Glossary of Dental Terms

To help you understand, so you can make your own decisions.


a filling containing silver and mercury.


Dental instruments cleaned by equipment that uses super heated high pressure steam.


grinding the teeth.


A full covering for a tooth using gold or porcelain. Used when the tooth cannot be restored by a filling.


The high points on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (posterior teeth).


Tooth decay or cavities. The gradual erosion of the enamel (the protective covering of the tooth) and dentin (the substance beneath the enamel).


A cleaning procedure accomplished by using a chemical disinfectant according to the directions on the product label. A chemical agent for disinfecting (other than sodium hypochlorite) in the dental setting must be registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a hospital disinfectant, and must be tuberculocidal. Virucidal efficacy must include, as a minimum, both lipophilic and hydrophilic viruses.

Endodontics (endo)

The treatment of diseases or injuries that affect the root tip or nerve of the tooth. The most common procedure that you will deal with is a root canal.


A post that is implanted in the bone. A crown, bridge or denture is then placed over the implant.

Local anesthesia

Relieves the sensation of pain in a localized area.


A removable appliance custom made to lay over your teeth which may alleviate or reduce symptoms from the jaw joint created by grinding while you sleep. This additionally prevents wearing down of the teeth. An orthotic in comparison is exactly fabricated at the position in space that will make the muscles more relaxed and help remove biological waste products (i.e. lactic acid). An orthotic is worn in many cases during the day as well (not during meals).


A laboratory processed restoration made of metal, porcelain or acrylic that replaces one or more of the highest points of the tooth (cusps).

Perio charting

Measures the depth that the gums have detached from the side of the tooth forming a pocket (perio pocket).

Periodontal maintenance

Cleaning of the teeth following periodontal treatment, includes perio charting.

Periodontics (perio)

The treatment of diseases of the gum or bone (supporting structure).

Perio pocket

The pocket that forms when the gums detach from the side of the tooth.


A sticky film on the teeth. If it is not removed by brushing, it can harden into calculus and eventually cause cavities.


a small, nylon filament brush used for cleaning hard-to-reach spaces between teeth and around crowns, bridges, implants or orthodontic appliances.


The soft tissue in the middle of each tooth that receives a rich supply of blood vessels and contains nerves that respond to heat, cold, pressure, and pain.

Root canal

A procedure performed to save a tooth in which the pulp (the living tissue within a tooth) has died or become untreatably diseased, usually as a result of cavities. The nerve of the tooth is removed from the canal inside the root and replaced with a filling material.

Root planing

Deep cleaning of the teeth to remove calculus below the gumline. This is not a prophylaxis. This is a periodontal procedure and is usually performed one quadrant at a time.


Clear application of acrylic placed over the biting surface of the tooth to prevent decay.


The process by which all forms of microorganisms — including viruses, bacteria, fungi and spores — are destroyed. Suitable methods of sterilization include the use of steam under pressure (autoclave), dry heat, chemical vapor and ethylene oxide gas (only for instruments that can be thoroughly cleaned and dried).

Tempromandibular joint (T.M.J.)

This is the connecting hinge between the lower jaw and base of the skull.

Tooth Margin

the contact between a restored surface and the natural tooth structure.

Topical Fluoride

Application of a gel or liquid that may help in preventing decay and does help in desensitizing roots that are exposed.


Custom-made pieces of porcelain that have the effect of re-enamelizing the teeth and returning them to their original beauty. The preparation is much less invasive than for a crown, and preserves more of your natural tooth structure.

Image used with permission from DENTSPLY International, Trubyte.
Contact the Bravo Smile office for the best dental care in Portland, Oregon.