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Professional Dental Terminology for the Dental Assistant and Hygienist

Course Number: 542


demineralization – The first breakdown of the enamel surface, usually due to acid attack in the decay process.

dental anesthesiology - The recognized dental specialty that encompasses managing pain, anxiety and the well-being of patients during dental procedures.

dental assistant (CDA) – The dental professional that may be responsible for a variety of duties which may include assisting in restorative or preventive procedures, oral hygiene instructions, and exposing radiographs. A CDA (Certified Dental Assistant) is a dental assistant who has completed a program of study and passed a national certification exam and continues to update their dental education on a specified basis.

dental hygienist (RDH) – The licensed, dental professional that is responsible for the preventive area of the practice. This person has completed at least a two-year accredited program of study and has passed both national and regional board examinations. They must maintain their license usually through continuing education.

dental laboratory technician (DLT) – This dental professional is usually employed in a dental laboratory and is responsible for making both fixed and removable dental appliances that are then delivered to the patient in a dental office. This includes crowns, bridges and dentures. The DLT may complete a two-year program of study.

dental public health – One of the nine recognized dental specialties by the American Dental Association. This specialty concentrates on the promotion of dental health for the public through a variety of means such as public health dental clinics and access to dental care for all populations.

dentin – The tooth structure that is directly below the enamel in the crown of the tooth and the cementum in the root of the tooth. It lies between the enamel and cementum and the pulp. It is much softer than enamel or cementum.

dentist (DDS or DMD) – The licensed dental professional that is responsible for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental disease. This person must complete at least 4 years of professional school after college and pass both national and state/regional examinations to become licensed to practice dentistry. They must maintain their license usually through continuing education.

disclosing agent – This is usually a chewable tablet, or a liquid form (that can be painted on teeth), that stains dental plaque making it visible to the eye.

distal – The surface that is away from the midline or front of the oral cavity.

edematous – Swollen or has edema.

enamel – The hardest substance in the body. Enamel covers the crown of the tooth.

endodontics – This is the recognized specialty in dentistry that deals with root canal therapy and infections of the teeth. A dentist who specializes in this area has three more years of education beyond dental school) and are known as Endodontists.

eruption – Teeth coming through the gingiva.

erythemic – Redness of tissue. This is usually a sign of inflammation.

exfoliation – The loss of teeth. Primary teeth exfoliate as the permanent erupt.

expectorate – To spit.

extrinsic stain (exogenous) – Stain on the tooth surface, caused by coffee, tea, or smoking. Extrinsic stains usually can be removed during the oral prophylaxis by scaling and polishing the teeth. Some toothpastes can also help with minor stains.

facial – The surface toward the cheek or face and lips.

fluorapatite – Improved crystals (due to the incorporation of fluoride ions) within the matrix of the tooth enamel which makes the enamel more resistant to tooth decay.

fluoridation (fluoridated water) – Adding a small percentage of fluoride to water systems to strengthen teeth against tooth decay. This has been named as one of the best public health measures in history.

fluoride – A naturally occurring element. It can provide decay inhibiting factors to the smooth surfaces of the teeth.

fluoride varnish – A type of topical fluoride that is painted on the teeth and provides decay prevention.

fluorosis – An intrinsic stain in the teeth that can come from over exposure to systemic fluoride. This can come from swallowing fluoridated toothpaste on a regular basis as a child or drinking water that has a high concentration of fluoride (usually naturally occurring fluoride in the well water) as a child.

full denture – Also known as “false teeth.” The denture replaces a full arch of teeth that are lost and is a removable appliance.

full mouth series (FMX) – X-rays, or radiographic images, that are taken of all the teeth in the oral cavity. For people that have all their teeth, this could be somewhere between 18 and 22 individual projections.