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Dental Glossary

Common Dental Terms

We’ve put together this handy reference guide of terms you might hear when speaking with your dentist or support staff.

Please don’t hesitate to ask your dental care provider for clarification of any terms. We’re here to help make your experience as pleasant as possible!


Palate: Hard and soft tissue forming the roof of the mouth.

Palliative Treatment: The non-invasive relief of irritating conditions.

Parasthesia: A partial loss of sensation that is temporary or permanent.

Partial Denture: A removable dental prosthesis (appliance) that replaces one or more natural teeth.

Pathology: The study of disease.

Pedodontics or Pediatric Dentistry: As the name implies, pediatric dentistry is the field of medicine that deals with dentists for children. A children’s dentist specializes in the care of a child’s small mouth and teeth, normally including braces, invisible braces, crowns, fillings, cleanings, plates, x-rays, and similar tools in everyday work. Caring for the growing mouth of a child is hard work, and requires more education for the specialty of pediatric dentistry.

A pediatric dentist can give parents and caregivers special information regarding habits that can cause trouble later, such as thumb sucking, cavity-causing eating habits, and much more. They also understand the process of teeth growing, falling out, and allowing adult teeth to grow. Sometimes, teeth must be pulled for a variety of reasons, even for small children.

Dentists for children are not solely concerned with tooth maintenance. They are also a vital part of a healthy smile as an adult, and can help a child grow up with an improved self-image. Learning about things that make a child healthy and happy is an important part of being a good parent, and finding a dentist that specializes in pediatric dentistry can do just that.Our pediatric dental specialists are trained to deal with the unique needs of children. This includes calming their fears, specialized equipment and educating them about good oral health.

Periapical (PA): The region at the end of the roots of teeth.

Periodontal Chart: A record measuring the depth of gum pockets around the teeth.

Periodontal Surgery: The recontouring or aesthetic management of diseased gum and supporting tissue.

Periodontist: A dental specialist who treats the gums and supporting soft and hard tissues in order to retain natural teeth and prepare for surgical placement of dental implants.Heredity, diet and other factors can result in gum disease. We will help you get a treatment plan that aggressively attacks any form of periodontal disease that will soon have your mouth back in top health.

Permanent Teeth: Thirty-two adult teeth (approximately) in a complete dentition.

Pit: A small defect in the tooth enamel, or the junction of four formative lobes of a developing tooth.

Plaque: A soft, sticky substance that accumulates on teeth and is composed of bacteria and food debris due to inadequate dental hygiene.

Pontic: A replacement tooth mounted on a fixed or removal appliance.

Porcelain Crown: An all-porcelain restoration that covers the coronal portion of tooth (above the gum line).

Porcelain Fused to Metal (PFM) Crown: A restoration containing metal coping for strength covered by porcelain for appearance.

Porcelain Inlay or Onlay: A tooth-colored restoration made of porcelain and cemented or bonded in place.

Porcelain Veneers: A thin layer of porcelain, fabricated by a laboratory and bonded to a natural tooth to replace lost tooth structure, close spaces, straighten teeth, or change color and/or shape.

Post: A thin metal rod inserted into the root of a tooth after root canal therapy. A post provides retention for a “coping” which replaces lost tooth structure and retains crowns.

Post-Core: A post and buildup to replace lost tooth structure and retain crowns.

Post-Crown: A single structure that combines post-core and crown.

PPO or PDO: A preferred provider or dental organization, which a healthcare dental provider may join offering fee for service treatments 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.

Prosthodontist: “Prosthodontics” involves dentures, bridges, crowns, implants, and similar areas of expertise commonly associated with cosmetic dentistry. Many dentists who specialize in prosthodontics also go on to receive special training in oral or maxillofacial surgery or prosthodontics. This allows them to fix or repair other missing facial features such as nose, eyes, and/or ears, to name a few.

Dentures A prosthodontist specializes in replacing parts of the mouth, jaw, or teeth, often using an artificial device such as dentures, partial dentures, and other items to improve the appearance and correct common oral problems. Dentures cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars typically, in addition to prosthodontist fees. However, affordable dentures exist for those who learn how to find them.

Dental Implants Sometimes, a missing tooth will create the need for a dental implant. A dentist typically uses implants replace a missing tooth or teeth. Dental implants are normally made of titanium at the root, with a traditional crown as the tooth itself. They are an excellent alternative to pulling several teeth in order to utilize a bridge or to get dentures. However, dentures can be made from implants, but can be quite costly without dental insurance coverage.

Since dental implants look just like natural teeth, it’s impossible to tell them apart. This is good for those who have had one or more teeth implanted, especially the most visible front teeth. Not having to feel self-conscious about a missing tooth or an obviously different tooth will improve self-image and increase confidence. No matter what age the patient is, allowing a cosmetic dentist to add a dental implant (or more than one) is well worth the cost.

The implant process normally takes about six months overall. First, the mouth must be measured and the tooth/teeth must be created to fit the individual. Then, it must be implanted into the mouth and anchored to the jawbone. After that, it has to have time to heal properly, becoming an extension of the jaw. Finally, the permanent crown is put on the implant and it looks just like a normal tooth. Although the process seems long and complicated, the results will last a very long time.

Dentists who specialize in this field do not simply replace teeth. They also care for and maintain their work, and are constantly assessing the needs of new patients. In most cases, a full is required for this industry, with the addition of at least two more years to learn the specialty aspect. This branch of dentistry is not new, but is becoming more popular each year, as more people turn to dentistry to correct problems.

Most insurance policies cover at least a portion of a prosthodontic procedure, so long as the treatment is not viewed as purely cosmetic. Even then, dental insurance providers may cover at least part of the procedure, depending on such factors as the individual in question, why the treatment is needed, how much it costs, yearly deductibles, and similar factors. Check with the dental insurance carrier to learn more.

Pulp: The nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue inside a tooth.

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.

Pulpectomy: Complete removal of the pulp (commonly done in children’s teeth).

Pulpitis: Inflammation of the pulp, which is common cause of toothache.

Pulpotomy: Partial removal of the pulp tissue.

Pyorrhea: Older term for periodontal (gum) disease.