New Patient Information

Please arrive ten (10) minutes prior to your reserved appointment time. Your appointment time is specifically reserved for your individual needs. Please be prepared to bring in your dental insurance card and driver's license to better help us file your insurance properly. If you are on any current medications, please bring in a list to your appointment.


If you have visited our office previously and you have changes to your dental insurance, please notify our office prior to your appointment.

Dental Glossary


– A –

Amalgam - a common filling material used to repair cavities. The material, also known as "silver fillings," contains mercury in combination with silver, tin, copper, and sometimes zinc.

Anesthesia - a type of medication that results in partial or complete elimination of pain sensation; numbing a tooth is an example of local anesthesia; general anesthesia produces partial or complete unconsciousness.

Anterior teeth - Mandibular and maxillary centrals, laterals and cuspids. The designation of permanent anterior teeth in the Universal/National tooth numbering system include teeth 6 through 11 (maxillary), and 22 through 27 (mandibular); primary teeth in the Universal/National tooth numbering system are designated C through H (maxillary), and M through R (mandibular). Also refers to the teeth and tissues located towards the front of the mouth.

Arch - a description of the alignment of the upper or lower teeth.


– B –

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay - decay in infants and children, most often affecting the upper front teeth, caused by liquids given and left clinging to the teeth for long periods (for example, in feeding bottles or pacifiers); also called "early childhood caries."

Bicuspids -the fourth and fifth teeth from the center of the mouth to the back of the mouth; these are the back teeth that are used for chewing and have only have two points (cusps). Adults have eight bicuspids (also called premolars), two in front of each group of molars.

Bitewings - a single X-ray that shows upper and lower teeth teeth (from crown to about the level of the supporting bone) in a select area on the same film to check for decay in between teeth.

Bonding - a process by which dental materials are mechanically attached to teeth; this would include composite resin, porcelain, and metal.

Bridge - stationary dental prosthesis (appliance) fixed to teeth adjacent to a space; replaces one or more missing teeth, cemented or bonded to supporting teeth or implants adjacent to the space. Also called a fixed partial denture.

Bruxism - grinding or gnashing of the teeth, most commonly during sleep.


– C –

Calculus - hard, calcium-like deposits that form on teeth due to inadequate plaque control, often stained yellow or brown. Also called "tartar."

Canal - The narrow chamber inside the tooth's root.

Canines - See cuspids.

Canker Sore - sores or small shallow ulcers that appear in the mouth and often make eating and talking uncomfortable; they typically appear in people between the ages of 10 and 20 and last about a week in duration before disappearing.

Caries - tooth decay or "cavities;" a dental infection caused by toxins produced by bacteria.

Cold sore - Usually occurs on the outside of the mouth, usually on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious because it is caused by the herpes simplex virus, and it is usually painful and filled with fluid.

Composite Filling - tooth-colored restorative material composed of plastic with small glass or ceramic particles; usually "cured" or hardened with filtered light or chemical catalyst. An alternative to silver amalgam fillings.

Composite Resin - A tooth colored resin combined with silica or porcelain and used as a restoration material.

Contouring - The process of reshaping teeth.

Crown - (1) the portion of a tooth above the gum line that is covered by enamel; (2) dental restoration covering all or most of the natural tooth; the artificial cap can be made of porcelain, composite, or metal and is cemented on top of the damaged tooth.

Cusps - the high points on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth.

Cuspids - the third tooth from the center of the mouth to the back of the mouth. These are the front teeth that have one rounded or pointed edge used for biting. Also known as canines.


– D –

Dentin - inner layer of tooth structure, immediately under the surface enamel.

Denture - a removable or fixed replacement of artificial teeth for missing natural teeth and surrounding tissues. Two types of removable dentures are available -- complete and partial. Complete dentures are used when all the teeth are missing, while partial dentures are used when some natural teeth remain.


– E –

Endodontics - a field of dentistry concerned with the biology and pathology of the dental pulp and root tissues of the tooth and with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases and injuries of these tissues. Root canal therapy is a commonly performed endodontic procedure.


– F –

Fluoride - a mineral that helps strengthen teeth enamel making teeth less susceptible to decay. Fluoride is ingested through food or water, is available in most toothpastes, or can be applied as a gel or liquid to the surface of teeth by a dentist.

Fluorosis - discoloration of the enamel due to too much fluoride ingestion (greater than one part per million) into the bloodstream, also called enamel mottling.


– G –

Gingiva - the soft tissue that surrounds the base of the teeth; the pink tissue around the teeth.

Gingivitis - inflamed, swollen, and reddish gum tissue that may bleed easily when touched or brushed. It is the first stage in a series of events that begins with plaque build up in the mouth and may end -- if not properly treated -- with periodontitis and tooth loss due to destruction of the tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth.

Gum Disease - See periodontal disease.


– I –

Impacted tooth - a tooth that is partially or completely blocked from erupting through the surface of the gum. An impacted tooth may push other teeth together or damage the bony structures supporting the adjacent tooth. Often times, impacted teeth must be surgically removed.

Implant - a metal rod (usually made of titanium) that is surgically placed into the upper or lower jawbone where a tooth is missing; it serves as the tooth root and anchor for the crown, bridge, or denture that is placed over it.

Incisor - four upper and four lower front teeth, excluding the cuspids (canine teeth). These teeth are used primarily for tearing and cutting.

Inlay - similar to a filling but the entire work lies within the cusps (bumps) on the chewing surface of the tooth.


– M –

Malocclusion - "bad bite" or misalignment of the teeth or jaws.

Mandible - The lower jaw.

Maxilla - The upper jaw.

Molar - three back teeth in each dental quadrant used for grinding food.


– O –

Onlay - a type of restoration (filling) made of metal, porcelain, or acrylic that is more extensive than an inlay in that it covers one or more cusps. Onlays are sometimes called partial crowns.

Orthodontics - dental specialty that using braces, retainers, and other dental devices to treat misalignment of teeth, restoring them to proper functioning.

Over-denture - denture that fits over residual roots or dental implants.


– P –

Palate - hard and soft tissue forming the roof of the mouth.

Partial Denture - a removable appliance that replaces some of the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.

Pediatric Dentistry - dental specialty focusing on treatment of infants, children, and young adults.

Perio Pocket - opening formed by receding gums.

Periodontal Disease - Infection of the gum tissues. Also called gum disease.

Periodontist - the dental specialist who specializes in diagnosing, treating, and preventing diseases of the soft tissues of the mouth (the gums) and the supporting structures (bones) of the teeth (both natural and man-made teeth).

Permanent Teeth - the teeth that replace the deciduous or primary teeth -- also called baby teeth. There are (usually) 32 adult teeth in a complete dentition.

Plaque - a colorless, sticky film composed of undigested food particles mixed with saliva and bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. Plaque left alone eventually turns in to tartar or calculus and is the main factor in causing dental caries and periodontal disease.

Posterior Teeth - The bicuspids and molars. The back teeth.

Primary teeth - the first set of 20 temporary teeth. Also called baby teeth, the primary dentition, or deciduous teeth, normally fall out one by one between ages 6 and 12.

Prophylaxis - the cleaning of the teeth for the prevention of periodontal disease and tooth decay.

Prosthodontics - a dental specialist who is skilled in restoring or replacing teeth with fixed or removable prostheses (appliances), maintaining proper occlusion; treats facial deformities with artificial prostheses such as eyes, ears, and noses.

Pulp - the living part of the tooth, located inside the dentin. Pulp contains the nerve tissue and blood vessels that supply nutrients to the tooth.


– R –

Receding Gum - A condition in which the gums separate from the tooth, allowing bacteria and other substances to attack the tooth and surrounding bone.

Resin Filling - An artificial filling used to restore teeth. Also called a composite filling.

Root Canal - procedure used to save an abscessed tooth in which the pulp chamber is cleaned out, disinfected, and filled with a permanent filling.


– S –

Sealant - a thin, clear or white resin substance that is applied to the biting surfaces of teeth to prevent decay.


– T –

TMJ - the term given to a problem that concerns the muscles and joint that connect the lower jaw with the skull. The condition is characterized by facial pain and restricted ability to open or move the jaw. It is often accompanied by a clicking or popping sound when the jaw is opened or closed.

Tarter - common term for dental calculus, a hard deposit that adheres to teeth; produces rough surface that attracts plaque.


– V –

Veneer - a thin, custom-made shell of tooth-colored plastic or porcelain that is bonded directly to the front side of natural teeth to improve their appearance -- for example, to replace lost tooth structure, close spaces, straighten teeth, or change color and/or shape.


– W –

Whitening - A process that employs special bleaching agents for restoring the color of teeth.

Wisdom Tooth - third (last) molars that usually erupt between ages 18 and 25.




We have a wide range of dental care options available and accept most dental insurance plans!

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2420 Osborne Road

St. Marys, GA   31558

(912) 882-3322

Copyright ©2019 Dr. W. Lester Harris DMD. All rights reserved.