Glossary of Dental Health Terms
overbite: an excessive protrusion of the upper jaw resulting in a vertical overlap of the front teeth.
overjet: an excessive protrusion of the upper jaw resulting in a horizontal overlap of the front teeth.
overdenture: denture that fits over residual roots or dental implants.
palate: hard and soft tissue forming the roof of the mouth.
panoramic X-ray: a type of X-ray that shows a complete two dimensional representation of all the teeth in the mouth. This X-ray also shows the relationship of the teeth to the jaws and the jaws to the head.
partial denture: a removable appliance that replaces some of the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.
pathology: study of disease.
pedodontics or pediatric dentistry: dental specialty focusing on treatment of infants, children, and young adults.
pedodontist/pediatric dentist: the oral health care provider who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of the dental problems of children from infancy to young adulthood. This provider also usually cares for special needs patients.
periapical: region at the end of the roots of teeth.
periapical X-rays: X-rays providing complete side views from the roots to the crowns of the teeth.
periodontal ligament: The connective tissue that surrounds the tooth (specifically covering the cementum) and connects the tooth to the jawbone, holding it in place.
periodontist: the dental specialist who specializes in diagnosing, treating, and preventing diseases of the soft tissues of the mouth (the gums) and the supporting structures (bones) of the teeth (both natural and man-made teeth).
periodontitis: a more advanced stage of periodontal disease in which the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth and form pockets and alveolar bone is destroyed.
periodontium: The tissue that lines the socket into which the root of the tooth fits.
permanent teeth: the teeth that replace the deciduous or primary teeth -- also called baby teeth. There are (usually) 32 adult teeth in a complete dentition.
plaque: a colorless, sticky film composed of undigested food particles mixed with saliva and bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. Plaque left alone eventually turns in to tartar or calculus and is the main factor in causing dental caries and periodontal disease.
pontic: a replacement tooth mounted on a fixed or removal appliance.
porcelain: a tooth-colored, sand-like material; much like enamel in appearance.
porcelain crown: all porcelain restoration covering the coronal portion of tooth (above the gum line).
porcelain fused to metal (PFM) crown: restoration with metal caping (for strength) covered by porcelain (for appearance).
porcelain inlay or onlay: tooth-colored restoration made of porcelain, cemented or bonded in place.
post: thin metal rod inserted into the root of a tooth after root canal therapy; provides retention for a capping that replaces lost tooth structure.