Terms M-Z


  • Bottom jaw.
  • Mandibular refers to the bottom jaw.

Marginal Gingiva

  • The border or edge of gingiva nearest the incisal/occlusal surface; marks opening of gingival sulcus.
  • Some folks think that is where the gingiva attaches to the tooth (See the definition for sulcus – sorry, the alphabet just didn’t work here!)
  • Also called free marginal gingiva.


  • Top jaw.
  • 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)

  • Usually refers to an MO that also extends all the way across the occlusal and includes the distal surface – a BIG cavity or filling.

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 planning) 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.


  • Chewing surfaces of the teeth.


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


  • Odontectomy is procedure in which a tooth is removed.

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 (defined later – sorry, the alphabet just didn’t work here either!)

Periodontal Probe

  • A slender instrument with a blunt or slightly bulbous end that is used to explore and often to measure the depth of the sulcus or pocket. Most probes have graduated millimeter markings. A little like a miniature ruler.

Periodontal Probing Depths

  • Measurement of the deepness of a sulcus or periodontal pocket.
  • Used to distinguish a sulcus from a pocket.
  • Measurement is generally either from the CEJ to where the tooth and gingiva are first begin to be attached (JE) or from the gingival margin to the JE.


  • Directed toward or situated at the back; opposite of anterior.
  • Where student likes to sit to write a letter to his girlfriend – in posterior part of a classroom.
  • The posterior teeth include the premolars and molars.


  • Sometimes abbreviated as prophy.
  • 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.  Since pockets are absent in a completely normal periodontium, scaling and polishing are generally performed on the anatomic or clinical crown and into a very shallow, healthy sulcus.  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 and connect to the alveolar bone.


  • The space or crevice between the surface of a tooth and the epithelium lining the unattached or free gingiva.
  • When one looks in a mirror, the tooth & gum seem to attach to one another, but in healthy gums, they actually attach about 1-3 mm toward the root of the tooth forming a space similar to the inside of a pocket on your jeans.
  • In healthy gingiva the periodontal probing depth is 3 mm or less.

Supine Position

  • A posture in which the individual is lying on the back with the face up.
  • The most common working position for individuals having dental treatment.


  • Treatment of a disease.

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!