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Professional Dental Terminology for the Dental Assistant and Hygienist

Course Number: 542


panoramic image – A single radiographic image that takes an image of the entire maxillary and mandibular areas. It is used to primarily look at areas such as third molars and abnormalities of the bone surrounding the teeth.

partial denture – A removable appliance for the oral cavity to replace multiple teeth. It uses bars and wires to attach to remaining teeth for stability.

pediatric dentistry – The recognized dental specialty dealing with children, adolescents and special needs children. These dentists are known as Pedodontists or Pediatric Dentists. This specialty requires at least three years of education beyond dental school.

periodontal chart – A specialized chart that allows the dental professional to record such things as probing readings, clinical attachment levels, and bone levels for comparison at each clinical visit to determine presence or progression of any disease or inflammation.

periodontal disease – An oral disease that causes inflammation and bone loss around the teeth. It can be a single tooth, several teeth or through-out the oral cavity. Oral bacteria and genetics play a strong role in this disease development and progression.

periodontal ligaments – Tiny fibers that attach the cementum of the tooth to the surrounding bone.

periodontal screening – An examination procedure that looks at oral tissue health and periodontal pocket depths to determine if periodontal disease is present or if the patient is at risk for it.

periodontics – The recognized dental specialty dealing with the periodontium and its diseases and treatments. This specialty requires at least three years of education beyond dental school and the specialists are referred to as Periodontists.

periodontium – The surrounding and supporting structures of the teeth.

permanent dentition – The teeth that erupt when the primary teeth are lost. There are 32 teeth in the permanent dentition.

pit and fissure sealants – A resin material that is painted on the pit and fissures of the teeth to provide a barrier to decay.

plaque/biofilm – Bacteria that are in a protective layer that will adhere to the teeth. If they contain a significant number of certain types of bacteria, they contribute to producing demineralization of teeth and ultimately tooth decay.

porcelain fused to metal (PFM) crown – A type of permanent crown that is tooth colored, esthetically pleasing, and is very strong since it has a metal base, covered in porcelain.

posterior teeth – The back teeth. Teeth that are behind the canines are considered posterior teeth.

primary dentition – Often referred to as "baby teeth." This is the first set of teeth that erupt. There are 20 primary teeth.

prosthodontics – This recognized dental specialty is mainly concerned with replacement of missing teeth (crowns, bridges, full and partial dentures). The specialists are known as Prosthodontists and require at least three years of education beyond dental school.

premolars – The teeth that are located between the canines and the molars in the permanent dentition.

proximal – Surface that is next to another surface, beside.

pulp – The center part of the tooth that contains the blood vessels and nerves.

quadrants – The mouth is divided into four quadrants (upper right, lower right, upper left, lower left).

radiographs – X-rays or radiographic images.

root – The lower portion of the tooth which is typically not visible when looking in the oral cavity. The tooth is made of the crown (above the gingiva) and the root (below the gingiva).

root canal therapy – The process of removing diseased pulp from the tooth and replacing it with a filling material to preserve a tooth.

root planing – Removing deposits from root surfaces and smoothing them using an instrument called a curette or an ultrasonic instrument. Typically, this is done by either a dentist or dental hygienist during initial periodontal therapy.