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As a dental receptionist, you play a vital role in the smooth operation of a dental office. While you may not have prior dental experience, having excellent customer service skills and a willingness to work with people is what truly matters. However, at times, it may feel like dentists and hygienists are speaking in a different language. Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with this beginner’s guide to basic dental terminology.
- NP – This stands for New Patient, referring to someone who has never been seen by your office before.
- FMX – Full mouth X-rays are a set of 20 images consisting of 16 periapical and 4 bitewing images.
- BW – Bitewings show teeth above the gum line and the bone height between teeth. They help diagnose gum disease and cavities between teeth. Usually, four bitewings are taken as a set.
- VBW – Vertical Bitewings are similar to regular bitewing X-rays but turned vertically to show more teeth and the height of the bone between them. Typically, 7 images are taken as a set.
- Occlusal – These X-rays show the roof or floor of the mouth and are used to identify extra teeth, unerupted teeth, jaw fractures, cysts, abscesses, or growths.
- PAN – Panoramic X-rays provide a comprehensive image of the entire mouth area, showing fully emerged, emerging, and impacted teeth all at once.
- PA – A periapical (PA) X-ray is a single X-ray that focuses on a specific area of concern.
- TXP – Treatment Plan outlines the recommended dental services for a patient and the timeline for treatment.
- Prophy – Also known as a prophylaxis or cleaning, this is a hygiene service for individuals with generally healthy gums and teeth. It involves removing plaque, calculus, and stains from teeth.
- SRP – Scaling and Root Planing, also called a Deep Cleaning or Perio Therapy, is a deep cleaning below the gumline to treat gum disease. Root planing removes tartar, bacteria, and toxic deposits from the tooth root, down to the gum attachment.
- Perio – Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, is an inflammatory condition that affects the gum tissue and supporting bone structures.
Dental Insurance Terms
- Balance Billing – This refers to billing a patient for the difference between the dentist’s actual charge and the amount reimbursed under their dental benefit plan.
- Co-Payment – The co-payment is the amount the beneficiary is responsible for paying after the benefit plan has contributed.
- Coverage – Coverage refers to the benefits available to an individual covered by a dental benefit plan.
- Deductible – The deductible, also known as co-insurance, is the amount the patient must pay before their insurance plan covers any services.
- Maximum Plan Benefit – The maximum reimbursement level determined by the administrator of a dental benefit plan for a specific dental procedure.
- Flexible Spending Account – An employee reimbursement account funded with salary reductions designated by the employee.
- HIPAA – The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, which standardizes health information privacy and security requirements.
Dental procedures and diagnoses can sometimes be described using clinical terminology that may be unfamiliar to newcomers. Here are a few dental terms you should know:
- Abscess – An inflamed area with a collection of pus, often accompanied by tissue destruction and swelling, usually caused by an infection.
- Biopsy – The process of removing tissue for histologic evaluation.
- Cavity – The loss of tooth structure caused by decay, erosion, or abrasion.
- Crown (Cap) – An artificial replacement that restores missing tooth structure or is placed on a dental implant.
- Dental Implant – A device surgically placed in or on the jawbone to provide dental replacement.
- Endo / Endodontic / Root Canal – Root canal treatment is a procedure to relieve dental pain and save teeth. It involves removing the infected pulp, cleaning and shaping the root canals, and sealing the space with a filling material.
- Extraction – The removal of a tooth, either in whole or in parts.
- Fracture – A break in a bone or tooth structure.
- Gingivitis – Inflammation of the gum tissue without loss of connective tissue.
- HX – Short for “history,” refers to a patient’s medical history.
- Impacted Tooth – A tooth that has not fully erupted or is partially erupted in a position that makes complete eruption unlikely.
- Malocclusion – The incorrect position of the biting or chewing surfaces of the upper and lower teeth.
- Maxilla – The upper jaw.
- Mandible – The lower jaw.
- Permanent Tooth Numbers – Dental charts are typically arranged from a dentist’s viewpoint, with teeth numbers 1-16 in the upper jaw (right to left) and teeth numbers 17-32 in the lower jaw (left to right). Teeth numbers 1, 16, 17, and 32 are wisdom teeth.
- Primary Tooth Letters – The primary dentition is composed of 20 baby teeth. Each tooth is often identified by a letter of the alphabet, beginning with “A” (Maxillary right second molar) and ending with “T” (Mandibular right second molar).
- Distal – The surface away from the midline of the face.
- Facial – The surface facing the cheeks or lips on anterior teeth. For posterior teeth, the term Buccal is used.
- Incisal – The biting edge of an anterior tooth.
- Lingual – The surface facing the tongue.
- Mesial – The surface closest to the midline of the face.
- Occlusal – The chewing surface of posterior teeth.
- Proximal – The surfaces of neighboring teeth.
Types of Dental Specialists
- Endodontist – Specializes in Root Canal Therapy.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon – Specializes in surgeries of the mouth, jaw, and face.
- Orthodontist – Specializes in Braces and Alignment of the teeth and jaw.
- Pediatric Dentist – Specializes in Children’s Dentistry.
- Periodontist – Specializes in Gums and supporting structures.
- Prosthodontist – Specializes in Replacement of teeth.
Remember, this list is just a starting point for familiarizing yourself with common dental terminology. If you come across any unfamiliar terms, don’t hesitate to ask your Office Manager or Dentist for clarification. As a dental receptionist, being well-informed will enable you to confidently answer patients’ questions and provide exceptional service.
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