouth rinse
  • hygienist: dental auxiliary who cleans teeth and provides patient education; administers local anesthetic, nitrous oxide and performs periodontal scaling
  • hyperemia: increased blood flow; may cause dental sensitivity to temperature and sweets; may precede an abscess
  • impaction: partial or completely unexposed tooth that is wedged against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue, precluding the eruption process
  • implant: artificial device replacing tooth root; may anchor an artificial tooth, bridge, or denture
  • impression: mold made of the teeth and soft tissues
  • incision and drainage: surgical incision of an abscess to drain suppuration (pus)
  • incisors: four upper and four lower front teeth, excluding the cuspids (canine teeth)
  • infiltration: local anesthetic procedure effective for upper teeth and soft tissue; placement of anesthetic under the gum, allowing it to seep into bone
  • inlay: indirect – filling made by a dental laboratory that is cemented or bonded into place, direct – placement of dental composite resin, or porcelaion restoration at chairside
  • interocclusal: space between upper and lower teeth
  • interproximal: surfaces of adjoining teeth
  • intraoral camera:a small video camera used to view and magnify oral conditions; images may be printed
  • jacket: crown for a front tooth, usually made of porcelain
  • laminate: thin plastic or porcelain veneer produced in a dental laboratory and then bonded to a tooth
  • laughing gas: nitrous oxide; odorless inhalation agent that produces relative analgesic (sedation); reduces anxiety and creates a state of relaxation
  • lesion: injury of bodily tissue due to infection, trauma or neoplasm
  • local anesthesia: partial or complete elimination of pain sensation, in the immediate vicinity of its application or injection
  • MAGD: Masters Academy of General Dentistry
  • malocclusion: “bad bite” or misalignment of the upper and lower teeth
  • managed care: program whereby patient-dentist assignment and dentist reimbursement is administered by a separate, external organization
  • mandible: the lower jaw
  • margin: interface between a restoration and tooth structure
  • Maryland bridge: a bridge that is bonded to the back of the adjacent teeth; requires minimum tooth reduction
  • mastication: process of chewing food
  • maxilla: the upper jaw
  • meniscus: capsular cushion between temporomandibluar joint and glenoid fossa
  • milk teeth: deciduous (baby) teeth
  • molars: three back teeth in each dental quadrant used for grinding food.
  • moniliasis (thrush): opportunistic fungal infection after administration of antibiotic; not uncommon in the mouth
  • mucogingival junction (MGJ): meeting of thick, protective gingival tissue around the teeth and the friable mucous lining of the cheeks and lips
  • nerve (root) canal: dental pulp; the internal chamber of a tooth
  • nerve: tissue that conveys sensation, temperature, position information to the brain
  • night guard: acrylic appliance used to prevent wear and temporomandibular damage caused by grinding or gnashing of the teeth during sleep
  • nitrous oxide: a gas used to reduce patient anxiety
  • Novocain: older brand name for a local anesthetic, currently replaced by safer, more effective agents
  • NSAID: non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, often used as a dental analgesic
  • occlusion: closure; relationship of the upper and lower teeth upon closure
  • onlay: laboratory produced restoration covering one or more cusps of a tooth
  • oral and maxillofacial surgeon: a dental specialist who manages the diagnosis & surgical treatment of diseases, injuries, and deformities of the mouth and supporting structures; Requires four additional years of training after dental school
  • oral and maxillofacial surgery: surgical procedures on the mouth including extractions, removal of cysts or tumors, and repair of fractured jaws
  • oral cavity: the mouth
  • oral hygiene: process of maintaining cleanliness of the teeth and related structures
  • oral pathologist: dentist specializing in the study of oral diseases
  • orthodontics: dental specialty that treats misalignment of teeth
  • osseous: boney
  • overbite: vertical overlap of the front teeth; deep bite
  • overdenture: denture that fits over residual roots or dental implants
  • overjet: horizontal overlap of the front teeth; protruding front teeth
  • palate: hard and soft tissue forming the roof of the mouth
  • palliative treatment: non invasive relief of irritating conditions
  • parasthesia: a partial loss of sensation; may be temporary or permanent
  • partial denture: removable dental prosthesis (appliance) replacing one or more natural teeth
  • pathology: study of disease
  • pedodontics or pediatric dentistry: dental specialty focusing on treatment of children
  • periapical (PA): region at the end of the roots of teeth
  • periodontal chart: record measuring the depth of gum pockets around the teeth along with documenting sites of associated infection
  • periodontal surgery: recontouring or esthetic management of diseased gum and supporting tissue
  • periodontist: dental specialist treating the gums and supporting soft and hard tissues retaining natural teeth and the surgical placement of dental implants
  • permanent teeth: (usually) thirty-two adult teeth in a complete dentition
  • pit: a small defect in the tooth enamel; junction of four formative lobes of a developing tooth
  • placebo: inert medication or treatment that produces psychological benefit
  • plaque: soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth; composed of bacteria and food debris due to inadequate dental hygiene
  • pontic: replacement tooth mounted on a fixed or removal appliance
  • porcelain crown: all porcelain restoration covering the coronal portion of tooth (above the gum line)
  • porcelain fused to metal (PFM) crown: restoration with metal coping (for strength) covered by porcelain (for appearance)
  • porcelain inlay or onlay: tooth-colored restoration made of porcelain, cemented or bonded in place
  • porcelain veneers: a thin layer of porcelain, fabricated by a laboratory) bonded to a natural tooth to replace lost tooth structure, close spaces, straighten teeth or change color and/or shape
  • post: thin metal rod inserted into the root of a tooth after root canal therapy; provides retention for a “coping” that replaces lost tooth structure and retains crown
  • post-core: post and buildup to replace lost tooth structure and retain crown
  • post-crown: single structure that combines post-core and crown
  • PPO or PDO: preferred provider (dental) organization which a health care (dental) provider may join, offering fee for service treatment at reduced fees
  • prognosis: the anticipated outcome of treatment
  • prophylaxis: cleaning of the teeth for the prevention of periodontal disease and tooth decay
  • prosthesis: an artificial appliance for the replacement for a body part, tooth or teeth
  • prosthodontist: dental specialist skilled in restoring or replacing teeth with fixed or removable prosthesis (appliance), maintaining proper occlusion; treats facial deformities with artificial prostheses such as eyes, ears, and noses
  • pulp cap: a medicated covering over a small area of exposed pulp tissue
  • pulp chamber: the center or innermost portion of the tooth containing the pulp
  • pulp: the nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue inside a tooth
  • pulpectomy: complete removal of the pulp (commonly done in children’s teeth)
  • pulpitis: inflammation of the pulp; common cause of toothache
  • pulpotomy: partial removal of the pulp tissue
  • pyorrhea: older term for periodontal (gum) disease
  • reimplantation: insertion and temporary fixation of partially or completely avulsed tooth or teeth, resulting from traumatic injury
  • reline: acrylic restoration of denture base to compensate for bone loss; direct: done at chairside; indirect: in conjunction with a dental laboratory
  • restoration: replacement of portion of a damaged tooth
  • retained root: partial root structure remaining in jaw after extraction or fracture of a natural tooth
  • root canal therapy: process of removing pulp of a tooth and filling it with an inert material
  • root canal: common term for root canal therapy, also the interior space of the tooth root
  • root resection: removal of a portion of diseased root structure, retaining the remaining natural tooth
  • root: tooth structure that connects the tooth to the jaw
  • rubber dam: soft latex sheet used to establish isolation of one or more teeth from contamination by oral fluids and to keep materials from falling to the back of the throat
  • saliva ejector: suction tube placed in the mouth to remove saliva
  • saliva ejector: suction tube placed in the mouth to remove saliva
  • saliva: clear lubricating fluid in the mouth containing water, enzymes, bacteria, mucus, viruses, blood cells and undigested food particles
  • salivary glands: located under tongue and in cheeks, produce saliva
  • scaling and root planing: meticulous removal of plaque and calculus from tooth surfaces
  • sealants: thin resin material bonded in the pits and fissures of back teeth for the prevention of decay
  • secondary dentin: reparative tooth structure produced by the pulp in response to tooth irritation
  • sequstrum: loosened spicule of bone pushed to the surface
  • sinusitis: inflammation of the sinus that may mimic dental pain
  • sleep apnea: the periodic interruption or delay in breathing during sleep
  • space maintainer: dental device that holds the space lost through premature loss of baby teeth
  • splint: connection of two or more teeth so they function as a stronger single structure
  • supernumerary tooth: extra tooth
  • suppuration: bacterial contamination of tissue exudate; pus
  • tartar: common term for dental calculus, a hard deposit that adheres to teeth; produces rough surface that attracts plaque
  • third-party provider: insurance company, union, government agency that pays all or a part of cost of dental treatment
  • tmd (or tmj disorder): temperomandibular disorder; term given to condition characterized by facial pain and restricted ability to open or move the jaw
  • tmj: the temporomandibular joint, the point where the lower jaw attaches to the skull
  • tooth bud: early embryonic structure that becomes a tooth
  • tooth whitening: a chemical or laser process to lighten the color of teeth; can be done with a professional take-home product or in office in about 1 hour.
  • topical anesthetic: ointment that produces mild anesthesia when applied to tissue surface
  • torus: common bony protuberance on the palate or lower jaw
  • transplant: placing a natural tooth in the empty socket of another tooth
  • trauma: injury caused by external force, chemical, temperature extremes, or poor tooth alignment
  • trench mouth: gum disease characterized by severe mouth sores and loss of tissue. See ANUG.
  • UCR: usual, customary and reasonable fees
  • unerupted tooth: a tooth that has not pushed through the gum and assumed its correct position in the dental arch
  • veneer: plastic or porcelain facing bonded directly to a tooth to improve its appearance. See laminate.
  • vertical dimension: arbitrary space between upper and lower jaws upon closure; may decrease over time due to wear, shifting or damage to the teeth; may need to be re-established in order to avoid problems with bite or tompromandibular joint (TMJ)
  • wisdom teeth: third (last) molars that usually erupt at age 18-25 (when “wisdom is attained”)
  • xerostomia:dry mouth or decrease in the production of saliva; can be side effect of common medications; patients with this situation may need fluoride supplementation and/or saliva substitute to avoid high decay rate

Basic Dental instruments Names and Pictures pdf

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LAST UPDATED: 3/10/2018

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Dental Terminology And Their Uses
Isreal Olabanji DST RN
Am Isreal olabanji a dental assistant and public health professionals and has years of experience in assisting the dentist with all sorts of dental issues. We regularly post timely and trustworthy medical information and news. My goal is to enlighten everyone in all aspects of health towards participating in fitness, Dental care, healthy recipes, child health, obstetrics, and more.
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