MetroPlus Home
Of Terms
divider Common Terms Dental Procedures and Services Medical Procedures and Services Frequently Used Health Insurance Terms

Dental Procedures and Services



This glossary includes descriptions of the common dental procedures and services in the Dental Cost Lookup.



Abutment Supported (Implant) - a crown or other appliance which is placed on a support (abutment) directly over an implant.
Alveoplasty - the surgical procedure to prepare the alveolar ridge (jaw bone where the teeth are located) to receive a prosthetic appliance, or complete or partial denture. The procedure involves removing bone and soft tissue to facilitate placement of the appliance or denture.
Annual Maximum - A provision included in the majority of dental plans, which places a total dollar cap (maximum) on the amount of benefits that are paid out to an insured during a single plan year. Once the plan's maximum (e.g. $1,000 or $1,500) is reached, the plan will not make any payments until the first day of the next plan year.
Apexification - refers to the techniques that are used to help close the root apex (tip) of a permanent tooth, when the pulp tissue has experienced decay or trauma and the root has not completely formed.
Apicioectomy - the surgical removal of the very tip of the root of a tooth that has had a root canal. During this procedure, the tip of the root is removed, and any areas of infection around the root tip are cleaned.
Appliance (Dental/Prosthetic Appliance) - a device placed in the mouth to serve a number of functions, such a replacing and stabilizing teeth.
Behavior Management - a process that uses techniques to gain the cooperation and trust of fearful patients, usually children, during dental visits.
Biopsy - a surgical procedure to remove an area of abnormal tissue so that it can be studied microscopically. There are different types of biopsies. In an excisional biopsy, all of the abnormal tissue is removed. In an incisional biopsy, only a part of the abnormal tissue is removed.
Bleaching - the process of whitening teeth. A number of bleaching methods are available. The most common method involves using a strong bleaching agent, which is placed on the teeth, and a special light that helps the bleaching material lighten the teeth.
Bridges - connect the gap created by one or more missing teeth. A bridge is created by inserting a false tooth (pontic) in the gap supported by crowns placed on the teeth that are on either side of the pontic (false tooth). (They are also known as abutment teeth.) The bridge includes all of these parts. Bridges can be used to replace one or more missing teeth in the same arch, and are fixed in the mouth.

back to top


Cast (Diagnostic Cast) - a model of a patient’s teeth (usually upper and lower) that is used to help the dentist study the teeth and plan treatment when the patient is not available.
Cast Restorations - Involve creating a restoration in a laboratory setting. Cast restorations cannot be done in the mouth due to the intense heat required to work with gold, titanium or porcelain materials, which are typically used for cast restorations. Gold or ceramic crowns, inlays and onlays are all types of cast restorations.
Cleaning - the removal of plaque and tartar from the visible surfaces of the teeth to prevent cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Usually tartar and plaque are removed from the crown portion of the tooth.
Consultation - an evaluation by a dental professional who is not treating the patient to provide information on the presence of disease, compromised function and potential treatment options.
Crowns (Caps) - a type of dental restoration made from either metal or ceramic material, which completely encircles a tooth or dental implant. Crowns are often needed when a large portion of the tooth is destroyed by decay or injury and are often used to improve the strength or appearance of teeth. Crowns are used to replace missing teeth by providing support for a bridge or partial denture (also known as prosthetic crowns). When these crowns are placed on an implant, they are called implant crowns. Crowns are usually made in a laboratory and are bonded to the tooth using dental cement.

back to top


Dental Filling (Dental Restoration) - Is a process that involves repairing a tooth by removing the part of the tooth that is diseased (decayed). After the diseased part of the tooth is removed, it is replaced with a material that helps restore the tooth’s shape and function. Fillings are usually made of amalgam (silver) or a composite (white).
Dentures (Complete or Partial) - are prosthetic teeth that replace multiple (or all) missing teeth in an arch. Dentures, which are supported by the surrounding soft and hard tissues of the mouth, are removable and typically made of acrylic resin with some metal. When dentures are supported by crowns that are attached to an implant, they are called implant-supported dentures or appliances.

back to top


Endodontics - a dental specialty that focuses on diseases of the tooth pulp (nerve tissue) and the tissues surrounding the root of a tooth.
Eruption Aids - procedures which help teeth grow (erupt) into the oral cavity and usually involve the removal both soft and hard tissue located just over the tooth crown that can block the emergence of the tooth.
Exam (Evaluation) - a procedure including a visual assessment and other diagnostic aids, such as x-rays, to assess the health/condition of the teeth and soft and hard tissues of the mouth so that the appropriate dental care provided.
Extraction - The removal of one or more teeth, or parts of teeth, from the jaw and soft tissue. Extractions are typically considered a surgical procedure.

back to top


Fluoride Treatment - the delivery of fluoride (in the form of gel, varnish or mouth rinse) to the tooth surface to prevent tooth decay.

back to top


General Anesthesia - sedation of a patient during a surgical procedure. Anesthesia makes the patient unconscious so that s/he does not react to pain during the procedure.

back to top


Hard Tissue (Bone) Excisions - Procedures that remove or reshape bone from the oral cavity (mouth), which are usually performed to remove diseased tissue, or for cosmetic reasons.

back to top


Impaction - occurs when a tooth that has not fully moved into its expected position in the jaw. Impaction might occur for several reasons, such as lack of room in the jaw to accommodate the tooth, the tooth's growth path is obstructed by other teeth, or because the angle of the impacted tooth is not straight. The most common impacted teeth are 3rd molars or wisdom teeth.
Implant (Abutment) Supported - the crown or appliance is placed directly onto the implant.
Implant Supporting Structures - Devices that help stabilize multiple implants within the same arch to support a bridge or a denture. A metal bar may be used to connect the implants to add stability and support.
Implants - titanium rods that are surgically placed within the bone (endosseous implants) of the upper or lower jaw.  They appear similar to an actual tooth root and support crown(s) to replace missing teeth. When they are first placed into the jaw, the bone of the jaw accepts the implant and grows into the implant structure to give the implant stability.
Incisions - Procedures that involve cutting into tissue to correct a diseased or compromised area. For example, incisions are made to help drain abscessed areas that are infected and filled with fluid.
Injections - a needle that releases a drug into a patient’s bloodstream. In dentistry, the most common injections are local anesthetics (numbing agents), which allow the dentist to perform dental services on patients without the patient feeling pain. Antibiotics can also be delivered through injections.
Inlays - Cast (gold or ceramic) restorations that fit within the crown of the tooth are used in place of amalgam or composite restorations (fillings). They offer greater structural integrity and strength to the tooth. Inlays can be used to restore function to a tooth (restorative inlay) or to help replace a missing tooth (prosthetic inlay).

back to top


Laughing Gas/Nitrous Oxide - a gas (N2O) that is given to a patient to inhale, to help reduce anxiety when getting dental treatment.

back to top


Miscellaneous Services - services that do not fall into any single category of dental care but that can be performed across many categories of care. For example, general anesthesia can be used when a patient is undergoing oral surgery or endodontic treatment.
Mouthguards - There are two primary types of mouthguards. One is an athletic mouthguard which is used to protect teeth when playing sports. The other is an occlusal (night) guard which helps protect the teeth from the effects of grinding (bruxing).

back to top


Occlusal (Night) Guard - a mouthguard that is placed inside the mouth on the teeth to help protect teeth from the effects of grinding (bruxing).
Office Visits/Patient Visits - dental visits that do not involve performing a specific dental procedure. Since a specific dental procedure, associated with an ADA procedure code (also known as a CDT code) is not performed, the time spent in the office is billed as an office visit. When a specific procedure is performed, the CDT is billed -- not the office visit.
Onlays - Cast (gold or ceramic) restorations that extend onto the crown of the tooth to help support areas of the tooth that have extensive decay or fracture. Similar to crowns, onlays are more conservative than full crown coverage. When an onlay is used to help replace a missing tooth, it is called a prosthetic onlay; if it is used to restore a tooth to function, it is a restorative onlay.

back to top


Palliative Care - care provided to an individual to help relieve discomfort or pain. A temporary solution to manage pain, palliative care is not a final treatment. In most cases another appointment is required to complete treatment.
Pathology Services - services performed by a laboratory to gather information from samples taken from the tissues or fluids from the mouth or other parts of the body.
Periodontal Hard (Bone) Surgeries - dental surgeries performed on the supporting tissues of the teeth to remove, reshape or add (graft) bone to restore function to the area. These surgeries help correct defects in the bone, which are often caused by periodontal disease.
Periodontal Maintenance - The period following periodontal therapy (active treatment such as scaling and root planing) when the dentist tracks the results of periodontal therapy and identifies areas that may need additional treatment. Maintenance may consist of the removal of plaque and calculus, local scaling and root planing, x-rays when appropriate and other procedures based on the patient’s response to the initial therapy.
Periodontal Services - Care to treat diseases of the supporting structures of the tooth (both the bone and soft tissue). These services include non-surgical procedures, such as scaling and root planing, as well as surgical procedures, such as bone and soft tissue grafts.
Periodontal Soft Tissue Surgeries - Dental surgical services that involve only the soft tissue in the mouth that surround the teeth. These surgeries help correct defects, many of which were caused by periodontal disease. These surgeries can include the removal of diseased tissue, reshaping tissue or the adding (grafting) tissue into an area to help improve function and appearance.
Periodontal Splinting - A procedure that attaches weak, loose teeth together, turning them into a single unit that is stronger than the individual teeth. The reason for the teeth being loose is usually due to periodontal disease which often causes a loss of bone support.  The procedure can be performed in a number of ways, the most common of which is to use a composite (white) material to join the teeth together.
Pin Retention - When a tooth is badly broken down, options for restoration can be a crown or a direct amalgam (silver) or composite (white) filling. If a direct filling is chosen, metal pins may be used to hold the filling in place.
Pontics - False teeth that are used to replace missing teeth. They can be made from gold, porcelain, or other materials. They are typically used as part of a bridge.
Post & Cores - These restorations follow root canal treatment and are placed inside the tooth, within the pulp chamber. A post & core will be used when the remaining tooth structure will not support or retain a crown, as a result of decay, fracture or other cause.
Prosthesis (Prosthetic Appliance) - A fixed or removable dental appliance used to replace one or more lost or missing natural teeth in an arch.
Prosthetic Adjustments - common dental procedures that selectively grind on the teeth to adjust the bite, or grind on the base material of the denture to relieve an area of discomfort. This common procedure for all prosthetics is performed after the appliance is placed in the mouth and used (talking & eating) by the patient for several days to identify areas that should be adjusted.
Pulp (Pulp Tissue) - Nerves and blood vessels that are located in the middle of the tooth and conduct sensations such as pain and hot/cold temperature.
Pulp Caps - A procedure to place a medicated dressing or cement over a small area of pulp (nerve and blood vessel tissue). Pulp caps can be direct or indirect. For a direct pulp cap, a medicated dressing or cement is placed over a small area of exposed pulp (nerve) during a cavity preparation to stimulate reparative dentin to avoid inflammation or infection of the pulp tissue. For an indirect pulp cap, the medicated dressing or cement is placed over a small area above the pulp, but the pulp is not exposed. This will promote healing of the tissue so the tooth can be restored.
Pulp Test - A procedure performed to help determine the health of the tooth. If the tooth does not respond to pulp test stimulation, the tooth may not be healthy and may require dental work. The pulp test is typically combined with other diagnostic procedures before a final treatment decision is made.
Pulp Therapy - Treatments that are applied to pulp tissue, usually involving endodontic treatment, such as root canals.

back to top


Rebase - A process that involves refitting either a complete or partial denture in the mouth by replacing the denture base material (acrylic). This process usually does not typically replace the teeth.
Reline - Replacement of the inner surface of a complete or partial denture that is in contact with the soft tissues of the mouth to make it fit more securely.
Root Canal - a naturally occurring space within a tooth that consists of the pulp chamber (within the crown of the tooth), and the canal(s) (spaces) from the crown of the tooth to the apex (tip) of the root that contain the blood and nerve supply for the tooth. Root canal treatment involves removing the nerve and blood supply from the tooth, cleaning and widening the canal spaces and placing a filling material.
Root Planing - A process that removes or eliminates dental plaque and calculus (where bacteria live) on the root surface of the tooth.

back to top


Scaling - The removal or elimination of dental plaque and calculus (where bacteria live) on the tooth.
Sealants - Thin plastic coatings, typically used for children, which are applied to the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from tooth decay. The grooves of children’s back teeth are the areas most prone to tooth decay.
Sedation - The use of pharmacological agents to calm and relax a patient prior to and during a dental appointment. The pharmacological agents usually belong to a class of drugs called sedatives, which act by depressing the central nervous system, specifically those areas that control conscious awareness.
Sedative Filling - A temporary restoration placed on a tooth to reduce pain from an irritated or inflamed pulp (nerve). The filling should reduce the chance that saliva or bacteria will leak into the tooth and. should be replaced with a permanent restoration once the tooth is calm.
Soft Tissue Excision - A procedure that removes soft tissue that is diseased or impedes the normal function of the mouth.
Space Maintainers - Metal or plastic appliances that help save space for permanent teeth when baby teeth (usually back teeth) are lost prematurely.
Stainless Steel Crowns - Pre-fabricated metal crowns used by dental professionals to repair a badly decayed baby or permanent tooth to protect it from further damage. Stainless steel crowns, often used with young patients, are very durable and can be expected to function well for many years, but are not considered permanent restorations.
Surgical Extraction - The removal of one or more teeth or parts of teeth from the supportive bone and tissue, usually by elevating a flap of soft tissue and removing some of the supporting bone. Extractions are typically considered to be a surgical procedure.
Surgical Repairs - Procedures which help correct a diseased or defected area.

back to top


Tissue Conditioning - A process where a conditioning material (gel) is placed inside a prosthetic appliance to help re-establish tone and health to the irritated soft tissue under the appliance.

back to top


Veneers - Thin layers of restorative material placed over a tooth surface, to improve the appearance of the tooth, or to protect a damaged tooth surface. Veneers can be made from composite or porcelain. A composite veneer may be created directly in the mouth, or produced by a technician in a dental laboratory. Once created, all veneers are bonded to the tooth, typically using a resin cement. In contrast, a porcelain veneer may only be produced in a lab and then bonded to the tooth.
Vestibuloplasty - The surgical preparation of the alveolar ridge (jaw bone where the teeth are located) generally involving increasing the spacing of the region in preparation for dentures or oral implants. The extent of the surgery varies, depending on the amount of bone loss incurred and the size of the surface area requiring reconstruction. Surgery can extend anywhere from the outside of the teeth and gums to the inside of the cheeks.

back to top


X-Rays - Two dimensional pictures of the teeth, bone and surrounding soft tissue that are used to help determine the health or disease of the teeth, soft tissue or bone. If the x-ray is taken with the film inside the mouth, it is an intraoral x-ray. If the film is placed outside the mouth, the x-ray is an extraoral x-ray.