Visiting the dentist can be intimidating if you don’t understand the medical or insurance terminology used. The following terms will help you better understand the language of your dentist and dental staff:
A filling material commonly used to repair cavities in your teeth. Contains mercury combined with silver, tin, copper, and sometimes zinc.
Also known as: silver fillings
An infection of a tooth, soft tissue, or bone, resulting in inflammation, pus, tissue destruction and swelling.
A medication your dentist uses that eliminates or reduces your sensation of pain during a dental procedure. An example of local anesthesia is numbing a tooth. General anesthesia results in partial or complete unconsciousness.
Billing a patient for the difference between the dentist’s actual charge and the amount reimbursed under the patient’s dental benefit plan.
A person who is eligible for benefits under a dental benefit contract.
Removal of a small piece of tissue for diagnostic examination.
Also known as: dental biopsy
A single X-ray that shows your teeth from crown to the supporting bone on the same film.
Chemical or laser treatment of natural teeth that uses peroxide to produce the whitening effect. Used to eliminate or reduce surface stains on your teeth.
Also known as: tooth whitening
The covering of a tooth surface with a tooth-colored composite to repair or change the color or shape of a tooth.Generally used to repair a tooth due to stain or damage.
A stationary dental prosthesis fixed to teeth that replaces one or more missing teeth. A bridge is typically cemented or bonded to supporting teeth next to the space.
Also known as: a fixed partial denture.
The medical term for clenching or grinding of your teeth, especially at night.
The deposit of a hard mineral substance which sticks to either the crowns or roots of teeth.
A small hole in one of your teeth caused by tooth decay.
Also known as: cavies
A part of a dental benefit program that allows the patient to share in the cost of covered services, generally on a percentage basis. A typical coinsurance arrangement is one in which the third- party insurance pays 80% of the allowed benefit of the covered dental service and the beneficiary pays the remainder of the amount due the dentist.
A complete set of dental x-rays taken of a patient’s teeth and adjacent hard tissue, usually consisting of 14 to 22 bitewing images that display the crowns and roots of all teeth, periapical areas and alveolar bone crest.
A synthetic restorative material made up of two different fillers; for example, resin and quartz particles.
A branch of dentistry that focuses on enhancing the color and shape of teeth through dental procedures.
Also known as aesthetic dentistry
The portion of a tooth above the gum line that is covered by enamel OR an artificial tooth or artificial replacement for the covering on a tooth. This replacement can be made of porcelain, composite, or metal and is cemented on top of the damaged tooth.
A synthetic replacement for all of your teeth in either your upper or your lower jaw.
A self-funded dental benefits program that reimburses patients according to dollars spent on dental care, not type of treatment received. Allows patients to be treated by the dentist of their choice.
The naturally hard ceramic which covers the exposed part of your teeth.
A dentist who specializes in the treatment of diseases or injuries affecting the nerves or root tips in your teeth. Root canals are often performed by an endodontist.
explanation of benefits (EOB)
A written statement to a beneficiary from a third-party payer, after a claim has been reported, indicating the benefit/charges covered or not covered by the dental benefit plan.
Restoration of lost tooth structure with metal, porcelain, or resin materials. Cavities are treated with fillings.
A mineral that strengthens your teeth enamel, making them less likely to decay. You ingest fluoride through the food or water, but it is also an ingredient in most toothpastes. It can also be applied as a gel or liquid to the surface of your teeth to help prevent cavities.
The inflammation of your gums caused by improper brushing. Gingival gum tissue is inflamed, swollen, and reddish and may bleed easily when touched or brushed. Gingivitis is the first sign of periodontal (gum) disease. Without treatment, gingivitis leads to tissue destruction and tooth loss.
The medical term for bad breath. Caused by poor oral hygiene, tobacco or alcohol use, or medical conditions such as respiratory infections or diabetes.
An unerupted tooth that lies under your gum tissue and has not come in.
A metal rod (typically titanium) that serves as a permanent replacement for one of your missing teeth. Differs from a bridge in that an implant is surgically placed into the jawbone.
Also known as: dental implant, tooth implant
The technique of using a solution to wash out the mouth and flush debris from teeth.
A gas administered during dental procedures to relax patients and reduce anxiety.
Also known as: laughing gas
A dental x-ray showing a complete two-dimensional representation of all teeth in the mouth. This X-rays also shows the relationship of the teeth to the jaws and the jaws to the head.
A dentist who specializes in the treatment of children’s teeth.
Also known as: pediatric dentist, child dentist, kids’ dentist
A dentist who specializes in the treatment gum diseases. A periodontist must complete post-graduate training in periodontology for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal diseases and inflammation.
A sticky film that continually forms on teeth from food particles mixed with saliva and bacteria. When untreated, plaque turns into tartar or calculus and is the primary factor in cavities and gum disease.
Cleaning your teeth.
A dentist who specializes in the replacement of missing teeth.
A procedure where the nerve and pulp of a heavily decayed tooth are removed from the tooth, and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. Typically requires more than one office visit, and is usually performed by an endodontist.
A thin, clear or white resin substance that is applied to the biting surfaces of teeth to prevent decay.
temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
A dental problem impacting the muscles and joint that connect the lower jaw with the skull. TMJ is typified by facial pain and difficulty opening or moving the jaw. Often accompanied by a clicking or popping sound when opening or closing the jaw.
Also known as: temporomandibular disorder (TMD), lockjaw
A thin shell of tooth-colored plastic or porcelain bonded directly to the front side of teeth to improve their appearance. A veneer may be used to replace lost tooth structure, close gaps, straighten teeth, or change their color and/or shape.
The third and final molars that usually erupt between age 18-25. Wisdom teeth are often extracted before eruption to prevent future dental problems, such as tooth crowding, impacted teeth, infections, or cysts.
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High-frequency light or radiation that penetrates substances. In dentistry, there are typically four types of X-rays: periapical, bite-wing, occlusal, and panoramic.