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Dental Terminology

Abutment:

An abutment is the connecting piece that allows the dentist to attach the replacement tooth to the titanium implant. Over the course of treatment, your dentist may utilize two abutments, a healing abutment which is in place while your gum tissue is healing, and a permanent abutment.

An abutment is the connecting element between fixtures and dental crowns which penetrates the soft tissue between the jawbone and the oral cavity.

Adjustment:

A modification made on a dental prosthesis or natural dentition to enhance fit, function, or acceptance by the patient.

Alginate impression:

(Also called a diagnostic cast)

Used for diagnostic purposes by the dentist and to create dental prostheses by the dental lab.

Impression: An imprint or negative likeness of the teeth and/or edentulous areas and the adjacent tissues.

Alveolar Bone:

The bone of the maxillae or mandible that surrounds and supports the teeth.

Alveolar Ridge:

The bony ridge (alveolar process) of the maxillae or mandible that contains the alveoli.

Alveolus:

The cavity in the avleolar process of the maxillae or mandible in which the root of the tooth is held by the attachment process.

Ankylosis:

Ankylosis occurs the roots of primary teeth lose their normal attachment to the bone and become fused directly to the bone.

Anodontia:

Partial or complete failure of natural teeth to form.

Anomoly:

An aberration or deviation from normal anatomic growth, development, or function

Anterior:

In front of or the front part. Situated in front of; term used to denote the incisor or canine teeth or the forward region of the mouth. The forward position. 

Apical Pathology:

Radiographic (x- ray) signs of infection of the “nerve” of a tooth that has spread into the bone surrounding the tip of a root or roots. This lesion is usually found at the tip of the root or roots of a carious and/or infected tooth. (A lesion at the apex of the root of a non-vital tooth) 

Articulate:

1) To join together as a joint.

2) The relating of contacting surfaces of the teeth in the maxillae to those in the mandible.

3) To enunciate clearly or be clearly spoken.

Articulating paper:

Ink coated paper strips used to locate and mark occlusal contacts.

Attachment Level:

The distance in millimeters that exists between the edge of the enamel of a tooth to the gum tissue that is adherent to its root. This attached tissue is at the bottom of a sulcus or a pocket of any given tooth. (Distance in millimeters from the cemento-enamel junction to the functional epithelium). (Epithelial attachment)

Attrition:

Wear on the biting surfaces of the teeth. (Attrition is the term used for wear and tear caused by teeth against teeth).

Biocompatibility:

Material which does not have a harmful effect on biological tissue. The metal titanium which is used in implants from Nobel Biocare is an example of a biocompatible substance.

Bleeding On Probing:

Hemorrhage of the lining of the pocket as a result of gentle probing. This is due to the inflammation and ulceration of the pocket walls elicited by the presence of calculus (tartar), and plaque on the surface of the root adjacent to the pocket wall. (Clinical diagnostic parameter used for the early detection of gingivitis or periodontitis. The most common cause of abnormal clinical bleeding is chronic inflammation)

Bone Grafting:

A surgical procedure that replaces missing bone with a material called bone graft. This material not only replaces missing bone, but also helps your body to regrow lost bone. This new bone growth strengthens the grafted area by forming a bridge between your existing bone and the graft. Over time the newly formed bone will replace much of the grafted material. Bone grafts are needed when part of your body is missing bone. For more information about bone grafts.

Bridge:

  1. A dental fixed bridge (or fixed partial denture) is a prosthetic device which replaces one or more teeth. The bridge is cemented to abutment teeth on both ends of the edentulous space (where the tooth is missing). Abutment teeth are created by grinding down the enamel and shaping the teeth to accept the bridge. A bridge is essentially at least two caps (crowns) with one or more replacement teeth connected in between.
  2. A permanent prosthetic structure which only imposes a load on the wearer’s teeth. Can also be performed using attachments and support on implants.

Bruxism:

A habit of grinding, clenching or clamping of the teeth which can damage the teeth, affect the joints of the jaw, and cause spasms of the muscles of mastication, or a combination thereof. (Bruxism is the clenching or grinding of the teeth when the individual is not chewing or swallowing) 

Calculus:

Tartar, hardened bacterial colonies that form when plaque persists. (Calculus is an adherent calcified or calcifying mass that forms on the surface of natural teeth and dental prostheses. Ordinarily, calculus consists of mineralized bacterial plaque)

Caries:

Dental caries, also known as tooth decay or a cavity, is a disease where bacterial processes change carbohydrate like sugar in food left on teeth to acid that demineralises hard tooth structure (enamel, dentin, and cementum).

Casting Try-In:

A metal framework is fabricated by the dental laboratory. This framework is given to the dentist who checks it in the patient’s mouth to insure proper seating and fit. The metal framework is then sent back to the lab, which then fabricates the porcelain or acrylic teeth and completes the Tissue Integrated Prosthesis.

Combined Lesion:

Endodontic/periodontal abscess. (A lesion involving both the pulp and the periodontal tissues of the tooth).

Conversion Prosthesis:

An interim fixed-prosthesis that the patient wears from the time of uncovering of implants until the final prosthesis is completed. This prosthesis is made from the removable denture or temporary prosthesis that the patient has been wearing since first stage surgery. This removable prosthesis is modified into a fixed prosthesis. It allows the patient to experience the benefits of dental implants immediately after the implants are uncovered.

Coping:

In the Procera® technique, the industrially-produced inner core of a dental crown made of ceramic or titanium. The dental technician applies a layer of porcelain to the outside of the dental coping to match the patient’s other teeth. 

Crown:

The anatomical portion of tooth that projects into the oral cavity (mouth). In prosthetic terms, a crown is a prosthesis that replaces lost tooth structure, usually most of the enamel. It is also commonly known as a “cap”. Crowns are permanently cemented to the tooth. (Anatomic crown: the portion of the tooth covered by enamel. Clinical crown: part of the tooth that has been denuded of its gingiva and projects into the oral cavity) That part of the tooth which is normally visible above the gum.

Crown Lengthening:

Surgical procedure designed to increase the amount of tooth structure projecting into the mouth. (Increase of the size of the clinical crown using periodontal surgical procedures)

Debridement:

Removal of foreign materials and or devitalized tissue from the vicinity of a wound.

Dental Implant:

Dental implants are replacements for your natural teeth. Natural teeth are connected to biologic roots inside the gum tissue. When they become decayed or compromised and unable to function properly, the best solution is recreating teeth that most closely resemble nature.

Dental implants are synthetic roots. The scientifically proven ones are made from titanium, a substance that is compatible with gum tissue and that over just a few months’ time will actually bond to natural bone. They become the sub-structure for a whole new set of non-removable teeth. 

Denture:

An artificial substitute for missing natural teeth and adjacent tissues.

Distraction Osteogenesis:

Distraction osteogenesis is a surgical process for reconstruction of skeletal deformities. It involves gradual, controlled displacement of surgically created fractures which results in simultaneous expansion of soft tissue and bone volume. It is the ability to reconstruct combined deficiencies in bone and soft tissue that makes this process unique and invaluable to all types of reconstructive surgeons. Gavriel Ilizarov, a Russian orthopedic surgeon, is credited with developing the armamentarium and describing the biologic basis of this process for the management of orthopedic limb deformities. The concepts described by Ilizarov have been adapted and modified for use in maxillofacial surgery. Although the majority of surgical experience with distraction technology has been in orthopedics, early results indicate the process to be equally effective in facial skeletal reconstruction. It is now possible to apply distraction technology to deformities of the jaws and dentoalveolar process. Development of miniature, internal distraction devices have made this clinically feasible and practical.

Drifting:

Change in the position of a tooth or teeth (tipping). Drifting is usually due to missing teeth or gum disease. (Pathologic movement of the teeth as a result of inflammation and reduction in periodontal support) 

Edentulous:

Without teeth. Patients may be described as fully edentulous when they are missing all their teeth, or partially edentulous when they are missing some of their teeth. 

Esthetics:

In this context: advantageous in terms of appearance, attractive.

Fibrous Encapsulation:

A soft tissue interface between implant and bone which does not allow osseointegration to occur.

Fixture:

Another name for the titanium dental implant which serves as the artificial tooth root.

Furcation:

Area of the trunk of the root of molar teeth that divides either into two (lower molars), or three roots (upper molars). (Bifurcation, trifurcation)

Furcation Involvement:

Condition in which the furcation of a multirooted tooth is denuded of its periodontal ligament and bone by periodontal disease. (Commonly occurring conditions in which the bifurcation and trifurcation of multirooted teeth are denuded by periodontal disease) 

Gingivitis:

Infection and inflammation of the gum tissues. (An infection and inflammation of the gingiva due to plaque accumulation at the gingival margin)

Guided Bone Regeneration:

A procedure in which a membrane is placed over the bone defect site. This membrane encourages new bone to grow and also prevents the in-growth of fibrous scar tissue into the grafted site.

Inadequate Crown Length:

Inadequate amount of natural tooth surface. (A situation in which a short clinical crown is present on a tooth and it is deemed inadequate for the retention of a required cast restoration).

Hematoma:

A hematoma is a collection of blood outside the blood vessels, generally the result of hemorrhage. A hematoma is a pocket or localized collection of blood usually in liquid form within the tissue. This distinguishes it from an ecchymosis, which is the spread of blood under the skin in a thin layer, commonly called a bruise.

Juvenile Periodontitis:

An advanced loss of the bony support structures of your teeth at a very early age. (A disease of the periodontium occurring in an otherwise healthy adolescent which is characterized by a rapid loss of alveolar bone about more than one tooth of the permanent dentition. The amount of destruction manifested is not commensurate with the amounts of local irritants.)

Malocclusion:

Improper alignment of the upper and lower teeth. (Irregularly aligned teeth, malformation of the jaws, and/or abnormal occlusal relationships)

Mandibular/Maxillary Atrophy:

Deterioration of the upper and/or lower jaw. Usually severe loss of existing bone and thinning of the gum tissues.

Medical Tourism / Dental Tourism:

Dental or medical tourism is the act of traveling to other countries to obtain medical, dental, and surgical care. The term was initially coined by travel agencies and the media as a catchall phrase to describe a rapidly growing industry where people travel to other countries to obtain medical care while at the same time touring, vacationing and enjoying the attractions of the countries which they are visiting.

Molar:

Back tooth, grinder.

Mucogingival Defect

Lack of attached gingiva (gum) as a result of bone loss to gum disease, or absence of gingiva, as in gingival recession, with resultant bone loss. (An inadequate amount of attached gingiva)

Occlusal:

The chewing (top) surface of a given tooth.(Pertaining to the masticatory surfaces of the posterior teeth, prosthesis or occlusion rims).

Oral Hygiene:

The act of maintaining the teeth, gums, and other soft tissues of one’s mouth to maintain a clean and healthy mouth. (The removal of microbial plaque and the prevention of its accumulation on the teeth and adjacent gingival surfaces) 

Oral Surgery:

That part of dentistry comprising the diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases of the oral cavity and jaws.

Osseointegration:

1) A direct structural and functional connection between well-organized, living bone and a surface by a force-absorbent implant.

2) The biological process by which living bone (osseo) fuses with the titanium dental implant to form a man-made tooth root.

Osseous Surgery:

Surgical restoration, to normal architecture, of the bone damaged by periodontal disease.(Procedure by which changes in the alveolar bone can be accomplished to rid it of deformities induced by the periodontal disease process or other related factors, such as exostosis and tooth supereruption).

Overbite:

A term describing the vertical overlap of the front teeth. In a severe overbite, the upper front teeth may completely cover the lower front teeth when the mouth is closed. Overbites can be corrected orthodontically if the bone support of the teeth is adequate.

Overdenture:

Overdenture (Implant Supported) A complete or partial removable denture supported by two or more dental implants and a bar or ball attachment system to provide improved support, stability, and tactile and proprioceptive sensation and to reduce ridge resorption. 

Peri-implantitis:

The formation of deep mucosal pockets with inflammation of the peri-implant mucosa around dental implants is called peri-implantitis. Smokers treated with dental implants have a greater risk of developing peri-implantitis. This condition can lead to increased resorption of peri-implant bone. If left untreated, peri-implantitis can lead to implant failure. In a retrospective study conducted at the University of Vienna, the peri-implant tissue of smokers and non-smokers was compared. The smokers showed a higher score in bleeding index with greater peri-implant pocket depth and radiographically discernible bone resorption around the implant, particularly in the maxilla.

Periodontal Pocket:

Pathological space greater than three millimeters in depth that exists between the root of a tooth and the gum covering that root. (A periodontal pocket is a pathologically deepened gingival sulcus)

Periodontitis:

Periodontitis, a loosening of the teeth, is a common disease, affecting more than 10% of the world’s population. The disease is an infection which destroys the structures that hold the teeth in the jaw.

Periodontitis is caused by bacteria that accumulate in the space where the gum and the teeth meet. If these bacteria are not kept under control by brushing the teeth on a regular basis, they form a hard uneven surface called calculus. Bacteria residing next to the gum causes the gum – also called the gingiva – to become red, swollen and bleed easily. If the bacteria is not kept in check and inflammation is allowed to continue for some time, the fibers that attach and anchor the teeth become loose and one or more may be lost. 

Periodontology:

The study of everything relating to the neck of the tooth and the surrounding tissues and their diseases, such as periodontitis.

Pocket Elimination:

Elimination of the inflamed, infected, flabby gum tissue and correction of underlying bone damage. (Pocket elimination therapy can be directed to: 1. opening up the pocket area to ensure the removal of irritants from the tooth surface or, 2. eliminating, or reducing the depth of the periodontal pocket) 

Pontic:

Artificial tooth or teeth designed to replace missing tooth or teeth. A pontic is attached or supported by the retainers. (An artificial tooth on a fixed partial denture that replaces a missing natural tooth, restores its functions, and usually fills the space previously filled by the natural crown) 

Posterior Bite Collapse:

The decrease in vertical dimension as a result of the collapse and tipping of the posterior teeth due to the loss of the first and/or second molars. (An occlusal disorder caused by the loss of posterior teeth, especially the first and second molars, and subsequent tooth migration)

Primary Occlusal Trauma:

Looseness of the teeth as a result of periodontal infection and bite trauma on otherwise healthy teeth and gum tissues. (The effect of the forces generated by occlusal interferences and/or parafunctional habits, with normal periodontal support)

Probing:

Periodontal Probing is part of the charting process which takes place when a new patient enters the practice or as part of the regular exam when necessary. Periodontal probing along with radiographic exams help to determine if the patient has good periodontal health or not.

Probing is done at 6 sites on a tooth:

1) Mesial buccal or facial

2)Cervical buccal or facial

3) Distal buccal or facial

4) Distal Lingual

5) Cervical Lingual

6) Mesial Lingual

(on some occasions it is necessary to probe a Bi or Trifurcatation of a molar)

A Periodontal Probe is an instrument used to measure the depth of the sulcus or free space around the tooth. The sulcus is like a collar around the tooth and in a normal healthy mouth the depth of the sulcus is usually 1 to 3 millimeters deep. The periodontal probe has markings denoting the depth usually in 3 millimeter increments. There are many different types of probes which has different markings. It seems that the most popular types have the 3 millimeter markings. Some probes have the markings in colors, black, green, yellow etc. alternating with the color of the probe it self such as metal or white, if the probe is plastic.

The probe is placed gently but firmly into the gingival sulcus parallel to the long axis of the tooth to measure the depth of the sulcus. The reading will then be form the gingival margin to the end of the sulcus or pocket toward the apex of the tooth. The readings are then recorded on to the patient’s chart. There can be different styles of perio charts. The simplest seems to be one with the teeth drawn on the chart with the Facial or Buccal aspect, the occusuals in the middle and the Lingual aspect. The readings are placed around the tooth either at the coronal or crown of the tooth or the apex of the tooth.

Probing Depth:

The distance that exists between the crest of the gum and the crest of the bone. (The distance to which a probing instrument penetrates into the pocket) 

Prognosis:

Prediction of the duration, course, and termination of a disease (or the approximate life of a given tooth in periodontal disease), and its response to treatment. ( A forecast as to the probable result of a disease or a course of therapy) 

Prosthetics:

Prosthesis – replacement for a lost body part. In this context;

Oral Prosthetics – that part of dentistry which deals with problems relating to the replacement of teeth and/or jaws.

Prosthodontic Terms

Abutment:  The connecting piece that allows the dentist to attach the replacement tooth to the titanium implant. Over the course of treatment, your dentist may utilize two abutments, a healing abutment which is in place while your gum tissue is healing, and a permanent abutment.

Bone Grafting:  A surgical procedure that replaces missing bone with a material called bone graft. This material not only replaces missing bone, but also helps your body to regrow lost bone. This new bone growth strengthens the grafted area by forming a bridge between your existing bone and the graft. Over time the newly formed bone will replace much of the grafted material. Bone grafts are needed when part of your body is missing bone. For more information about bone grafts.

Edentulous:  Without teeth. Patients may be described as fully edentulous when they are missing all their teeth, or partially edentulous when they are missing some of their teeth.

Casting Try-In:  A metal framework is fabricated by the dental laboratory. This framework is given to the dentist who checks it in the patient’s mouth to insure proper seating and fit. The metal framework is then sent back to the lab, which then fabricates the porcelain or acrylic teeth and completes the Tissue Integrated Prosthesis.

Conversion Prosthesis: An interim fixed-prosthesis that the patient wears from the time of uncovering of implants until the final prosthesis is completed. This prosthesis is made from the removable denture or temporary prosthesis that the patient has been wearing since first stage surgery. This removable prosthesis is modified into a fixed prosthesis. It allows the patient to experience the benefits of dental implants immediately after the implants are uncovered.

Fixture:  Another name for the titanium dental implant which serves as the artificial tooth root.

Osseointegration:  The biological process by which living bone (osseo) fuses with the titanium dental implant to form a man-made tooth root.

Periodontal Terms:

Pterygomaxillare:

The point where the pterygoid process of the sphenoid bone and the pterygoid process of the maxilla begin to form the pterygomaxillary fissure.

Pterygomaxillary:

Relating to the pterygoid process and the maxilla.

Resorption:

The physical process by which bone shrinks and deteriorates.

Pterygomaxillary:

Relating to the pterygoid process and the maxilla.

Pterygomaxillare:

The point where the pterygoid process of the sphenoid bone and the pterygoid process of the maxilla begin to form the pterygomaxillary fissure.

Pyorrhea:

“Pyorrhea” is an infection that leads to the loss of the bony support of the teeth. (An infection of the soft and hard tissues surrounding the teeth that progresses with tissue destruction) 

Reline:

To resurface the tissue side of a denture with new base material so that it will fit more accurately.

Resorption:

The physical process by which bone shrinks and deteriorates.

Retainers:

Primary Occlusal Retainers

Crowns, or “caps” that are designed to support the pontic or pontics. Retainers, or “abutments” are permanently cemented to the teeth adjacent to the space that is “being filled” by the pontic or pontics. (Any type of device used for the stabilization or retention of a prosthesis). 

Scaling and Root Planing:

Removal of calculus deposits from the roots of the teeth, and the subsequent removal of smaller particles of embedded calculus to produce a smooth, hard, clean surface. (Scaling is the process by which plaque and calculus are removed from both supragingival and subgingival tooth surfaces. Root planing is the process by which residual embedded calculus and portions of cementum are removed from the roots to produce a smooth, hard, clean surface)

Secondary Occlusal Trauma:

Looseness of the teeth as a result of periodontal infection and bite trauma. Bony support is inadequate. (The effect of the forces generated by normal occlusal forces, magnified by the reduced resistance of the periodontium to those forces)

Sinus Lift Procedure:

Sinus lift procedures are used sometimes used when there is insufficient bone to place a dental implant. If the x-ray or CAT reveals that there is not enough bone height to place the implant, a bone graft may be required. If the maxillary (upper jaw) sinus is in the area where implants need to be placed, a procedure called a sinus lift may be preformed.

With a sinus lift procedure, a small window of bone is formed and the delicate membrane of the sinus is pushed up. Bone can then be grafted into the area where the sinus was. Many dental surgeons prefer to use bone from the patient (an autogenous graft) to add the needed jawbone height to place implants. The grafts are usually taken from the iliac crest of the hip, a different area of the jaw, or the skull. 

Suppuration:

Presence of pus in a periodontal pocket. It reflects the inflammatory changes in the pocket walls. (Purulent exudate)

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ):

Indication that your jaw structure is not functioning normally. (A disorder of the temporomandibular joint due to structural and/or functional aspects) 

Tissue Integrated Prosthesis:

A fixed prosthesissupported by dental implants. There are two type of Tissue Integrated Prosthesis.

Traditional Brånemark Prosthesis uses acrylic teeth that are supported by a metal framework. It is usually used for the lower arch when there is also an upper TIP present. The acrylic teeth on this prosthesis provide a cushion for the upper porcelain teeth.

Porcelain-Metal Tissue Integrated Prosthesis is usually used in the upper arch. This prosthesis looks more natural and is stronger than the Traditional Brånemark prosthesis. 

Titanium:

Metallic element, Ti. Atomic number 22, atomic mass 47.90, density 4.54 g/cm3 and melting point 1,668 °C. Similar colour to steel. Relatively common in the earth’s crust. In alloyed form, titanium is being used increasingly in the ceramic, aircraft and aerospace industries. Its biocompatible properties enable it to be used in prostheses inserted during surgery. The ability of titanium to establish direct contact with bone tissue is well-documented. Also the name of the planet Saturn’s largest moon. The Titans were an ancient family of gods in Greek mythology, the children of Uranus and Gaia.

 Tooth Mobility:

Looseness of a tooth or teeth as a result of bone loss (tooth support) and/or bite trauma. (Mobility beyond the physiologic range. Mobility may be due to loss of tooth support, trauma from occlusion, and extension of inflammation from the gingiva or from the periapex)

Torus or Tori:

Torus palatinus (pl. palatal tori) is a bony growth on the palate. Palatal tori are usually present on the midline of the hard palate. Most palatal tori are less than 2 cm in diameter, but their size can change throughout life.

Palatal tori are usually a clinical finding with no treatment necessary. It is possible for ulcers to form on the area of the tori due to repeated trauma. Also, the tori may complicate the fabrication of dentures. If removal of the tori is needed, surgery can be done to reduce the amount of bone present. 

Veneers:

What are veneers?

A porcelain veneer is very thin piece of porcelain similar in size to a fingernail that attaches to the front of the tooth to improve overall appearance. Some of the problems that it can repair include chips, small holes and pits. Once in place, it looks, feels, and functions just like a regular tooth.

In what situations should veneers be used?

Porcelain veneers can be used to change the shape and esthetics of the front surface of the teeth.

What are some other alternatives to veneers?

If dark color of the tooth is the only concern, tooth whitening may be the best alternative.

If the teeth are mal-positioned creating overlap or spaces between the teeth, orthodontic treatment (braces) may be the treatment of choice.

In most cases, where both the overall shape and color of the tooth need improvement, porcelain crowns may be the best option. If surfaces other than the facial surface (front of tooth) need repair, crowns can best be used to correct the problem. In most cases, porcelain crowns are better than veneers in masking out dark colors and lightening teeth. They are also stronger and longer lasting than veneers.

More About Veneers 

Vertical Dimension

The amount of facial support. (The distance between the maxilla and the mandible when the teeth are in occlusion)