Glossary of Dental Health Terms
pregnancy gingivitis: gingivitis that develops during pregnancy. The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy -- especially the increased level of progesterone -- may make it easier for certain gingivitis-causing bacteria to grow as well as make gum tissue more sensitive to plaque and exaggerate the body's response to the toxins (poisons) that result from plaque.
pregnancy tumors: an extreme inflammatory reaction to a local irritation (such as food particles or plaque) that occurs in up to 10% of pregnant women and often in women who also have pregnancy gingivitis. Pregnancy tumors appear on inflamed gum tissue as large lumps with deep red pinpoint markings on it, usually near the upper gum line. The red lump glistens, may bleed and crust over, and can make eating and speaking difficult and cause discomfort.
primary teeth: the first set of 20 temporary teeth. Also called baby teeth, the primary dentition, or deciduous teeth, normally fall out one by one between 6 and 12 years of age.
prophylaxis: the cleaning of the teeth for the prevention of periodontal disease and tooth decay.
prosthetics: a fixed or removable appliance used to replace missing teeth (for example, bridges, partials, and dentures).
prosthodontist: a dental specialist who is skilled in restoring or replacing teeth with fixed or removable prostheses (appliances), maintaining proper occlusion; treats facial deformities with artificial prostheses such as eyes, ears, and noses.
pulp: the living part of the tooth, located inside the dentin. Pulp contains the nerve tissue and blood vessels that supply nutrients to the tooth.
radiographic: refers to X-rays.
radio wave therapy: a therapy involving the use of low level electrical stimulation to increase blood flow and provide pain relief. In dentistry, this is one type of therapy that can be applied to the joint of individuals with temporomandibular disorder.
recontouring: a procedure in which small amounts of tooth enamel are removed to change a tooth's length, shape, or surface. Also called odontoplasty, enameloplasty, stripping, or slenderizing.
remineralization: redeposition or replacement of the tooth's minerals into a demineralized (previously decayed) lesion. This reverses the decay process, and is enhanced by the presence of topical fluoride.
restorations: any replacement for lost tooth structure or teeth; for example, bridges, dentures, fillings, crowns, and implants.
retainer: a removable appliance used to maintain teeth in a given position (usually worn at night).
root: tooth structure that connects the tooth to the jaw.
root canal therapy: procedure used to save an abscessed tooth in which the pulp chamber is cleaned out, disinfected, and filled with a permanent filling.
rubber dam: soft latex or vinyl sheet used to establish isolation of one or more teeth from contamination by oral fluids and to keep materials from falling to the back of the throat.