Wear, or notching, at the neck of a tooth at or below the gum line, often sensitive and accompanied by gum recession. Thought to be caused by excessive clenching or grinding, abfraction requires bonding when too deep.

A pocket or sack of pus and gas produced by an infection. Abscesses can be extremely painful when pressure builds up.

Abutment, implant
The part of an implant restoration that brings the height of an implant from below to above the gum line. This allows the restoration to be attached to the implant.

Abutment tooth
An anchor tooth for a fixed bridge.

The American Dental Association.

AHA Prophylaxis
Antibiotic premedication prescribed by the American Heart Association to protect patients with heart murmurs, mitral valve prolapse, rheumatic fever history, and other conditions from infections within the heart. (See SBE.)

Air abrasion
A resurgence of an old technique whereby cavities are prepared with a device similar to a sandblaster. Such a "particle beam" works best on new fillings; old fillings and restorations are very difficult and time-consuming to remove with this technique. The main advantage is that for many people, small- to medium-sized new cavities may be prepared without Novocain. The noise is also much less than from a conventional handpiece.

Alginate impression
A quick-setting impression material used to make study models and some dental appliances. Sets in about 90 seconds.

Amalgam filling
The traditional filling, made from a mixture of silver, mercury, copper, and tin, is a long-lasting product that expands and oxidizes over time. It serves to slow down the decay process and is not an esthetic feature.

Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis, commonly called trenchmouth is rare today because of higher hygiene standards but can still be seen. The condition causes the irreversible loss of gum tissue.

A special type of root canal treatment used on young teeth to help them continue to grow despite damage to the nerve tissue. The treatment requires changing an internal medicament about every 90 days and can take 6–18 months to finish. It is generally a painless treatment.

Aphthous ulcer
See “Canker sore.”

A surgical root canal treatment used to seal the tip of a root when conventional root canal treatment has failed or is contraindicated. It is usually a very straightforward treatment with quick recovery.

Describes types of disease in which the body reacts against itself. Some types of arthritis fall into this category, as well as Sjogren's Syndrome.

Behavior management
Techniques used to gain the cooperation and trust of fearful or obstreperous children. Dental Leaders employs methods that are psychologically accepted as well as accepted by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. 

Bisque Tryin
Checking the esthetics and function of a crown prior to the final finishing and glazing of the porcelain. Sometimes called a "Biscuit Bake."

Dental radiographs that check for cavities in between the teeth and also reveal the quantity and quality of bone in between the teeth.

See “Whitening.”

The name given to the process of placing esthetic white fillings. As different from amalgam fillings, these bonded fillings actually adhere to the tooth structure and make the tooth stronger. There is a slightly higher incidence of short-term sensitivity than with silver fillings, but they are often indistinguishable from natural teeth.

Bone graft
Surgical replacement of bone around tooth roots or in preparation for a dental implant. The predictability is generally good, but varies according to the particulars and should be carefully discussed with doctors.

Bridge, fixed
Replacing a missing tooth by placing at least two crowns on adjacent teeth and suspending a false tooth, or pontic, in between or cantilevered from one end. This restoration is cemented to teeth and is not removable. It is carefully crafted for esthetics, fit, comfort, and cleansibility. Depending on the size and situation, the bridge may take from two to six visits to complete. A quality provisional (temporary) bridge will be in place in between appointments.

Bridge, removable
See “Removable partial denture.”

The habit of clenching and grinding the teeth using extremes of muscle power. Often some part of the mastication system is harmed—the muscles, jaw joint, or teeth. More than 30 percent of the population does this to some degree, mostly at night in deep sleep stages. People are often unaware of the habit until either signs or symptoms appear. The habit often correlates with physical or emotional stress.

The scientific term for tartar, which is the accumulation of calcified substance that adheres to the teeth. Calculus is microscopically porous and provides a multitude of hiding places for the bacteria that cause gum disease. As the primary target of dental cleanings, it should be removed on a schedule chosen specifically for the individual needs of each patient. 

Cantilever bridge
A fixed bridge in which the false tooth, or pontic, is supported only on one side. The supporting side, or abutments, must be especially strong and well designed, and the bite must be scientifically arranged to minimize leverage forces.

Canker sore
A painful ulcer that lasts 7–10 days, usually on the looser gum tissue in the softer areas of the mouth. Scientifically known as aphthae, these ulcers can sometimes occur on the tongue, palate, and throat. They can be treated with steroid cream if they are debilitating. The over-the-counter styptic "alum" also works well.

See “Crown.”

The placement of a fixed crown or bridge with a dental cement to assure retention.

Cerebral palsy (CP)
A neurologic condition caused by oxygen deficiency at some time during the development of a baby. A wide variation in the level of affliction is seen, although the condition is characterized by poor control of motor movements and over-contracted muscles. The more severely afflicted CP patients often have excessive saliva, excessive calculus. These patients often have very few problems with cavities, though more gum care is more necessary than might be expected, as some of their medications also contribute to gum problems. 

Cleft lip/palate
A common craniofacial defect in which the upper lip and nose form incorrectly during embryonic development. Clefts cause disfigurement and misalignment of the jaws. Fortunately in the U.S., almost no children are allowed to grow with this condition untreated, despite the fact that it occurs as commonly as one in 700 births. Dr. Groh is proud to be the co-founder of the esteemed Craniofacial Center at Miami Children's Hospital, which specifically helps children with this problem.

The habit of consciously or unconsciously squeezing the teeth together with extraordinary muscle force. See “Bruxism.”

Cold sore
The common name for blisters cause by the Herpes Simplex virus, to which 98 percent of the world's population is exposed by the age of two. This is a similar virus to that which causes genital herpes, though not the same. Cold sores often occur on the external lip (herpes labialis), and on the gum tissue near the teeth. They last 7–10 days, and can be treated with antiviral medications when severe.

A new material used for cementation of fixed crowns and bridges and also for some restorations that combines the benefits of composite materials with those of glassionomers. These materials are looked to for future restorative materials in dentistry.

The material traditionally used for bonded restorations. Made from an admixture of various glass particles in a polymerized gel-like matrix, this material is generally applied to etched enamel and primed dentin. It is then polymerized with a curing light—a visible blue light that activates a catalyst in the composite and causes it to harden almost instantly. Today's composite bonding materials are extremely esthetic because of the way the glass particles reflect and refract light similarly to natural enamel.

Computerized x-rays
See “Digital x-rays.”

See “Foundation.”

Cracked tooth syndrome
When a tooth has a partial or complete vertical fracture (up the root), a confusing collection of symptoms sometimes develops. Usually characterized by pain to biting pressure or to the release of biting pressure, patients are often unable to detect the problematic tooth, sometimes describing pain on the entire side of the face when chewing. Cold sensitivity often accompanies these symptoms. Cracked teeth are predictably identified by good diagnostic techniques and are treated by crowning the offending teeth to protect them and stop the pain-producing flexure around the crack. Anywhere from 15 to 40 percent of cracked teeth will eventually require root canal therapy. A small percentage of profound cracks are hopeless.

Craniofacial team
A multidisciplinary team of health care professionals who perform a joint evaluation and build a care plan for patients with craniofacial anomalies, such as cleft lip or palate. The Craniofacial Team at Miami Children's Hospital, for example, consists of plastic surgeons, orthodontists, reconstructive dentists, geneticists, otorhinolaryngologists (ENT's), pediatricians, pediatric anesthesiologists, pediatric neurosurgeons, audiologists, speech pathologists, feeding and swallowing therapists, psychologists, social workers, nurse practitioners, and parent advocates who meet twice monthly to assist these worthy patients. 

Grinding or gravelly sounds from within the jaw joint resulting from direct contact of bone against bone with no disc, or cushion, in between. Pain may or may not be associated.

A covering placed on a tooth to replace missing structure and reinforce or strengthen it. The most common crowns made today are from a cast metal (preferably a gold alloy) with esthetic porcelain baked to the outside. In non-esthetic areas, or for patients with extremely strong masticatory musculature, gold crowns are still used and are still the most durable restorations known. Today, all-porcelain crowns are also an option, offering incredible esthetics (see “Procera”). Crowns are indicated for broken or cracked teeth, and any tooth in which the previous filling encompassed more than one-half of the width of the tooth. Crowns are also still used to solve some cosmetic problems when bonding or veneers are be adequate. Crowns generally require two visits, and fine-crafted provisional crowns are placed for the interim.

The act of removing infected tissue from a wound, commonly used in dentistry to refer to the removal of grossly inflamed gum tissue caused by severe periodontal disease. Local anesthesia is used for immediate comfort; generally there is no pain at all afterward.

A type of benign tumor that can form around an impacted or diseased tooth. It is filled with fluid and can hollow out the bone in a patient's jaw to a significant extent. Rarely do cysts spontaneously resorb in response to any treatment; in general they are removed by careful curettage and the missing bone usually regenerates.

The act of cleansing an infected area. In dentistry the term is most often used to denote a preliminary cleaning designed to remove gross accumulations of tartar so that subsequent cleanings or root planings will be more comfortable and effective. Also used to denote a more intensive cleaning for a patient who has not received regular care.

Deep cleaning or deep scaling
See “Root planing.”

The part of the tooth directly underneath the enamel. It is softer, contains more water, and has microscopic nerve endings. Dentin is much more susceptible to decay, abrasion from tooth brushing and bruxism, and is responsible for many sensitivity reactions when it is exposed in the mouth.

A type of bite appliance for patients with muscle pain, or myositis.  It allows only the front teeth to touch, eliminates clenching and grinding for most patients, and relaxes muscles.  It is not for all-day use but is usually prescribed for nighttime therapy.  Many studies have shown that the majority of dangerous clenching, grinding, and bruxism occurs at night in the deepest sleep stages, even in people who snore with their teeth apart in lighter sleep stages.  Studies have also shown that when asleep, with inhibitory muscle reflexes decreased, people can and clench with four to five times the muscle force that they could consciously develop.  Hence myositis can develop in overworked muscles, with the net effect of a "charley horse" in jaw muscles.  The deprogrammer helps to relieve these muscular symptoms.

Diabetes and dentistry
Diabetes is a disorder in which dietary sugars are not transported into the cells where they are needed. Over time, the disease causes defects in the smaller blood vessels.  Classic diabetic problems are blindness, loss of circulation in extremities, and proclivity toward angina and heart disease.  In dentistry, delayed wound healing and periodontal (gum and bone) disease is less responsive to aggressive therapy, with a greater chance of infection after dental procedures. Most diabetics require greater attention to their home care and more frequent visits to the hygienist. Dental implant surgery has a lower success rate in diabetics, which must be understood during the treatment-planning phase.

A decades-old procedure for all porcelain crowns. The strength and beauty of these crowns has now been far surpassed by Procera crowns. 

Digital x-rays
A computer technology whereby radiographs are seen immediately after exposure on the computer screen. No developing or waiting is necessary. They can be magnified, colorized, and have their density manipulated for greater information. Most significantly, the radiation exposure necessary is about 10 percent that of conventional dental radiographs, which are already quite low.

Displaced disc
A jaw joint problem whereby the disc (meniscus), or cushion between the jaw pivot and the base of the skull, is pushed or pulled out of alignment. The displacement can include the entire disc or one edge. This condition is what causes the jaw to click or pop upon opening. It may be reversible or irreversible. One of the great controversies in dentistry, most people with this condition are free of symptoms; a few patients become victims of crippling pain and dysfunction. Women are more susceptible to painful symptoms than men, especially in the age range of 16 to 40.

Down syndrome
Also called Trisomy 21, a genetic disorder that was traditionally known as Mongolism. These people have characteristic looks with slanted eyes, short fat fingers, and short stature. Some degree of mental retardation is present. The dental implications of Down syndrome are a proclivity toward periodontal (gum and bone) disease that usually requires frequent attention as patients enter their twenties, missing and smaller teeth, and enlarged tongues that make cleaning more difficult. 

Doppler Auscultation
The use of a Doppler Stethoscope, greatly amplified, allows the diagnosis and interpretation of the many noises and vibrations made by diseased jaw joints. Auscultation can be used to help evaluate the extent of displaced discs.

Dry Mouth
See “Xerostomia.”

Eagle syndrome
A facial pain syndrome typified by pain upon swallowing and rapid turning of the neck. Caused by elongation of a pair of bones called the styloid process, which start at the base of the skull and point down toward the Adam's apple. Often the pain passes with no treatment and is of extreme discomfort to patients who are getting radiation therapy to the neck.

Electromyography (EMG) measures the amount of contractile or spastic activity in a muscle. It is of great use in the diagnosis and treatment of many jaw joint and facial pain problems.

The hard crystalline material that covers the outside of the tooth. Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body.

Endodontic treatment
Usually known as root canal therapy, this treatment refers to the removal of diseased or dying nerve tissue from the inside of the tooth. It does not mean removing a root from the tooth and does not involve surgery. A rubber dam must be used to prevent saliva from entering the tooth. The steps of the procedure are access (opening into the nerve chamber), debridement (removing the diseased tissue), working distance (measuring the exact length of the roots), cleaning and shaping (preparing the tooth for filling), and obturation (filling the root with  an inert filling material called gutta percha). After a root canal, most teeth require a foundation filling for support and a crown for strength. Root canals are about 95 percent successful, and are no longer the nightmare that they were in past generations. Most root canals can be completed in one visit unless started in an emergency, and are surprisingly comfortable.

The act of opening microporosities in the enamel or porcelain to facilitate bonding. The technique allows white fillings to "stick."

Ernest syndrome
A facial pain syndrome typified by spontaneous pain on the side of the face and sometimes the neck. The cause is a tendinitis of the stylomandibular ligament, which attaches to the angle (corner) of the jaw. Ernest syndrome is treated with injections of steroid and local anesthesia, as are many types of tendinitis. It is an occasional result of whiplash injuries.

The science of interpreting and adjusting the bite for harmony of function and relaxed musculature. A very exacting procedure is often done on models first to avoid surprises in the individual bite. Equilibration may or may not eliminate jaw joint pain and symptoms, but predictably slows or stops the progress of pathology when indicated. It may need to be periodically redone or touched up to account for tooth wear and drifting.

Expert testimony
Respected professionals are called upon to testify in legal proceedings as to deviations from standard practice and harm and damages done to patients from neglect or malpractice. Expert witnesses also interpret forensic evidence. Dr. Souviron is a much sought after expert witness in cases involving highly technical aspects of dental treatment and bite mark evidence.

Fever blister
See “Cold sore.”

A drainage spot in the gums. Also referred to as a "gum boil," it is a sign that infectious pus is draining into the mouth. Very often people have fistulae with no symptoms at all; however, the cause of this drainage must be addressed. 

A halide element (small molecule) found commonly in water and foods. Low concentrations of flouride have been found to greatly reduce the amount of cavities in the U.S. Fluoride's most beneficial effect is to remineralize (reharden) areas that have been softened by decay. One toothpaste product, Enamelon, has some extra ingredients that make this remineralization process even greater. Dr. Groh did some research with this formulation at NIH over 15 years ago and found it to be very useful. Fluoride is also a great inhibitor and remedy to many oral bacteria, thus preventing cavities and periodontal disease. Like any medicine, it must be used carefully. Heavier concentrations have been found to create mottling or staining of tooth enamel. Most communities today add fluoride to the drinking water supply and carefully monitor its concentration for safe health improvements. Very few bottled waters contain fluoride. Additionally, fluoride is removed by many water softeners and reverse osmosis units. Most municipalities offer inexpensive analysis to check the levels of fluoride in drinking water to test for safe but effective cavity protection. Insufficient levels can be supplemented by dentists or pediatricians with prescription fluoride drops. Fluoride is also found in most toothpastes and the mouth rinses Fluorigard and Act. Fluoride does occur naturally in some foods, most notably in tea leaves—in hot tea, most of the fluoride boils off, making "sun tea" iced tea a good natural source of dietary fluoride.

Forensic dentistry
The area of dentistry that assists legal and law enforcement proceedings. Forensic dentistry encompasses identifying deceased persons, identifying dental malpractice, identifying perpetrators from bitemark evidence, and providing expert testimony in court cases. 

A filling done before a crown or bridge preparation. It is especially designed to be retentive in the tooth and to provide strength underneath the crown or bridge. A crown or bridge should never be placed over an old or unknown filling, as decay can almost always be found under such fillings.

Full mouth series
A series of dental x-rays angled to show the roots of all teeth, as well as the surrounding bone and other structures. This is the only way to examine the health of the tooth roots and to check for some types of tumors and lesions. The series usually consists of about 16 to 18 small films, and for the radiation conscious, the dosage is about the same received from three hours in the summer sun. Depending on the patient's previous history, full-mouth radiographs are recommended about every three to five years. These are often alternated with a panorex radiograph, which gives similar information but shows more structures.

General anesthesia
Going to sleep or being "out" for treatment. True general anesthesia is a deep state and includes the loss of all reflexes, sometimes requiring respiratory assistance. This state is rarely necessary for general dental procedures, as a patient’s desire for no pain, no consciousness of the procedures, and no memory of the experience can typically be satisfied with IV sedation. General anesthesia is available at Dental Leaders for those that require or wish to receive it.

The removal of excess or extra gum tissue to improve cleansibility and health. Often necessary to treat gum overgrowth caused by a variety of medications, including Dilantin. Chronic mouthbreathing can also cause gum hypertrophy.

The first stage of periodontal disease, characterized by inflammation of the gum tissue without any bone loss. The clinical signs are swelling and bleeding upon stimulation. Rarely are these signs noticed as a problem by patients. Many people think it is normal for gums to bleed when brushing, which is not true. Gingivitis is the result of chronic infection caused by plaque bacteria. Gingivitis is the first stage of a body's attempt to reject its teeth and requires immediate treatment if it is not to progress into more destructive forms of gum disease. A person can have gingivitis and periodontitis in different parts of the mouth at the same time. See “Periodontitis.”

The reshaping of gum contours, often for esthetic purposes. Generally very easy and non-painful, gingivoplasty is often a good solution for a "gummy smile." Performed with a device very similar to a laser in function, there is very little inconvenience or recovery time.

Glass ionomer
A particularly strong filled cement that is quite impervious to water and oral fluids. Unlike most other cements, glass ionomer has true chemical adhesion to teeth and dental restorations, and releases fluoride to protect teeth. It is used to cement crowns and bridges, as well as for fillings in non-stress bearing areas.

A zone of infected tissue that has yet to organize into an abscess. Granulomas are the most common cause of pain necessitating root canal therapy.

Gum boil
See “Fistula.”

Gum disease
See “Periodontitis.”

Gum sculpturing
See “Gingivoplasty.”

Gutta percha
A rubber-like material used to fill root canals, along with a sealer. Bio-inert and thermoplastic, it is either squeezed or injected into the prepared canal space.  

Hand over mouth
A technique used to calm and quiet a truly hysterical child. The doctor’s hand is gently and carefully placed over the child's mouth and the child is repeatedly told that the hand will be removed as soon as the child is quiet. The technique is almost always successful with children over the age of two and a half. The rationale is that a noisy child creates a chain of distraction from his own mouth to his own ear, through which the doctor cannot communicate. When the noise is removed from the child's self-induced hysteria, the child hears that he will regain control of his situation if he cooperates with quiet. Once communication is established, then other behavior management techniques can be used to continue treatment. Of course, this technique is used with the prior approval of the parents.

The dentist's "drill," which is usually powered by compressed air and spins up to 500,000 RPM. It is used to prepare cavities for fillings, adjust bites, and a myriad of other functions.

A surgical procedure whereby the roots of a tooth are separated and treated as individual teeth. Hemisection is used when it is impossible to maintain an intact tooth because of gum disease.

Hospital dentistry
The practice of dentistry in a hospital setting, usually referring to utilizing the operating room and the diagnosis and treatment of patients with medical, behavioral, or emotional compromises.


Describes a tooth with extreme inflammation of the nerve that is often hard to numb with the usual techniques. Dental Leaders is especially proud of the advanced anesthesia techniques the practice employs to comfortably treat these teeth.

A tooth that is "stuck" or can grow no further into the mouth. The term usually refers to wisdom teeth, but any tooth can be impacted under unusual circumstances. Extra, or supernumery teeth, are often impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth have an incidence of cyst or tumor formation of around one to five percent. Partially impacted wisdom teeth (half in/half out) have a very high rate of periodontal (gum) infections. Additionally, pressure from impacted teeth can often cause damage to nearby teeth.

Artificial tooth roots that are placed into and fuse with the bone of the jaw. They can be used to replace teeth or to support and retain dentures. The placement is generally so simple as to be inconsequential. In areas where bone is lacking to support these implants, there are now ingenious and effective techniques to add bone. Teeth can be placed on the implants usually after four months; however, some of the newer systems allow restoration in as quickly as eight weeks. (See the practice’s two pages on implants.)

A mold, negative, or intaglio of a tooth or teeth. Impressions are used to make crowns, bridges, veneers, dentures, some fillings, and study models. A variety of different materials are used, depending on the properties desired. The accuracy of these impressions is of penultimate importance and patients are often impressed at the extreme care taken to assure this accuracy.

Incision and drainage (I and D)
A technique used to allow for the drainage of significant infections. This technique is infrequently necessary so long as people do not neglect the early warning signs of dental problems, such as broken fillings and lingering sensitivities.

A laboratory-made internal filling, cemented or bonded into a tooth. Inlays can be made of porcelain; gold inlays are rarely used any more, although they were at one time the treatment of choice in dentistry. Dental Leaders generally finds onlays a better choice for high-quality, tooth-conservative dentistry. 

Intraoral camera
A miniature video camera, similar to a wand, that is used to diagnose and demonstrate pathology in places difficult to see in the mouth. Intraoral cameras provide a great way to better understand dental conditions.

IV sedation
An anesthetic technique sometimes referred to as "twilight sleep," which is somewhat lighter than general anesthesia. This type of sedation still controls pain, with memory loss as a side effect, but the patient retains more physiologic function. This is the anesthesia modality of choice for most apprehensive patients, as they get the comfort and peace of mind they want with the fewest potential side effects.

An older term for a crown made of all porcelain.

Jaw tracking
Computerized recording and analysis of jaw movement that is used to detect and study TMJ problems, and to check the proper design of dental reconstructions.

The use of lasers for gum surgery is a viable treatment modality for some specific gum problems. Its use on teeth themselves is still being studied, and despite the hype from the manufacturers and the media, is not a proven technology. The Dental Leaders practice is carefully following the progress of this treatment modality and plans to incorporate it when the time is right. Lasers can also be used for bleaching teeth but the long-term effects are not yet known.

Laughing gas
See “Nitrous oxide.”

Local anesthesia
Medications commonly referred to as "novocaine," although that particular anesthetic has not been in regular use for more than twenty years. The drugs commonly used to numb teeth today are lidocaine, mepivocaine, bupivocaine, etidocaine, and prilocaine. Each has different strengths and weaknesses and is each used according to different indications. The medications above also are mixed with other medications, including adrenalin (epinephrine). Patients who are sensitive to adrenalin should inform their dentists. This effect does not mean a patient is allergic or cannot have local anesthetic; a non-epinephrine formula can be used successfully. True allergy to local anesthetic is very rare.

Bad or misaligned bite.

The bone of the lower jaw.

The line where a restoration seals against tooth structure. In crowns, this is usually near or below the gum line. Margins need to be sealed with extreme accuracy; if not, gum disease and recurrent cavities will result.

The bone of the upper jaw.

Medicated filling
A provisional or temporary filling that incorporates a palliative or soothing medication to calm an inflamed tooth nerve. 

Membrane graft
A special technique for bone grafting that greatly increases the success rate. There are two types of membranes used—one, which needs to be removed, and another, which slowly dissolves by itself. The membranes allow bone grafts to consolidate without interference from certain types of cells.

An extra tooth lodged in between the front teeth. Surprisingly common, this occurs in 1 out of 300 children, and more commonly in Asian people. Diagnosing mesiodentata is a meticulous x-ray procedure; removing them is generally straightforward with few side effects.

Metal try in
An appointment in which the metal substructure of a fixed bridge, or the metal framework of a removable partial denture, is tried in and fitted.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
A MRI is a radiographic technique that shows soft tissues better than hard tissues, with images showing water density instead of bone density. Its major dental use is to evaluate the condition and position of the TMJ disc.

Muscle inflammation caused by overuse and oxygen debt. The muscle tissue can fill with metabolic acids, which can lead to chronic inflammation. Myositis may or may not be accompanied by muscle spasms.

Night guard
A device similar to a retainer that separates the teeth and relaxes the muscles that position the jaw. A night guard is indicated for people who overwork their jaws at night and risk damage to their teeth, jaw joints, and/or muscles. People who wake up with sore muscles, facial weakness, or a jaw that is "locked" are good candidates for this device. A variety of configurations are used; some types may also be used to diagnose jaw posture problems.

Nitrous oxide
Also known as "laughing gas" or "sweet air," nitrous oxide was the first general anesthetic discovered (significantly, it was discovered by dentist Horace Wells). By most standards it is a poor general anesthetic, but carefully administered doses are excellent at lowering patient's anxieties. It also increases pain tolerance to a measurable degree. Nitrous oxide is especially useful in the management of fearful children, for whom it provides a pleasant, fantasy-like state. It is a very safe drug, with no reported allergies, and very few side effects when administered properly. Patients should note that careless dentists often administer nitrous oxide in a "cookbook" fashion, and provide safe but uncomfortably high doses of the drug. Many adults require low doses to relieve anxieties and do not care for the higher amounts. It is not a "truth serum" and people do not misbehave under its effect.

See “Local anesthesia.”

The science of the bite, which includes the relationship of chewing movements to the jaw joints, and how the teeth interdigitate specifically to allow for chewing function and sometimes cause painful or dangerous dysfunction.

Occlusal analysis and facebow transfer
Specific records that are made to take a patient's particular bite and jaw movement and accurately transfer it to a bite machine called an articulator. These records can be essential in reconstructive dentistry, implant dentistry, large bridges, denture work, and to diagnose and study jaw dysfunction and "TMJ." 

A classical term for dentistry, still used in many Latin and some European countries.

Occluso-Muscular Disorder (OMD)
Approximately 70 to 80 percent of people who have jaw pain, or "TMJ," are better classified under the heading of OMD—which means a diagnosis of muscle pain caused by a malocclusion, or bad bite. When one’s mouth is closed with jaw joints out of alignment, it requires constant posturing of the jaw muscles. Those muscles can become chronically spastic, like an eternal "charley horse." Treatment for this problem is directed at relaxing the muscles and then correcting the occlusion if necessary.

A tooth restoration that covers the entire biting surface and serves to protect the tooth from breakage should the cavity or old filling be too large. An onlay may be gold or porcelain. 

Medicine taken before a dental appointment, either to prevent infection in susceptible patients or to attenuate the "dental experience" for anxious patients.

Primary herpetic gingivostomatitis
The most common viral infection of the mouth carried by approximately 98 percent of the population. This virus is typically a child's first contact with the Herpes Simplex virus, which usually occurs before the age of two. First contact is accompanied by an intense fever, with a few blisters or sores in the mouth. Occasionally the child's mouth is so painful that not even liquids will be accepted, which can cause serious dehydration.

A dentin treatment that allows bonding to composite materials similarly to enamel.

Procera crowns
The newest type of all-porcelain crown. Less grinding of the tooth is necessary. The model of the preparation is optically scanned and modemed to Sweden, where the coping, or part that actually fits against the tooth, is made. The coping is air-expressed back to the dental laboratory, where the esthetic porcelain and function are engineered to specification. The fit on these crowns is of perfectionist quality and the esthetics are unmatchable.

See “Prophylaxis.”

A routine cleaning for healthy teeth and gums. It does not involve any type of more intensive gum therapy or deeper cleaning.

The technical name for the "nerve" inside the tooth, which actually contains a nerve, artery, vein, lymphatic drainage, and some primordial cells.  

Pulp cap
Covering an exposed or nearly exposed nerve with a palliative material prior to filling the tooth.

Pulp test
See “Vitality test.” 

Dental "x-rays" that allow for careful diagnosis of the tooth roots, pulp, and bone surrounding the teeth in order to diagnose cavities in areas that cannot be seen inside the mouth with direct vision. The dosage of radiation is quite small compared to other types of radiographs—it would take more than five hundred dental radiographs to equal the exposure received in one chest x-ray. A full-mouth series of radiographs is about the same exposure received from four hours of sunshine. A panoramic radiograph is about the same exposure as only three of the small dental radiographs. Finally, the newer digital radiographs use a radiation exposure of about 10 percent that of conventional dental radiographs.

Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis (SBE)
SBE is an infection of the valve and muscle tissue inside the heart. Patients with certain conditions are prone to this type of infection and must pre-medicate with prescribed antibiotics prior to most dental treatments. 

A protective coating painted into the grooves on the biting surface of back teeth that are susceptible to decay. The ADA recommends sealants for all back teeth as soon as they grow into the mouth in order to prevent cavities. Sealants last for an average of seven years and are very easily placed with no discomfort.

See “IV sedation.”

Discomfort in a tooth caused by touch, sweet, hot, cold, biting pressure, or releasing pressure. Causes differ according to the symptoms. Sometimes sensitivity passes instantly; other times the discomfort lingers for minutes or hours after the stimulation. When a patient experiences sensitivity it is important to try and characterize the symptoms as much as possible and to identify the offending tooth.

See “Zoster.”

Show, Tell, Do
A behavior management technique in which children are shown what the dentist will do, told what they will hear and feel, and then undergo the procedure. This methods is meant to build confidence and trust with the child.

Membrane-lined, air-filled cavities in the skull located above the upper teeth, between the eyes and eyebrows. Sinus infections are a common source of facial pain and headaches and can be confused with pain from upper back teeth. One can have a sinus infection and still be able to breathe through the nose.

Infection in the sinus cavities, of which there are four in the skull. The largest of the sinuses is the maxillary sinus, located just above the roots of the upper molars. A pressure causing infection in this area can be mistaken for tooth pain. Maxillary sinusitis is sometimes characterized by pain in the jaw or face that changes when leaning over, lying down, or standing up. 

Sinus lift
A special type of bone graft to augment the quantity and quality of bone available for upper dental implants. Sinus lift surgery often allows dentists to place implants in areas that were thought to be inaccessible not long ago. Depending on the situation, the sinus lift may have to be done as a separate procedure to the implant placement, and may require six months or more of healing. Smoking greatly lowers the success rate of this procedure.

Sjogren's syndrome
An autoimmune disease characterized by dryness of the mouth, eyes, and other mucous membranes. The dry mouth can be very uncomfortable and cause serious problems with cavities that progress quickly.

Stainless steel crowns
Silver colored crowns often used to restore heavily damaged baby molars. A very sturdy restoration, and the teeth are shed normally in most cases. Also used as interim restorations for adult molars when a permanent crown isn't feasible at the time.

Study models
Plaster models of teeth used for explanations, treatment planning, mock treatments and waxups.

Surgical extraction
Extraction of a tooth whereby an incision and sutures are necessary, and/or the tooth is more safely and comfortably removed in pieces.

Sweet air
See “Nitrous oxide.”

See “Calculus.”

Third molar
Also known as wisdom teeth, third molars typically appear between the ages of 16 and 25. Wisdom teeth can become impacted and/or affect the surrounding teeth, requiring extraction.

See “ANUG.”

Twilight sleep
See “IV sedation.”

Wear facet
Flat areas on teeth or restorations caused by grinding or bruxism.

Causing the teeth to appear brighter by applying certain medicaments. Many products are available to conduct whitening at home. Treatments are not permanent, typically lasting 6–12 months, and are easily maintained or retreated.

Wisdom tooth
See “Third molar.”

Dry mouth, which can be caused by disease, aging, radiation therapy, and many medications.

See “Radiographs.”

A viral infection secondary to the chicken pox virus, or Varicella. Shingles, as a Zoster outbreak is called, is characterized by a painful outbreak in a well-demarcated area of the body, such as one side of the palate.