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Oral Health Care: A Whole New Language

Course Number: 21

Terms A-C

Alveolar Bone

  • The bone that surrounds and supports the tooth and associated structures.

  • The word “alveolar” means cavity or tunnel.

  • Alveolar bone is similar in appearance to a sponge.

  • Also called alveolar process.

Alveolar Bone Loss (BL)

  • Loss of supporting bone of a tooth, usually due to periodontal disease.

  • Is used as an indicator of the presence and severity of periodontal disease.

  • A goal in periodontal therapy is to preserve the alveolar bone.

Alveolar Mucosa

  • Movable soft tissue that is loosely bound to underlying bone. Not present on maxillary hard palate.

  • Alveolar mucosa usually looks redder than the rest of the gingiva.



  • A metal alloy containing mercury commonly used for dental restorations.

  • Also called a “silver filling”.



  • Situated near the front.

  • In the mouth, this includes 12 teeth (6 maxillary and 6 mandibular).


Apex (apical)

  • Pointed end of a cone-shaped part (like an ice cream cone) or the terminal end of the root of a tooth.

  • Apical is a directional term that indicates a direction toward the apex or end of the root of a tooth.



  • A structure of bow-like or curved outline (the side view of Santa’s tummy!).

  • Often used to indicate the top or bottom jaw. You might hear someone say “the bottom arch” and they would be referring to the mandible or bottom jaw.

Board of Dentistry

  • Although the state regulatory boards go by different names, Board of Dentistry is the term frequently used to identify the body responsible for formulation, adoption and dissemination of the rules necessary to comply with the laws regulating the practice of dentistry in a state.

  • The board is usually also responsible for implementing and enforcing provisions of the State Dental Practice Act (a name for the law or statues regulating the practice of dentistry in a state.)


  • The grinding or clenching of teeth that damages both the tooth surface and surrounding periodontal tissues.


  • Pertaining to or directed toward the cheek. It is often used to designate the side of the tooth that faces the cheek.

ce21-img05-buccal-surfaces  Figure 5


  • Also called tartar.

  • A mineralized, hard deposit derived from plaque biofilm and salivary mineral salts.

  • Forms on tooth and root surfaces and oral appliances.

Canine Teeth

  • An anterior tooth.

  • The sharp, pointed tooth, located at the corners of the mouth and outside the incisors.

  • There are 4 canine teeth – 2 maxillary (right and left) and 2 mandibular (right and left).


  • Produce or promote tooth decay. Simple sugars such as glucose are cariogenic.

Cementoenamel Junction (CEJ)

  • Represents the anatomic limit between the crown and root surface. The area of union of the cementum and enamel at the cervical region of the tooth.

  • It can be observed as an irregular line of color change. It can usually be felt as a “jump” with an explorer.

  • It is used as a fixed point of reference.



  • Calcified connective tissue that covers the outside surface of a tooth’s root.


Clinical Attachment Loss (CAL)

  • Movement of the supporting structures of a tooth in an apical direction, usually the result of periodontal disease.

  • What this means is that some of the alveolar bone is destroyed and the junctional epithelium, the soft tissue attachment, moves apically.

  • With enough CAL, the tooth becomes loose and may be lost.


  • The depression in the gingival tissue underneath a contact area between the lingual papilla and facial papilla.

  • Volcano-shaped tissue beneath area where 2 teeth contact one another.



  • Rounded and somewhat depressed or hollowed out.

  • Think of a cave as being a hollowed-out part of a hillside.


  • Having a rounded, somewhat elevated surface (the hill itself).


  • Toward the crown or top of a tooth, rather than toward the root (apical).