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Oral Health Care: A Whole New Language

Course Number: 21

Terms M-Z


  • Bottom jaw

  • Is able to move.

  • ‘Mandibular’ refers to the bottom jaw.


Marginal Gingiva

  • The border or edge of gingiva nearest the incisal/occlusal surface; marks opening of gingival sulcus.

  • Also called free gingiva.


  • Top jaw

  • Does not move.

  • ‘Maxillary’ refers to the top jaw.



  • Toward the middle; often used to describe the side of a particular tooth that is closest to the anterior or front of the mouth.


MO (mesio-occlusal)

  • Usually refers to dental caries or a restoration located at the mesial and extending onto the occlusal surface.

MOD (mesio-occlusal-distal)

  • Includes those 3 surfaces of the tooth.

  • Generally refers to the location of a filling/restoration.


  • Posterior teeth

  • Have a broad chewing or grinding surface.

  • There are 12 molars – 6 maxillary (3 right and 3 left) and 6 mandibular (3 right and 3 left). This includes the 3rd molars or wisdom teeth.

Mucogingival Junction (MGJ)

  • On the facial side of a tooth, a scalloped line where the attached gingiva and the alveolar mucosa come together.


Non-Surgical Periodontal Therapy

  • A treatment for an infection of the periodontium that is sometimes the least invasive and very cost-effective. Non-surgical periodontal therapy typically includes debridement (also called scaling and root planing) to carefully remove the primary etiologic factor in the disease – bacterial biofilm and toxins (dental plaque) and calculus (tartar). Often non-surgical periodontal treatment also includes adjunctive therapy such as local delivery of antimicrobials and host modulation based upon the needs of the individual patient.

  • Periodontal patients require ongoing maintenance therapy to maintain health. Non-surgical therapy has limitations and if periodontal health is not attained, surgery may be indicated.


  • Toward the chewing surface of posterior teeth.


  • The way the teeth fit together when both arches come together (occlude).


  • Removal of a tooth.

Oral Biofilm/Microbial Plaque

  • Dense, nonmineralized mass of bacterial colonies in a gel-like matrix.

  • Adheres to tooth and root surfaces and oral appliances.

Periodontium (Periodontal)

  • All of the supporting structures of the teeth, including gingiva, periodontal ligament, cementum, and alveolar bone.

  • Periodontal refers to the periodontium.

  • Maintaining health and function of the periodontium is probably the most significant factor in how long the dentition will last!

Periodontal Ligament

  • The fibrous connective tissue that supports, surrounds, and attaches the roots of the teeth to alveolar bone.

  • Consists of several fiber groups, including Sharpey’s fibers.

Periodontal Probe

  • A slender instrument with a blunt or slightly bulbous end that is used to explore and measure the depth of the sulcus or pocket.

  • Calibrated in various increments of millimeter markings depending on the type of probe.


Periodontal Probing Depths

  • Measurement of the deepness of a sulcus or periodontal pocket.

  • Used to distinguish a sulcus (0-3 mm) from a pocket (4+ mm).



  • Directed toward or situated at the back; opposite of anterior.

  • In the mouth, includes 20 teeth (molars and premolars); 5 in each quadrant (because it includes 1 wisdom tooth or third molar in each quadrant).


  • Posterior teeth

  • Have a broad chewing or grinding surface but are smaller than molars.

  • There are 8 premolars – 4 maxillary (2 right and 2 left) and 4 mandibular (2 right and 2 left).


  • Sometimes abbreviated as prophy or pro.

  • Comes from the Greek word “prophylaktikos,” which means to guard or prevent beforehand. In medicine and dentistry, it means treatment to prevent the onset of a particular disease (“primary” prophylaxis), or the recurrence of symptoms in an existing infection that has been brought under control (“secondary” prophylaxis, maintenance therapy).

  • Dental or oral prophylaxis (teeth cleaning) is defined as debridement (scaling and polishing) to remove plaque, calculus and stains performed for dental patients in normal or good periodontal health to help prevent periodontal disease. Scaling to remove calculus is the preventive element of the prophylaxis, while polishing is a selective cosmetic and esthetic addition to the scaling procedure and has no therapeutic value in preventing or treating periodontal (gum) disease. Oral prophylaxis does NOT mean coronal polishing because polishing does nothing to prevent disease, but is merely a cosmetic procedure.


  • A resin material applied to the occlusal surfaces of teeth to prevent dental caries.


Sharpey’s Fibers

  • The name of connective tissue fibers that actually embed in cementum and stretch across to connect to the alveolar bone.


  • The gingival sulcus is located between the tooth and the free gingival margin and is the crevice that surrounds the tooth. In healthy gingiva the periodontal probing depth is 3 mm or less.



  • Above or higher than a specified point of reference.

Supine Position

  • A posture in which the individual is lying on the back with the face up.

  • The most common treatment position for patients having dental treatment.


  • Fainting


  • Treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder.

White Knuckle Syndrome

  • A condition in which the patient is apprehensive and fearful, often manifested by clutching the arm of the chair until the knuckles turn white!