Glossary of Dental Clinical Terms

Addressing clinical terms often encountered when selecting the appropriate CDT Code for patient record keeping and claim preparation.


There are many terms used daily by dentists and their staff in the course of delivering care to patients, maintaining patient records and preparing claims. Many terms are familiar, especially to experienced individuals. New dentists and staff, however, may not be as familiar – and over time new terms come into use and old terms are revised for clarity.

Glossary – Clinical Terms

(Words and terms in bold are defined within this glossary. Click a letter to jump to that section.)

Go to: Administrative Terms

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Glossary Part 1 defines clinical terms often encountered when selecting the appropriate CDT Code for patient record-keeping and claim preparation. These terms are often found in (1) nomenclatures and descriptors and (2) treatment plans and patient records. The ADA acknowledges that glossaries developed by other dental organizations may differ (e.g., technical content), and are considered complimentary to this glossary’s focus.


abscess: Acute or chronic localized inflammation, probably with a collection of pus, associated with tissue destruction and, frequently, swelling; usually secondary to infection.

acute periradicular or acute apical abscess–An inflammatory reaction to pulpal infection and necrosis characterized by rapid onset, spontaneous pain, tenderness of the tooth to pressure, pus formation and eventual swelling of associated tissues. May also be known as acute periapical abscess, acute alveolar abscess, dentoalveolar abscess, phoenix abscess, recrudescent abscess, secondary apical abscess.

chronic periradicular or chronic periapical abscess–An inflammatory reaction to pulpal infection and necrosis characterized by gradual onset, little or no discomfort and the intermittent discharge of pus through an associated sinus tract. May also be known as chronic alveolar abscess, chronic apical abscess, chronic dentoalveolar abscess, suppurative apical periodontitis, suppurative periradiucular periodontitis.

abutment: A term with different meanings depending on the clinical scenario.

implant case – the fixture that is placed between the implant body (aka implant post) and the restorative prosthesis (e.g., single crown; denture).

natural tooth case – the tooth used as the support for one end of a denture.

abutment crown: Artificial crown also serving for the retention or support of a dental prosthesis.

accession: Addition of a test specimen, previously collected by a health care provider, to a laboratory specimen collection; recording of essential specimen identification data in a laboratory-maintained file in chronological order of laboratory specimen acquisition; assignment to the specimen of an identification code.

acid etching: Use of an acidic chemical substance to prepare the tooth enamel and or dentin surface to provide retention for bonding.

adhesion: State in which two surfaces are held together by chemical or physical forces or both with or without the aid of an adhesive. Adhesion is one aspect of bonding.

adhesive: Any substance that joins or creates close adherence of two or more surfaces. Intermediate material that causes two materials to adhere to each other.

adjunctive: A secondary treatment in addition to the primary therapy.

adult dentition: See definition of permanent dentition.

allogenic: Belonging to the same species, but genetically different. See graft.

alloplastic: Refers to synthetic material often used for tissue augmentation or replacement.

alloy: Compound combining two or more elements having properties not existing in any of the single constituent elements. Sometimes used to refer to amalgam.

alveolar: Referring to the bone to which a tooth is attached.

alveoloplasty: Surgical procedure for recontouring supporting bone, sometimes in preparation for a prosthesis.

amalgam: An alloy used in direct dental restorations. Typically composed of mercury, silver, tin and copper along with other metallic elements added to improve physical and mechanical properties.

analgesia: See definition under anesthesia.

anatomical crown: That portion of tooth normally covered by, and including, enamel.

ancillary: Subordinate or auxiliary to something or someone else; supplementary.

anesthesia: A procedure that controls the patient's level of anxiety or pain. Delivery of an anesthesia inducing agent by a dentist or other health care practitioner is regulated by state dental boards. ADA anesthesia policy and guidelines are available online ( Please refer to these sources for complete and current information.

The following terms concerning methods of anxiety and pain control are found in CDT code nomenclatures and descriptors:

analgesia–the diminution or elimination of pain.

anxiolysis–the diminution or elimination of anxiety.

deep sedation–a drug-induced depression of consciousness during which patients cannot be easily aroused but respond purposefully following repeated or painful stimulation. The ability to independently maintain ventilatory function may be impaired. Patients may require assistance in maintaining a patent airway, and spontaneous ventilation may be inadequate. Cardiovascular function is usually maintained.

general anesthesia–a drug-induced loss of consciousness during which patients are not arousable, even by painful stimulation. The ability to independently maintain ventilatory function is often impaired. Patients often require assistance in maintaining a patent airway, and positive pressure ventilation may be required because of depressed spontaneous ventilation or drug-induced depression of neuromuscular function. Cardiovascular function may be impaired.

inhalation–a technique of administration in which a gaseous or volatile agent is introduced into the lungs and whose primary effect is due to absorption through the gas/blood interface.

intravenous–a technique of administration in which the anesthetic agent is introduced directly into the patient’s venous system.

local anesthesia–the elimination of sensation, especially pain, in one part of the body by the topical application or regional injection of a drug.

minimal sedation–a minimally depressed level of consciousness, produced by a pharmacological method, that retains the patient's ability to independently and continuously maintain an airway and respond normally to tactile stimulation and verbal command. Although cognitive function and coordination may be modestly impaired, ventilatory and cardiovascular functions are unaffected.

moderate sedation–a drug-induced depression of consciousness during which patients respond purposefully to verbal commands, either alone or accompanied by light tactile stimulation. No interventions are required to maintain a patent airway, and spontaneous ventilation is adequate. Cardiovascular function is usually maintained.

non-intravenous–a technique of administration in which the anesthetic agent is not introduced directly into the patient’s venous system.

regional block anesthesia–a form of local anesthesia that induces numbness in areas of the mouth and face.

trigeminal division block anesthesia–a form of local anesthesia that is an injection of medication that helps relieve facial pain.

Routes of Administration

enteral–any technique of administration in which the agent is absorbed through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or oral mucosa (i.e., oral, rectal, sublingual).

inhalation–a technique of administration in which a gaseous or volatile agent is introduced into the lungs and whose primary effect is due to absorption through the gas/blood interface.

parenteral–a technique of administration in which the drug bypasses the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (i.e., intramuscular [IM], intravenous [IV], intranasal [IN], submucosal [SM], subcutaneous [SC], intraosseous [IO].)

transdermal–a technique of administration in which the drug is administered by patch or iontophoresis through skin.

transmucosal–a technique of administration in which the drug is administered across mucosa such as intranasal, sublingual or rectal.

anomaly: deviation from the normal anatomic structure, growth, development or function; an abnormality.

ANSI/ADA/ISO Tooth Numbering System: See Specification No. 3950.

anterior: Mandibular and maxillary centrals, laterals and cuspids. The codes for anterior teeth in the Universal/National Tooth Numbering System are 6 through 11 (maxillary), and 22 through 27 (mandibular) for permanent dentition; C through H (maxillary), and M through R (mandibular) for primary dentition. This is also a term that, in general, refers to the teeth and tissues located towards the front of the mouth.

anxiolysis: See definition under anesthesia.

apex: The tip or end of the root end of the tooth.

apexification: The process of induced root development to encourage the formation of a calcified barrier in a tooth with immature root formation or an open apex. May involve the placement of an artificial apical barrier prior to nonsurgical endodontic obturation.

apexogenesis: Vital pulp therapy performed to encourage continued physiological formation and development of the tooth root.

apicoectomy: Amputation of the apex of a tooth.

arch, dental: The curved composite structure of the natural dentition and the residual ridge, or the remains thereof, after the loss of some or all of the natural teeth.

areas of oral cavity: A two digit numeric system used to report regions of the oral cavity on patient records and on claims submitted to third-party payers.

00 entire oral cavity
01 maxillary arch
02 mandibular arch
10 upper right quadrant
20 upper left quadrant
30 lower left quadrant
40 lower right quadrant

arthrogram: A diagnostic X-ray technique used to view bone structures following injection of a contrast medium into a joint.

artificial crown: Restoration covering or replacing the major part, or the whole of the clinical crown of a tooth, or implant.

attachment: A mechanical device for the fixation, retention, and stabilization of a prosthesis (Glossary of Prosthodontic Terms, 9th Edition; ©2019 Academy of Prosthodontics). See precision attachment.

autogenous: See graft.

avulsion: Separation of tooth from its socket due to trauma. See evulsion.


barrier membrane: Usually a thin, sheet-like usually non-autogenous material used in various surgical regenerative procedures.

behavior management: Techniques or therapies used to alter or control the actions of a patient who is receiving dental treatment. Examples include use of a papoose board, education or anxiety relief techniques.

benign: The mild or non-threatening character of an illness or the non-malignant character of a neoplasm.

bicuspid: A premolar tooth; a tooth with two cusps.

bilateral: Occurring on, or pertaining to, both right and left sides.

biologic materials: Agents that alter wound healing or host-tumor interaction. Such materials can include cytokines, growth factor, or vaccines, but do not include any actual hard or soft tissue graft material. These agents are added to graft material or used alone to effect acceleration of healing or regeneration in hard and soft tissue surgical procedures. Also known as biologic response modifiers.

biopsy: Process of removing tissue for histologic evaluation.

bitewing radiograph: Interproximal radiographic view of the coronal portion of the tooth/teeth. A form of dental radiograph that may be taken with the long axis of the image oriented either horizontally or vertically, that reveals approximately the coronal halves of the maxillary and mandibular teeth and portions of the interdental alveolar septa on the same image.

bleaching: Process of lightening of the teeth, usually using a chemical oxidizing agent and sometimes in the presence of heat. Removal of deep seated intrinsic or acquired discolorations from crowns of vital and non-vital teeth through the use of chemicals, sometimes in combination with the application of heat and light. Bleaching has been achieved through short and long term applications of pastes or solutions containing various concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. Normally applied externally to teeth; may be used internally for endodontically treated teeth.

bonding: Process by which two or more components are made integral by mechanical and/or chemical adhesion at their interface.

bounded tooth space: See tooth bounded space.

bridge: See fixed partial denture.

bruxism: The parafunctional grinding of the teeth.

buccal: Pertaining to or toward the cheek (as in the buccal surface of a posterior tooth).

by report: A written description of the service provided that is prepared when the term "by report" is included in a procedure code nomenclature; must be part of the patient’s record and included on the claim submission.


calculus: Hard deposit of mineralized substance adhering to crowns and/or roots of teeth or prosthetic devices.

canal: A relatively narrow tubular passage or channel.

root canal - Space inside the root portion of a tooth containing pulp tissue.

mandibular canal - The passage which transmits vessels and nerves through the jaw to branches that distributes them to the teeth.

cantilever extension: Part of a fixed prosthesis that extends beyond the abutment to which it is attached and has no additional support.

caries: Commonly used term for tooth decay.

carious lesion: A cavity caused by caries.

cast: See diagnostic cast or study model.

cavity: Missing tooth structure. A cavity may be due to decay, erosion or abrasion. If caused by caries; also referred to as carious lesion.

cement base: Material used under a filling to replace lost tooth structure.

cementum: Hard connective tissue covering the outer surface of a tooth root.

cephalometric image: A standardized, extraoral projection utilized in the scientific study of the measurements of the head.

ceramic: see porcelain/ceramic.

chairside: See definition under direct.

Classification of Metals: See metals, classification of

cleft palate: Congenital deformity resulting in lack of fusion of the soft and/or hard palate, either partial or complete.

clenching: The clamping and pressing of the jaws and teeth together in centric occlusion, frequently associated with psychological stress or physical effort.

clinical crown: That portion of a tooth not covered by tissues.

closed reduction: See reduction.

Code on Dental Procedures and Nomenclature (CDT Code): A listing of dental procedure codes and their descriptive terms published by the American Dental Association (ADA); used for recording dental services on the patient record as well as for reporting dental services and procedures to dental benefit plans. The CDT Code is printed in a manual titled Current Dental Terminology (CDT).

complete denture: A prosthetic for the edentulous maxillary or mandibular arch, replacing the full dentition. Usually includes six anterior teeth and eight posterior teeth.

complete series: A set of intraoral radiographs usually consisting of 14 to 22 periapical and posterior bitewing images intended to display the crowns and roots of all teeth, periapical areas and alveolar bone crest (source: FDA/ADA radiographic guidelines).

composite: A dental restorative material made up of disparate or separate parts (e.g. resin and quartz particles). See resin.

compound fracture: Break in bone which is exposed to external contamination.

comprehensive oral evaluation: See evaluation.

conscious sedation: See definition of minimal sedation under anesthesia.

consultation: In a dental setting, a diagnostic service provided by a dentist where the dentist, patient, or other parties (e.g., another dentist, physician, or legal guardian) discuss the patient's dental needs and proposed treatment modalities.

contiguous: Adjacent; touching.

coping: A thin covering of the coronal portion of the tooth usually without anatomic conformity. Custom made or pre-fabricated thimble-shaped core or base layer designed to fit over a natural tooth preparation, a post core, or implant abutment so as to act as a substructure onto which other components can be added to give final form to a restoration or prosthesis. It can be used as a definitive restoration or as part of a transfer procedure.

core buildup: the replacement of a part or all of the crown of a tooth whose purpose is to provide a base for the retention of an indirectly fabricated crown.

coronal: Refers to the crown of a tooth.

cracked tooth syndrome: A collection of symptoms characterized by transient acute pain experienced when chewing.

crown: An artificial replacement that restores missing tooth structure by surrounding the remaining coronal tooth structure, or is placed on a dental implant. It is made of metal, ceramic or polymer materials or a combination of such materials. It is retained by luting cement or mechanical means. (American College of Prosthodontics; The Glossary of Prosthodontic Terms). See also abutment crown, anatomical crown, and clinical crown.

crown lengthening: A surgical procedure exposing more tooth for restorative purposes by apically positioning the gingival margin and removing supporting bone.

culture and sensitivity test: Clinical laboratory test which identifies a microorganism and the ability of various antibiotics to control the microorganism.

curettage: Scraping and cleaning the walls of a real or potential space, such as a gingival pocket or bone, to remove pathologic material.

Current Dental Terminology (CDT): The ADA reference manual that contains the Code on Dental Procedures and Nomenclature and other information pertinent to patient record keeping and claim preparation by a dental office; published biennially (e.g., CDT 2020).

Current Procedural Terminology (CPT): A listing of descriptive terms and identifying codes developed by the American Medical Association (AMA) for reporting practitioner services and procedures to medical plans and Medicare.

cusp: Pointed or rounded eminence on or near the masticating surface of a tooth.

cuspid: Single cusped tooth located between the incisors and bicuspids.

cyst: Pathological cavity, usually lined with epithelium, containing fluid or soft matter.

odontogenic cyst–Cyst derived from the epithelium of odontogenic tissue (developmental, primordial).

periapical cyst–An apical inflammatory cyst containing a sac-like epithelium-lined cavity that is open to and continuous with the root canal.

cytology: The study of cells, including their anatomy, chemistry, physiology and pathology.


debridement: Removal of subgingival and/or supragingival plaque and calculus.

decay: The lay term for carious lesions in a tooth; decomposition of tooth structure.

deciduous: Having the property of falling off or shedding; a term used to describe the primary teeth. See transitional dentition.

deep sedation: See definition under anesthesia.

definitive: (a) A restoration or prosthesis that is intended to retain form and function for an indefinite time, which could be the natural life of the patient. There is no scheduled replacement, although some maintenance may be necessary (e.g., cleansing; replacement of the replaceable component of an attachment), procedures that are documented with their applicable codes. (b) A procedure whose outcome is, by intent, not subject to change arising from subsequent delivery of another procedure; a change may occur if the dentist determines that a change in the patient’s clinical condition warrant’s delivery of another or alternative procedure.

Note: The terms definitive and permanent are often used interchangeably.

dental assessment: A limited clinical inspection that is performed to identify possible signs of oral or systemic disease, malformation, or injury, and the potential need for referral for diagnosis and treatment.

dental prophylaxis: See prophylaxis.

dentin: Hard tissue which forms the bulk of the tooth and develops from the dental papilla and dental pulp, and in the mature state is mineralized.

dentition: The teeth in the dental arch.

adolescent dentitionRefers to the stage of permanent dentition prior to cessation of skeletal growth.

primary deciduous (dentition)Refers to the deciduous or primary teeth in the dental arch.

permanent dentition (adult dentition) Refers to the permanent teeth in the dental arch.

transitional dentitionRefers to a mixed dentition; begins with the appearance of the permanent first molars and ends with the exfoliation of the deciduous teeth.

denture: An artificial substitute for some or all of the natural teeth and adjacent tissues.

denture base: That part of a denture that makes contact with soft tissue and retains the artificial teeth.

diagnostic cast: A replica of teeth and adjoining tissues created digitally or by a casting process (e.g., plaster into an impression). “Study model” is another term used for such a replica. Diagnostic casts have various uses, most often the examination of relationships between oral tissues to determine how those relationships will effect form and function of a dental restoration or appliance being planned or to determine whether tissue treatment or modification might be necessary before a pre-definitive impression is taken to ensure optimal performance of the planned restoration or appliance.

diagnostic imaging: A visual display of structural or functional patterns for the purpose of diagnostic evaluation. May be photographic or radiographic.

diastema: A space, such as one between two adjacent teeth in the same dental arch.

direct: A procedure where the service is delivered completely in the patient’s oral cavity and without the use of a dental laboratory.

direct pulp cap: Procedure in which the exposed vital pulp is treated with a therapeutic material, followed with a base and restoration, to promote healing and maintain pulp vitality.

direct restoration: A restoration of any type (e.g., “filling”; crown) fabricated inside the mouth.

discectomy: Excision of the intra-articular disc of a joint.

displaced tooth: A partial evulsion of a tooth.

distal: Surface or position of a tooth most distant from the median line of the arch.

dressing: Medication, bandages or other therapeutic material applied to a wound.

dry socket: Localized inflammation of the tooth socket following extraction due to infection or loss of blood clot; osteitis.


edentulous: Without teeth.

enamel: Hard calcified tissue covering dentin of the crown of tooth.

enteral: See definition under anesthesia.

equilibration: Reshaping of the occlusal surfaces of teeth to create harmonious contact relationships between the upper and lower teeth; also known as occlusal adjustment.

evaluation: The patient assessment that may include gathering of information through interview, observation, examination, and use of specific tests that allows a dentist to diagnose existing conditions. Please refer to specific oral evaluation code (D01xx) descriptors for more complete definitions.

evulsion: Separation of the tooth from its socket due to trauma. See avulsion.

excision: Surgical removal of bone or tissue.

exclusions: Dental services not covered under a dental benefit program.

exfoliative: Refers to a thin layer of epidermis shed from the surface.

exostosis: Overgrowth of bone. See torus.

extraoral: Outside the oral cavity.

extracoronal: Outside the crown of a tooth.

extraction: The process or act of removing a tooth or tooth parts.

exudate: A material usually resulting from inflammation or necrosis that contains fluid, cells, and/or other debris.


facial: The surface of a tooth directed toward . the cheeks or lips (i.e., the buccal and labial surfaces) and opposite the lingual surface.

fascial: Related to a sheet or band of fibrous connective tissue enveloping, separating or binding together muscles, organs and other soft tissue structures of the body.

female component: The concave component of an attachment that fits into the projecting component of an attachment. See semi and precision attachment.

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: A prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth cemented or otherwise attached to the abutment natural teeth or their implant replacements.

follow-up care – Any care provided after a procedure; a service whose nature, scope and timing is determined by the clinical and professional judgment of the dentist.

Note: The term follow-up care is interchangeable with a variety of similar terms (e.g., normal post-operative follow-up; routine follow-up [or post-delivery or post-operative] care).

foramen: Natural opening into or through bone.

fracture: The breaking of a part, especially of a bony structure; breaking of a tooth. See simple fracture and compound fracture.

frenum: Muscle fibers covered by a mucous membrane that attaches the cheek, lips and or tongue to associated dental mucosa.

furcation: The anatomic area of a multirooted tooth where the roots diverge.


general anesthesia: See definition under anesthesia.

genetic test: Laboratory technique used to determine if a person has a genetic condition or disease or is likely to get the disease.

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

gingivectomy: The excision or removal of gingiva.

gingivitis: Inflammation of gingival tissue without loss of connective tissue.

gingivoplasty: Surgical procedure to reshape gingiva.

glass ionomer: A restorative material listed as a “resin” in the CDT manual’s “Classification of Materials” that may be used to restore teeth, fill pits and fissures, lute and line cavities.

gold foil: Thin pure gold leaf that is self adhering when condensed into a cavity. One of the oldest restorative techniques, it is compacted or condensed into a retentive cavity form.

graft: A piece of tissue or alloplastic material placed in contact with tissue to repair a defect or supplement a deficiency.

allograft–Graft of tissue between genetically dissimilar members of the same species. Donors may be cadavers, living related or living unrelated individuals. Also called allogenic graft or homograft.

autogenous graft–Taken from one part of a patient's body and transferred to another.

GTR: See guided tissue regeneration.

guided tissue regeneration (GTR): A surgical procedure that uses a barrier membrane placed under the gingival tissue and over the remaining bone support to enhance regeneration of new bone.


hemisection: Surgical separation of a multi-rooted tooth.

histopathology: The study of disease processes at the cellular level.

homologous: Similar in structure. See graft.

hyperplastic: Pertaining to an abnormal increase in the number of cells in an organ or a tissue with consequent enlargement.


imaging, diagnostic: This would include, but is not limited to, CAT scans, MRIs, photographs, radiographs, etc.

immediate denture: Prosthesis constructed for placement immediately after removal of remaining natural teeth.

impacted tooth: An unerupted or partially erupted tooth that is positioned against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue so that complete eruption is unlikely.

implant: Material inserted or grafted into tissue.

dental implant: A device specially designed to be placed surgically within or on the mandibular or maxillary bone as a means of providing location and support for dental replacement prosthesis.

endosteal (endosseous): Device placed into the alveolar and basal bone of the mandible or maxilla and transecting only one cortical plate.

eposteal (subperiosteal): Subperiosteal implant that conforms to the superior surface of an edentulous area of alveolar bone.

transosteal (transosseous): Device with threaded posts penetrating both the superior and inferior cortical bone plates of the mandibular symphysis and exiting through the permucosa. It may be intraoral or extraoral.

implant index: See radiographic/surgical implant index.

implantation, tooth: Placement of an artificial or natural tooth into an alveolus.

incisal: Pertaining to the biting edges of the incisor and cuspid teeth.

incisal angle: One of the angles formed by the junction of the incisal and the mesial or distal surfaces of an anterior tooth; called the mesioincisal and distoincisal angle respectfully.

incision and drainage: The procedure of incising a fluctuant mucosal lesion to allow for the release of fluid from the lesion.

incisor: A tooth for cutting or gnawing; located in the front of the mouth in both jaws.

indigent: Those individuals whose income falls below the poverty line as defined by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

indirect: A procedure that involves activity that occurs away from the patient, such as creating a restorative prosthesis. An indirect procedure is also known as a laboratory procedure, and the laboratory’s location can be within or separate from the dentist’s practice.

indirect pulp cap: Procedure in which the nearly exposed pulp is covered with a protective dressing to protect the pulp from additional injury and to promote healing and repair via formation of secondary dentin.

indirect restoration: A restoration fabricated outside the mouth.

inhalation: See definition under anesthesia.

inlay: A fixed intracoronal restoration; a fixed dental restoration made outside of a tooth to correspond to the form of the prepared cavity, which is then luted to the tooth. (Glossary of Prosthodontic Terms, 9th Edition; ©2019 Academy of Prosthodontics).

intentional reimplantation: The intentional removal, radicular repair and replacement of a tooth into its alveolus.

interim: (a) A restoration or prosthesis designed for use over a limited period of time; (b) A procedure that whose outcome is, by intent, subject to change arising from subsequent delivery of another procedure. The “interim” period of time for a restoration, a prosthesis or a procedure, is determined by the clinical and professional judgment of the dentist. – See provisional and temporary.

interproximal: Between the adjoining surfaces of adjacent teeth in the same arch.

intracoronal: Referring to "within" the crown of a tooth.

intraoral: Inside the mouth.

intravenous: See definition under anesthesia.

ISO Tooth Numbering System: See Specification No. 3950.


jaw: A common name for either the maxilla or the mandible.

JO: Code that identifies a tooth numbering schema that may be used on a claim submission. Identifies the ANSI/ADA/ISO Tooth Numbering System, a HIPAA standard code set not commonly used in the United States, but used in many other countries. See Specification No. 3950.

JP: Code that identifies the tooth numbering schema used on a claim submission. Designation of Identifies the Universal/National Tooth Numbering System on the dental claim form., a HIPAA standard that is most commonly used in the United States.


keeper or keeper assembly: Any one of various devices used for keeping something in position (Glossary of Prosthodontic Terms, 9th Edition; © Academy of Prosthodontics); see precision attachment.

keratin: A protein present in all cuticular structures of the body, such as hair, epidermis and horns.

keratinized gingiva: The oral surface of the gingiva extending from the mucogingival junction to the gingival margin. In gingival health, the coronal portion of the sulcular epithelium may also be keratinized.


labial: Pertaining to or around the lip. See facial.

laboratory: See indirect

laminate veneer: A thin covering of the facial surface of a tooth usually constructed of tooth colored material used to restore discolored, damaged, misshapen or misaligned teeth.

lesion: An injury or wound; area of diseased tissue.

limited oral evaluation: See evaluation

line angle: An angle formed by the junction of two planes; used to designate the junction of two surfaces of a tooth, or of two walls of a tooth cavity preparation.

lingual: Pertaining to or around the tongue; surface of the tooth directed toward the tongue; opposite of facial.

local anesthesia: See definition under anesthesia.

locus: A site or location.


maintenance, periodontal: Therapy for preserving the state of health of the periodontium.

malar: Pertaining to the cheek or cheek bone; see zygomatic bone.

male component: The projecting part of an attachment that fits into the concave component of an attachment. See semi and precision attachment.

malignant: Having the properties of dysplasia, invasion, and metastasis.

malocclusion: Improper alignment of biting or chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth.

mandible: The lower jaw.

Maryland bridge: Fixed partial denture featuring retainers which are resin bonded to natural teeth that serve as an abutment.

maxilla: The upper jaw.

medicament: Substance or combination of substances intended to be pharmacologically active, specially prepared to be prescribed, dispensed or administered by authorized personnel to prevent or treat diseases in humans or animals.

medicament, topical: Pharmacological substance especially prepared to be applied on tissues of the oral cavity.

membrane: See barrier membrane.

mesial: Nearer the middle line of the body or the surface of a tooth nearer the center of the dental arch.

metals, classification of:

The noble metal classification system has been adopted as a more precise method of reporting various alloys used in dentistry. The alloys are defined on the basis of the percentage of metal content and listed in order of biocompatibility.

High Noble Alloys—Noble Metal Content > 60% (gold + platinum group*) and gold > 40% Au)

Titanium and Titanium Alloys—Titanium (Ti) > 85%.

Noble Alloys—Noble Metal Content > 25% (gold + platinum group*).

Predominantly Base Alloys—Noble Metal Content) < 25% (gold + platinum group*).

*metals of the platinum group are platinum, palladium, rhodium, osmium and ruthenium

microabrasion: Mechanical removal of a small amount of tooth structure to eliminate superficial enamel discoloration defects.

microorganisms: A minute living organism, such as a bacterium, fungus, yeast, virus or rickettsia.

minimal sedation: See definition under anesthesia.

mixed dentition: – see transitional dentition.

moderate sedation:
See definition under anesthesia.

molar: Teeth posterior to the premolars (bicuspids) on either side of the jaw; grinding teeth, having large crowns and broad chewing surfaces.

moulage: A positive reproduction of a body part formed on a cast from a negative impression.

mouthguard: Individually molded device designed primarily to be worn for the purpose of helping prevent injury to the teeth and their surrounding tissues. Sometimes called a mouth protector.

mucous membrane: Lining of the oral cavity as well as other canals and cavities of the body; also called "mucosa."


non-autogenous: A graft from donor other than patient.

non-intravenous: See definition under anesthesia.

normal post-operative follow-up: see follow-up care.


obturate: With reference to endodontics, refers to the sealing of the canal(s) of tooth roots during root canal therapy procedure with an appropriately prescribed material such as gutta percha in combination with a suitable luting agent.

obturator: A disc or plate which closes an opening; a prosthesis that closes an opening in the palate.

occlusal: Pertaining to the biting surfaces of the premolar and molar teeth or contacting surfaces of opposing teeth or opposing occlusion rims.

occlusal radiograph: An intraoral radiograph made with the film, phosphorous plate, emulsion or digital sensor being held between the occluded teeth.

occlusal surface: A surface of a posterior tooth or occlusion rim that is intended to make contact with an opposing occlusal surface. (Glossary of Prosthodontic Terms; ©2019 Academy of Prosthodontics).

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

odontogenic: Refers to tooth-forming tissues.

odontogenic cyst: See cyst.

odontoplasty: Adjustment of tooth length, size, and/or shape; includes removal of enamel projections.

onlay: A dental restoration made outside the oral cavity that covers one or more cusp tips and adjoining occlusal surfaces, but not the entire external surface. It is retained by luting cement. (American College of Prosthodontics; The Glossary of Prosthodontic Terms)

open reduction: Re-approximation of fractured bony segments accomplished through cutting the adjacent soft tissues and bone to allow direct access.

operculectomy: Removal of the operculum.

operculum: The flap of tissue over an unerupted or partially erupted tooth.

oral: Pertaining to the mouth.

oral diagnosis: The determination by a dentist of the oral health condition of an individual patient achieved through the evaluation of data gathered by means of history taking, direct examination, patient conference, and such clinical aids and tests as may be necessary in the judgment of the dentist.

orthognathic: Functional relationship of maxilla and mandible.

orthotic device: Apparatus used to support, align, prevent or correct deformities, or to improve the function of movable parts of the body.

osteitis: See dry socket.

osteoplasty: Surgical procedure that modifies the configuration of bone.

osteotomy: Surgical cutting of bone.

overdenture: A removable prosthetic device that overlies and may be supported by retained tooth roots or implants.


palate: The hard and soft tissues forming the roof of the mouth that separates the oral and nasal cavities.

palliative: Action that relieves pain but is not curative.

panoramic radiograph: An extraoral projection whereby the entire mandible, maxilla, teeth and other nearby structures are portrayed on a single image, as if the jaws were flattened out.

papoose board: A behavior management technique utilizing immobilization to control the actions of a patient who is receiving dental treatment.

parafunctional: Other than normal function or use.

partial denture: Usually refers to a prosthetic device that replaces missing teeth. See fixed partial denture or removable partial denture.

periapical: The area surrounding the end of the tooth root.

periapical abscess: See abscess.

periapical cyst: See cyst.

periapical radiograph: A radiograph made by the intraoral placement of film, phosphorous plate, emulsion or digital sensor, for disclosing the apices of the teeth.

pericoronal: Around the crown of a tooth.

periodic oral evaluation: See evaluation.

periodontal: Pertaining to the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth.

periodontal abscess: See abscess.

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.

periodontics: Periodontics is that specialty of dentistry which encompasses the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth or their substitutes and the maintenance of the health, function and esthetics of these structures and tissues.

periodontist: A dental specialist whose practice is limited to the treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth.

periodontitis: Inflammation and loss of the connective tissue of the supporting or surrounding structure of teeth with loss of attachment.

periodontium: tissue complex comprising gingival, cementum, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone which attaches, nourishes and supports the tooth.

periradicular: Surrounding a portion of the root of the tooth.

permanent: see definitive

permanent dentition: Refers to the permanent (“adult”) teeth in the dental arch that either replace the primary dentition or erupt distally to the primary molars. See Dentition.

pin: A small rod, cemented or driven into dentin to aid in retention of a restoration.

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

pontic: The term used for an artificial tooth on a fixed partial denture (bridge).

porcelain/ceramic:  Refers to materials containing predominantly inorganic refractory compounds including porcelains, glasses, ceramics, and glass-ceramics.

post: Rod-like component designed to be inserted into a prepared root canal space so as to provide structural support. This device can either be in the form of an alloy, carbon fiber or fiberglass, and posts are usually secured with appropriate luting agents.

posterior: Refers to teeth and tissues towards the back of the mouth (distal to the canines); maxillary and mandibular premolars and molars. The designation of permanent posterior teeth in the Universal/National tooth numbering system include teeth 1 through 5 and 12 through 16 (maxillary), and 17 through 21 and 28 through 32 (mandibular); primary teeth in the Universal tooth numbering system are designated A, B, I and J (maxillary), and K, L, S and T (mandibular).

precision attachment: An interlocking device, one component of which is fixed into an abutment or abutments, and the other is integrated into a removable partial denture to stabilize and/or retain it (Glossary of Prosthodontic Terms, 9th Edition; © Academy of Prosthodontics).

premedication: The use of medications prior to dental procedures.

premolar: See bicuspid.

preventive dentistry: Aspects of dentistry concerned with promoting good oral health and function by preventing or reducing the onset and/or development of oral diseases or deformities and the occurrence of oro-facial injuries.

primary dentition: The first set of teeth; see deciduous and dentition.

prophylaxis: Removal of plaque, calculus and stains from the tooth structures. It is intended to control local irritational factors.

prosthesis: Artificial replacement of any part of the body.

definitive prosthesis–Prosthesis to be used over an extended period of time.

dental prosthesis–Any device or appliance replacing one or more missing teeth and/or, if required, associated structures. (This is a broad term which includes abutment crowns and abutment inlays/onlays, bridges, dentures, obturators, gingival prostheses.)

fixed prosthesis–Non-removable dental prosthesis which is solidly attached to abutment teeth, roots or implants.

fixed-removable prosthesis–Combined prosthesis, one or more parts of which are fixed, and the other(s) attached by devices which allow their detachment, removal and reinsertion by the dentist only.

interim prosthesis–A provisional prosthesis designed for use over a limited period of time, after which it is to be replaced by a more definitive restoration.

removable prosthesis–Complete or partial prosthesis, which after an initial fitting by a dentist, can be removed and reinserted by the patient.

provisional: a restoration or prosthesis placed for a longer time period to enable healing, stabilization or diagnostic purposes – see interim and temporary.

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

pulp cap: See direct pulp cap; indirect pulp cap.

pulp cavity: The space within a tooth which contains the pulp.

pulpectomy: Complete removal of vital and non-vital pulp tissue from the root canal space.

pulpitis: Inflammation of the dental pulp.

pulpotomy: Removal of a portion of the pulp, including the diseased aspect, with the intent of maintaining the vitality of the remaining pulpal tissue by means of a therapeutic dressing.


quadrant: One of the four equal sections into which the dental arches can be divided; begins at the midline of the arch and extends distally to the last tooth.


radicular: Pertaining to the root.

radiographic/surgical implant index: An appliance, designed to relate osteotomy or fixture position to existing anatomic structures.

radiograph: An image or picture produced on a radiation sensitive film, phosphorous plate, emulsion or digital sensor by exposure to ionizing radiation.

rebase: Process of refitting a denture by replacing the base material.

recalcification: Procedure used to encourage biologic root repair of external and internal resorption defects. See apexification.


closed reduction: The re-approximation of segments of a fractured bone without direct visualization of the boney segments.

open reduction
: Re-approximation of fractured bony segments accomplished through cutting the adjacent soft tissues and bone to allow direct access.

regional block anesthesia: See definition under anesthesia.

reimplantation, tooth: The return of a tooth to its alveolus.

reline: Process of resurfacing the tissue side of a removable prosthesis with new base material.

removable partial denture: A removable partial denture is a prosthetic replacement of one or more missing teeth that can be removed by the patient.

resin: Resinous material of the various esters of acrylic acid, used as a denture base material, for trays or for other restorations.

resin-based composite: See composite.

resin infiltration: Application of a resin material engineered to penetrate and fill the sub-surface pore system of an incipient caries lesion to strengthen, stabilize, and limit the lesion's progression, as well as mask visible white spots.


orthodontic retainer–Appliance to stabilize teeth following orthodontic treatment.

prosthodontic retainer–A part of a prosthesis that attaches a denture to an abutment tooth, implant abutment, or implant body.

retrograde filling: A method of sealing the root canal by preparing and filling it from the root apex.

revision: The act of revising; second or more surgical procedure for correction of a condition.

root: The anatomic portion of the tooth that is covered by cementum and is located in the alveolus (socket) where it is attached by the periodontal apparatus; radicular portion of tooth.

residual root–Remaining root structure following the loss of the major portion (over 75%) of the crown.

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.

root canal therapy: The treatment of disease and injuries of the pulp and associated periradicular conditions.

root planing: A treatment procedure designed to remove cementum or surface dentin that is rough, impregnated by calculus, or contaminated with toxins or microorganisms.

routine follow-up care: see follow-up care

routine post-delivery care: see follow-up care

routine post-operative care: see follow-up care

rubber dam: A barrier technique used to prevent the passage of saliva or moisture, or to provide an isolated operative field.


salivary gland: Exocrine glands that produce saliva and empty it into the mouth; these include the parotid glands, the submandibular glands and the sublingual glands.

scaling: Removal of plaque, calculus, and stain from teeth.

sealant: A resinous material designed to be applied to the occlusal surfaces of posterior teeth to prevent occlusal caries.

sedation: See definitions under anesthesia.

sedative filling: A temporary restoration intended to relieve pain.

semi-precision attachment: A laboratory fabricated rigid metallic extension of a fixed or removable partial denture that fits into cast restoration, allowing some movement between the components; attachments with plastic components are often called semi-precision attachments. (see Glossary of Prosthodontic Terms, 9th Edition; ©Academy of Prosthodontics).

sextant: One of the six relatively equal sections into which a dental arch can be divided, for example: tooth numbers 1-5; 6-11; 12-16; 17-21; 22-27; 28-32. Sometimes used for recording periodontal charting.

sialodochoplasty: Surgical procedure for the repair of a defect and/or restoration of portion of a salivary gland duct.

sialography: Inspection of the salivary ducts and glands by radiograph after the injection of a radiopaque medium.

sialolithotomy: Surgical procedure by which a stone within a salivary gland or its duct is removed, either intraorally or extraorally.

simple fracture: Break in bone which is not exposed to external contamination.

site: A term used to describe a single area, position, or locus. For periodontal procedures, an area of soft tissue recession on a single tooth or an osseous defect adjacent to a single tooth; also used to indicate soft tissue defects and/or osseous defects in edentulous tooth positions.

space maintainer: A passive appliance, usually cemented in place, that holds teeth in position.

Specification No. 3950: This schema (ANSI/ADA/ISO Specification No. 3950–1984 Dentistry Designation System for Tooth and Areas of the Oral Cavity) is designed to identify areas of the oral cavity as well as uniquely number permanent and primary dentition. Supernumerary teeth are not yet identified using this standard.

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.

stomatitis: Inflammation of the membranes of the mouth.

stress breaker: That part of a tooth-borne and/or tissue-borne prosthesis designed to relieve the abutment teeth and their supporting tissues from harmful stresses.

study model: Plaster or stone model of teeth and adjoining tissues; also referred to as diagnostic cast. See diagnostic cast.

succedaneous tooth: A permanent tooth that replaces a primary (deciduous) tooth.

supernumerary teeth: Extra erupted or unerupted teeth that resemble teeth of normal shape.

suture: Stitch used to repair incision or wound.


temporary: a restoration or prosthesis placed for a shorter time interval for use while a definitive restoration or prosthesis is being fabricated – see interim and provisional.

temporary removable denture: An interim prosthesis designed for use over limited period of time.

temporomandibular joint (TMJ): The connecting hinge mechanism between the base of the skull (temporal bone) and the lower jaw (mandible).

temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD or TMJD): Abnormal functioning of temporomandibular joint; also refers to symptoms arising in other areas secondary to the dysfunction.

TMJD: See temporomandibular joint dysfunction.

therapeutic: Of or pertaining to therapy or treatment; beneficial. Therapy has as its goal the elimination or control of a disease or other abnormal state.

tissue conditioning: Material intended to be placed in contact with tissues, for a limited period, with the aim of assisting the return to a healthy condition.

TMD: See temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD).

TMJ: See temporomandibular joint.

tomography: An X-ray technique that produces an image representing a detailed cross section of tissue structures at a predetermined depth.

tooth bounded space: A space created by one or more missing teeth that has a tooth on each side.

torus: A bony elevation or protuberance of bone. See exostosis.

tracheotomy: A surgical procedure to create an opening in the trachea (windpipe) to aid in breathing.

transitional: Relating to a passage or change from one position, state, phase or concept to another.

transitional: The passage or change from one position, state, phase or concept to another (e.g., transitional dentition).

transitional dentition: Refers to a mixed dentition; begins with the appearance of the permanent first molars and ends with the exfoliation of the deciduous teeth.

transplantation: Surgical placement of biological material from one site to another.

transplantation of tooth: Transfer of a tooth from one socket to another, either in the same or a different person.

transseptal: Through or across a septum.

treatment plan: The sequential guide for the patient's care as determined by the dentist's diagnosis and is used by the dentist for the restoration to and/or maintenance of optimal oral health.

trigeminal division block anesthesia: See definition under anesthesia.

trismus: Restricted ability to open the mouth, usually due to inflammation or fibrosis of the muscles of mastication.

tuberosity: A protuberance on a bone.


unerupted: Tooth/teeth that have not penetrated into the oral cavity.

unilateral: One-sided; pertaining to or affecting but one side.

Universal/National Tooth Numbering System: The ADA and HIPAA standard code set, most commonly used in the United States, that assigns a unique number (from 1-32) to Permanent Dentition, and a unique letter (A-T) to Primary Dentition. This system includes codes for Supernumerary Teeth. The complete schema is illustrated in the Comprehensive ADA Dental Claim Form Completion Instructions posted online at


veneer: See laminate veneer.

vertical bitewing: A dental image with a central projection on which the teeth can close, holding it in a vertical position for the radiographic examination of several upper and lower teeth simultaneously.

vertical dimension: The vertical height of the face with the teeth in occlusion or acting as stops.

vestibuloplasty: Any of a series of surgical procedures designed to increase relative alveolar ridge height.

viral culture: A collection of specimen for the purpose of incubating a virus for identification.


wax pattern: A wax form that is the positive likeness of an object to be fabricated.


xerostomia: Decreased salivary secretion that produces a dry and sometimes burning sensation of the oral mucosa and/or cervical caries.

x-ray: See radiograph.


yeast: A general term for a fungus occurring as a . unicellular, nucleated organism that usually reproduces by budding. Some yeasts may reproduce by fission, many producing mycelia or pseudomycelia.


zygomatic bone: Quadrangular bone on either side of face that forms the cheek prominence. See malar.

Contact Us

Email us anytime at You can also reach out to us from 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday by phone 800.621.8099.