Glossary of Dental Terms


  • ABUTMENT
    A support for a crown, bridge, bar or other restoration. This could be either a tooth or an implant. An abutment is also the description given to the attachment that is inserted into an implant and allows a crown or other restorative system to be connected to the implant.

  • ACADEMY OF OSSEOINTEGRATION
    A dental organization committed to the advancement of oral health and well being by disseminating state of the art clinical and scientific knowledge of implant dentistry and tissue engineering.

  • ALLOGRAFT:
    A graft material that comes from a cadaver source. These products are used in a variety of reconstructive procedures in medicine and dentistry. In dentistry, they can be used to help rebuild a deficient dental ridge or improve tissue thickness. The use of allograft materials help provide a scaffold for new tissue growth and provide an inductive effect on the bone or connective tissue growth process. These materials are processed and prepared from tissue banks and are considered to be very safe from any risk of infectious disease.

  • ALVEOLAR RIDGE:
    The portion of bone surrounding and supporting the teeth.

  • ATROPHY:
    A decrease in size of a tissue, typically from disuse.

  • AUGMENTATION:
    A procedure that corrects a hard tissue (bone) or soft tissue (gums) deficiency.

  • AUTOGRAFT:
    This is a graft material that comes from a patient's own body. It may be any type of tissue. In dentistry, the typical graft tissues are either bone or connective tissue. Bone may be grafted from one site to another to improve or restore the height and or width of a dental ridge in preparation for dental implants. Typically, this bone comes from somewhere else within the patients mouth but may be taken from a different area (donor site). Autografts area considered to be the "gold standard" by which other graft materials and techniques are compared. They provide a spectrum of vital cells needed for rebuilding bone or soft tissues. Since autografts require a second surgical site allografts have become popular.

  • BAR OVERDENTURE:
    A type of denture that gets support, retention and stability from a bar that is attached to two or more implants. The increase in stability helps to slow or stop bone resorption that is so common over time in denture wearers.

  • BARRIER MEMBRANE:
    A device which helps confine a grafted area. It prevents movement of grafting material and controls the growth of undesirable cells into a site with or without a graft material.

  • BLEACHING:
    Bleaching involves the removal of acquired discolorations or stains. Our office is a BriteSmile Center. This is an in-office bleaching technique that only takes an hour and has dramatic results. We also have Zoom in office bleaching system and take home bleach systems that utilize trays and gels designed to more gradually remove stains. These are safe and effective. Results are normally more dramatic and much faster than store bought bleaching systems.

  • BONE ATROPHY:
    The loss of bone volume due to disuse. This is a concern after a tooth is lost from the mouth. The alveolar bone surrounding the tooth resorbs or atrophies. In the first year after tooth loss the bone can lose 25% or more of its volume. This loss continues thereafter but typically at a slower pace.

  • BONE AUGMENTATION (GRAFTING):
    Bone grafting is the process of rebuilding or regenerating bone in an area where a dental implant is planned. After a tooth is lost, bone gradually resorbs (usually starting from the facial side), resulting in a situation that could compromise the implant placement or restoration. The bone grafting (or guided regeneration) makes more ideal implant placement possible.

  • BRIDGE:
    A tooth replacement technique that utilizes adjacent teeth (abutments) to retain a pontic (replacement) tooth. It can be made of different material combinations depending on functional and esthetic requirements. Abutment teeth are typically prepared to have crowns. The crowns serve as the retainers that hold the replacement tooth in place.

  • CROWN:
    A restoration that replaces the entire part of a tooth that is normally above the gum line. It can be made of different material combinations depending on esthetic and functional needs. They are either bonded or cemented onto an existing tooth or implant.

  • COSMETIC CROWN LENGTHENING:
    A technique designed to increase the length of a tooth or teeth for improved esthetics. This technique may be used to decrease the amount of gum tissue that a person displays when smiling. Improvements are dramatic when indicated and results in very little or no post-operative discomfort. The healing period is normally very short.

  • CT SCAN (CAT SCAN):
    Computed axial tomography scan. A three dimension volumetric diagnostic tool used to evaluate quantity and quality of bone available for implant reconstruction. It is also useful in identifying important structural landmarks, vital structures and any existing pathology.

  • CT SCAN APPLIANCE:
    an appliance built to display on a CT image the position of desired teeth or restoration. These are used to help determine the ideal implant location relative to the desired restoration whether it be a bar over-denture, crown or a complex full arch reconstruction of fixed porcelain teeth.

  • DENTAL IMPLANT:
    An anchor placed in the bone to help secure a crown or denture. They are made of titanium which is highly biocompatible. Bone cells grow into direct contact with the titanium surface resulting in a very strong union. As few as two implants can be used to dramatically improve the retention of a lower denture. When individual crowns are fabricated on implants the results feel secure and natural. They appear as though a natural and healthy tooth is emerging from the gums. They provide stimulation to the bone thereby preventing bone loss that typically follows tooth loss.

  • DENTURE:
    A replacement for teeth that has the prosthetic (replacement) teeth attached to an acrylic base which in turn rests upon the tissues in the mouth.

  • DIAGNOSTIC WAX-UP:
    A wax representation of a plan for esthetic work or reconstruction fabricated on a model of a patient's teeth. One can be used to help fine tune an esthetic plan and aid in communication between the dentist, the patient, and the dental laboratory to assure an outcome that meets the goals of the patient. Provisional veneers can be fabricated using a diagnostic wax-up as a guide to further help in finalizing a plan.

  • DIGITAL X-RAYS:
    A filmless radiographic technique. The radiographic image is captured directly to a computer file via a sensor. The advantages include a significant reduction in radiation as well as ease of display, organization and communication. X-Ray images are available immediately to assist in diagnosis and planning.

  • DONOR SITE:
    The area of the body or mouth that a graft is taken from (harvested).

  • FIXED PROSTHESIS:
    In dentistry this is a replacement tooth or teeth that is fixed and to either implants or other teeth.

  • IMMEDIATE IMPLANT PLACEMENT:
    The placement of a dental implant in the site of an extracted tooth immediately upon removal of the tooth. In certain situations this is advantageous, especially in the esthetic zone where maintenance of the soft tissue profile (gum position) is of utmost importance.

  • IMMEDIATE LOADING:
    A situation where minimal forces are allowed on an implant or implants immediately after placement in the oral environment.

  • IMMEDIATE PROVISIONAL:
    A temporary restoration placed on the same day as the placement of the implant(s).

  • IMPLANT:
    In dentistry, a titanium anchor which is placed into the bone, which upon osseointegration can be used to attach a crown or attachment to retain and/or support a fixed or removable denture or bridge. The most common and successful type of implant is the root form implant which mimics a dental tooth root.

  • IMPLANT DENTISTRY:
    The field of dentistry dealing with the diagnosis, surgical placement, prosthetic reconstruction, and maintenance of dental implants.

  • INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF ORAL IMPLANTOLISTS:
    The ICOI is the world's largest dental society dedicated the highest standards of patient care in implant dentistry.

  • NIGHTGUARD:
    A removable appliance used to protect the teeth, prosthetic reconstruction or veneers from the effects of nocturnal bruxism or clenching.

  • ONLAY:
    Similar to a crown in that this restoration is indicated on teeth compromised by extensive restoration material, decay or fractures. They normally do not cover the entire portion of the tooth visible in the mouth. They can be made of gold or porcelain. Today, the porcelain onlays are very popular due to their ability to mimic the natural appearance of a tooth better than most types of restorations and generally are more conservative to tooth structure than crowns. The porcelain restorations are bonded to the remaining tooth and are very durable and reliable.

  • OSSEOINTEGRATION:
    The process by which bone grows into direct contact with an implant.

  • OVERDENTURE:
    A denture that rests on a supporting structure. This may be a bar connected to implants, individual implants or tooth supported attachments.

  • REMOVABLE PARTIAL DENTURE:
    A tooth or set of teeth that is removable and is supported and retained by other structures in the mouth.

  • RIDGE EXPANSION:
    Surgical widening of a bone ridge in the mouth to allow for the placement if an implant or implants. This procedure if sometimes indicated as an alternative to grafting in cases where a ridge has lost width subsequent to tooth loss.

  • RISK FACTOR:
    A condition shown to negatively affect the success of a treatment modality. In the case of implant dentistry potential risk factors may include diabetes and smoking.

  • PANOREX X-RAY:
    This is an extra-orally taken radiographic technique(sensor or film is outside the mouth) that allows the dentist to have a panoramic view of the entire upper and lower arch including the lower portion or the jaw all the way to the orbital rims or the eye socket. Also visible are the jaw joints (Tempero-Mandibular Joint)(TMJ). Although the resolution of this type of radiograph is not as good as a digital intra-oral x-ray, a lot of information can be attained relatively easily with a very low radiation exposure. These radiographs are very helpful in implant planning.

  • PLATELET-RICH PLASMA (PRP):
    An autologous product derived from whole blood that contains plasma with a high concentration of platelets and growth factors. The PRP is believed to assist in early graft stabilization and wound healing following a surgical procedure.

  • PROVISIONAL VENEERS:
    Temporary veneers made from a resin material used while waiting for permanent veneers to be fabricated. They can be made using a diagnostic wax-up as a guide to help preview what the permanent veneers would look and feel like. They are often used to help fine tune an esthetic plan.

  • SINUS LIFT (Elevation):
    This is a technique is designed to correct a problem that occurs in the posterior areas of the upper jaw. The problem arises as a result of gradual expansion of the maxillary sinus space thereby limiting the amount of bone available for implants in these areas. The expansion appears to be more significant after the loss of molar teeth on the upper arch, but also takes place naturally over time.
    The sinus lift actually lifts a membrane on the lower portion of the sinus cavity enabling the dentist to place bone graft materials above the existing bone in the area. The body slowly replaces the graft material with vital bone over the course a few months.
    This procedure enables the dentist to place implants in an area that would have otherwise been insufficient in bone height.

  • STEREOLITHIC MODELS:
    Computer generated models, fabricated from information obtained from a CT scan, representing the exact shape of the jaw bones. They are used help plan implant placement procedures and to fabricate surgical guides.

  • SURGICAL GUIDE:
    A template designed to us as a guide during the placement of implants to improve accuracy of position and spacing.

  • "TEETH IN AN HOUR":
    An approach to implant reconstruction that allows for a patient to get implants and replacement teeth during the same dental visit.
    This technique requires careful case selection and planning. Not all patients are good candidates for this approach. An ideal patient typically has good bone volume and quality. Additional implants are often placed to help distribute forces.

  • TETRACYCLINE:
    An antibiotic when used at a young age can cause a permanent gray discoloration to the teeth.

  • VENEERS:
    A veneer is a thin shell of material that can be placed on a tooth to change its color, shape, length, etc. They are extremely durable when properly bonded onto the tooth.






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    Dr. Joseph D'Angelo / Dr. Ashley Olson
    La Jolla Dentistry
    1111 Torrey Pines Rd. #101
    La Jolla, CA 92037
    858.459.6224