Dental Definitions


Abfractions - Defects at the gum line of teeth caused by the loss of tooth structure due to the pressure created by clenching and bruxism.

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

Abutment - A tooth (or implant) that supports a dental prosthesis such as a bridge or denture.

Abutment Crown - Artificial crown serving for the retention or support of a dental prosthesis.

Amalgam - An alloy containing mercury used in direct dental restorations.

Local Anesthesia: - The loss of pain sensation over a specific area of the anatomy without loss of consciousness.


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

Bleaching (Teeth Whitening) - A cosmetic dental procedure that whitens the teeth using a bleaching solution containing some form of hydrogen peroxide.

Bonding - 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.

Bruxism - Constant grinding or clenching of teeth during the day or more commonly while asleep which can create significant wear to teeth.

Build Up - The addition of material to broken down teeth where inadequate structure remains to support a restoration. In most cases composite is added via adhesive or mechanical retention.


Calculus - Hard deposit of mineralized plaque adhering to crowns and/or roots of teeth removed during dental cleanings.

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

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

Composite - A dental restorative tooth-colored 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.

Non-Intravenous Conscious 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 administration of sedative and/or analgesic agent(s) by a route other than IV; (PO, PR, Intranasal, IM) and appropriate monitoring.

Cosmetic Dentistry - Practice of dentistry dedicated to the creation and enhancement of optimal smiles. Employs non-metal restorations and adhesive bonding systems to produce esthetic results not possible with traditional dentistry.

Crown - Restoration covering or replacing the major part, or the whole of the clinical crown of a tooth;

Crown Lengthening - A surgical procedure exposing more teeth for restorative purposes by epically positioning the gingival margin and/or removing supporting bone.

Cusp - The pointed portion of the tooth.


Decay - 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.

Dental Specialist - A dentist who has received postgraduate training in one of the recognized dental specialties.

DDS- Doctor of Dental Surgery

DMD- Doctor of Medical Dentistry

Dentin - That part of the tooth that is beneath enamel and cementum.

Denture - An artificial substitute for natural teeth and adjacent tissues.

Digital X-rays - Latest technology to produce high quality radiographs with 60-90% less radiation than traditional methods. Displayed on a computer screen instantly, digital allows immediate viewing by patients and dental staff.

Direct Restoration - A restoration fabricated inside the mouth.


Enamel - Hard calcified tissue covering dentin of the crown of tooth.

Endodontist - A dental specialist who limits his/her practice to treating disease and injuries of the pulp and associated periradicular conditions, i.e. root canals.

Erosion - Wearing down of tooth structure, caused by chemicals (acids) and is common in eating disorders.

Extraction - The process or act of removing a tooth or tooth parts.


Filling - A lay term used for the restoring of lost tooth structure by using materials such as metal, alloy, plastic or porcelain.

Fixed Partial Denture (Bridge) - A fixed partial denture is a prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth cemented or attached to the abutment teeth or implant abutments adjacent to the space.

Fracture - The breaking of a part, especially of a bony structure; breaking of a tooth.

Full-Mouth X-Rays - A combination of 14 or more periapical and 4 bitewing films of the back teeth. This series of x-rays reveals all the teeth (their crowns and roots) and the alveolar bone around them.


Gingival - Soft tissues overlying the crowns of unerupted teeth and encircling the necks of those that have erupted.

Gingivitis - Inflammation of gingival tissue without loss of connective tissue.

Gingivectomy - The excision or removal of gingiva.

Gingivoplasty - Surgical procedure to reshape gingiva.

Graft - A piece of tissue or alloplastic material placed in contact with tissue to repair a defect or supplement a deficiency in gum or bone tissue.

Gum Lift - The removal of gingival tissue with a diode laser. An important adjunct to cosmetic dentistry used to even the smile line, lengthen short teeth and reduce a gummy smile.


Immediate Denture - Removable prosthesis constructed for placement immediately after removal of remaining natural teeth.

Dental Implant - A device specially designed to be placed surgically within or on the mandibular or maxillary bone as a means of providing for dental replacement; endosteal (endosseous); eposteal (subperiosteal); transosteal (transosseous).

Inlay - An indirect intracoronal restoration; a dental restoration made outside of the oral cavity to correspond to the form of the prepared cavity, which is then luted into the tooth.


Laser Gum Treatment - Use of a diode laser to remove infected granulation tissue from a periodontal pocket. Additional settings sterilize the pocket to promote healing not possible with traditional scaling.

Lumineers - Feldspathic veneers made by the Den-Mart Corporation. Direct marketed to patients promising a no prep technique. Limited in scope of use as many cosmetic cases require preparation for the best result.


Malocclusion - Improper alignment of biting or chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth.

Mercury Removal - Safe procedure removing "silver" fillings and replacing them with composite ("white") filling material. Following the guidelines recommended by The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) this procedure has specific protocols to avoid patient and practitioner exposure.  All "silver fillings" contain 45-55% mercury. 

Maryland Bridge - A type of fixed partial denture not requiring crowns. The prosthesis is bonded to the natural teeth to secure it.

Mouth Guard - Device that fits over the teeth to prevent injury to the teeth, mouth or lips. May also refer to a device that prevents tooth grinding or treats temporomandibular disorders (night guard).


Neuromuscular Dentistry - A philosophy of dental rehabilitation and occlusion which believes the bite position should be where the masticatory muscles are in optimal function. Differs from traditional dentistry which believes the bite position should be determined by joint position (centric relation vs. neuromuscular position). NMD employs technology such as TENS, computerized scans and EMG’s to analyze a patient’s bite and muscle health.


Obstructive Sleep Apnea - A disorder in which breathing stops for short periods of time during sleep. Can be treated by a variety of oral appliances.

Occlusion - Any contact between biting or chewing surfaces of maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) teeth.

Onlay - An indirect restoration made outside the oral cavity that overlays a cusp or cusps of the tooth, which is then luted to the tooth. May be made of metal, porcelain, or composite

Over Denture - A removable prosthetic device that overlies and may be supported by retained tooth roots or implants. Preferable to the traditional due to increased retention and stability of bone long term for denture support.


Periodontal - Pertaining to the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth.

Periodontal Disease - Inflammatory process of the gingival tissues and/or periodontal membrane of the teeth, resulting in an abnormally deep gingival sulcus, possibly producing periodontal pockets and loss of supporting alveolar bone.

Periodontal Pocket - Pathologically deepened gingival sulcus; a feature of periodontal disease.

Periodontitis - Inflammation and loss of the connective tissue of the supporting or surrounding structure of teeth with loss of attachment.

Plaque - A soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth composed largely of bacteria and bacterial derivatives.

Post - An elongated projection fitted and cemented within the prepared root canal, serving to strengthen and retain restorative material and/or a crown restoration.

Precision Attachment - Interlocking device, one component of which is fixed to an abutment or abutments and the other is integrated into a fixed or removable prosthesis in order to stabilize and/or retain it.

Premedication - The use of medications prior to dental procedures, such as antibiotics for various medical conditions.

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

Pulp - Connective tissue that contains blood vessels and nerve tissue which occupies the pulp cavity of a tooth.


Radiograph - An image produced by projecting radiation, as x-rays, on photographic film. Commonly called x-ray.

Removable Partial Denture - A removable partial denture (removable bridge) is a prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth that can be removed by the patient. Held in place by clasps or attachments to existing teeth.

Root Canal - The portion of the pulp cavity inside the root of a tooth; the chamber within the root of the tooth that contains the pulp. Portion of the tooth treated by endodontic therapy.

Root Canal Therapy - The treatment of disease and injuries of the pulp and associated periradicular conditions.

Root Plane - A procedure designed to remove microbial flora, bacterial toxins, calculus, and diseased cementum or dentin on the root surfaces and in the pocket. Therapy beyond a normal dental prophylaxis. Can be accompanied by laser therapy.


Scaling - Removal of plaque, calculus, and stain from teeth.

Sealants - Plastic resin placed on the biting surfaces of molars to prevent bacteria from attacking the enamel and causing caries.

Splint - A device used to support, protect, or immobilize oral structures that have been loosened, replanted, fractured or traumatized. Also refers to devices used in the treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders.


Temporomandibular (TMJ) - The connecting hinge mechanism between the base of the skull (temporal bone) and the lower jaw (mandible).

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction - Abnormal functioning of temporomandibular joint; also refers to symptoms arising in other areas secondary to the dysfunction, especially muscle symptoms.


Veneer - In the construction of crowns or pontics, a layer of tooth-colored material, usually, but not limited to, composite, porcelain, ceramic or acrylic resin, attached to the surface by direct fusion, cementation, or mechanical retention; more commonly refers to a porcelain restoration that is luted to the facial surface of a tooth to change its appearance in cosmetic procedures.

Mac Veneers - Custom cosmetic restorations created by MicroDental Laboratories in Dublin, CA. One of the most respected and leading edge dental laboratories in the world.

Elahe Wissinger, DMDFamily & Cosmetic Dentistry tucson dental office
2504 E. River Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85718
(520) 745-5496
  • Monday..........8:00am to 5:00pm
  • Tuesday..........8:00am to 5:00pm
  • Wednesday..........8:00am to 5:00pm
  • Thursday..........8:00am to 5:00pm