General Dental Terms & Services

There are many general and specialized services available at our locations. Below is a small portion of the most recognizable general dental services and terms. They include, but are not limited to the following:



Fillings are the restoration of lost tooth structure with metal, porcelain, or resin materials. There are many different types of materials used for fillings. You and your dentist can discuss the options and choose the right tone for you. Most are durable and will last you many years, but they are not permanent and may need to be replaced in the future.

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Silver Amalgam

Silver Amalgam is 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. No dental restoration is permanent due to the difficult environment of the mouth and the every day wear and tear all restorations take.

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Composite Resin Fillings (White tooth-colored fillings)

Tooth-colored restorative material composed of plastic with small glass or ceramic particles, usually “cured” or hardened with filtered light or chemical catalyst. Resin is a great cosmetic alternative to silver amalgam fillings. Typically composite fillings are used for chipped teeth, closing space between two teeth, cracked, broken, decayed, or worn teeth. Most are durable and will last you many years, but they are not permanent and may need to be replaced in the future. No dental restoration is permanent due to the difficult environment of the mouth and the every day wear and tear all restorations take.

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Comprehensive Dental Exam

The exam is performed at your initial dental visit and at following check-up exams that your dentist or hygienist will perform. Do not let the name General Dental Exam fool you, this is a comprehensive dental exam that will include all of the following main points:

Digital X-Rays
Oral cancer screening
Gum disease screening
Examination for tooth decay
Examination of previous work done (existing restorations)

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Periodontal Exam

A periodontal examination and probing are used to assess the health of your gums and teeth. They can help your dentist diagnose the gum diseases gingivitis and periodontitis. They also can reveal receding gums, exposed roots, tooth grinding and other problems. The exam and probing include taking measurements of the spaces between your teeth and gums. Any dentist or dental hygienist can measure these gaps. If your dentist has concerns about your gum health, you may be referred to a periodontist. This is a gum-disease specialist. This specialist will take measurements during your first visit.

Here is what your dentist will evaluate during a periodontal examination:

Any lumps or other abnormal areas in the mouth — these may include changes in the color of the gums, inner cheeks or tongue.

Whether any of your teeth are missing or loose, and how loose they are — loose teeth can be a sign of periodontal disease.

The color, texture, size and shape of your gums — healthy gums are firm and pink. Diseased gums may be: reddish or bluish-red, puffy or spongy, enlarged or swollen, shaped differently than normal.

Whether you have any fillings, crowns, bridges, dentures or implants.

How much plaque is on your teeth — plaque is a coating on the teeth that contains large numbers of bacteria. These bacteria can cause decay and/or periodontal disease. The amount of plaque gives your dentist an idea of how well you brush and floss your teeth.

The depth of the space between your tooth and gum — to measure these spaces, the dentist uses a periodontal probe. This is a tiny millimeter ruler with a blunt tip. Your dentist slides the probe between the tooth and gums at various places around each tooth. Healthy gums cling tightly to the tooth. Diseased gums tend to swell and detach from the tooth. Pockets become deeper. In advanced forms of periodontitis, the pocket can be more than 10 millimeters deep. The probe measuring the pocket may reach all the way to the tip of the tooth’s root. If a pocket is this deep, it means that much of the soft tissue and bone that anchor the tooth in place have been lost.

Whether your gums bleed during probing, receding gum and how your teeth come together when you bite.

Besides the examination, you also may need X-rays of your teeth.

Many dentists check all of these factors at every dental visit. Repeating these measurements helps your dentist track the progress of treatment.

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A Crown/Cap is the portion of a tooth above the gum line that is covered by enamel. The artificial cap can be made of porcelain, composite, or metal and is cemented on top of the damaged tooth. Porcelain is the most popular choice because it is tooth colored and resembles your natural teeth. Much like fillings, crowns are highly durable and will last you many years, but they may need to be replaced in the future.

Typical reasons for a crown include: a tooth that has had a root canal, decayed teeth, fractured or large fillings, broken teeth, or for cosmetic enhancement.

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Technology today is changing our everyday lives. Many people; however, are not aware that technology also is impacting dentistry in new and exciting ways. Cutting-edge innovations in dental instruments are requiring less time in the dental chair, causing less discomfort and creating satisfying results. One breakthrough instrument, called CEREC®, allows dentists to quickly restore damaged teeth with natural-colored ceramic fillings, saving patients time and inconvenience.

What is CEREC?

CEREC is an acronym for Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics. Translated, it means that a dentist can economically restore damaged teeth in a single appointment using a high-quality ceramic material that matches the natural color of other teeth.

How does the instrument work?

CEREC uses CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing) technology, incorporating a camera, computer and milling machine in one instrument. The dentist uses a special camera to take an accurate picture of the damaged tooth. This optical impression is transferred and displayed on a color computer screen, where the dentist uses CAD technology to design the restoration. Then CAM takes over and automatically creates the restoration while the patient waits. Finally, the dentist bonds the new restoration to the surface of the old tooth. The whole process takes about one hour.

What does this innovation mean for a patient?

A tooth-colored restoration means no more silver fillings discoloring smiles. The filling is natural-looking, compatible with tissue in the mouth, anti-abrasive and plaque-resistant. Dentists no longer need to create temporaries or take impressions and send them to a lab. Because of this, the traditional second visit has been eliminated. CEREC has two decades of clinical research and documentation to support the technology. The restorations have been proven precise, safe and effective.

To learn more speak with your doctor and visit:

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Bridges are a stationary (non-removable) dental prosthesis fixed to teeth, adjacent to a space. They are cemented or bonded to supporting teeth or implants to replace one or more missing teeth. These are also called a fixed partial denture. Just like fillings, there are many types of bridges and you and your dental team will discuss the best options for your case. The most popular bridge is made of porcelain because it most resembles your natural teeth. They are very durable and will last you many years, but like other dental restorations they may need to be replaced. Bridges are chosen to fill in spaces of missing teeth, to help restore your smile, as an alternative to removable dentures, or to help retain normal chewing and speaking.

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Dental Implants

In addition to dentures and partials, an alternative to replace missing teeth are implants. Implants are typically done to replace a single missing tooth, but if you have several missing teeth you may still be a candidate. The results are more permanent, maintain your bone health, and look more realistic.

A small titanium screw 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. Like other restoration they are very durable and strong and will last many years, but may need to be re-tightened or replaced in the future.

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Porcelain Inlays or Onlays

These are tooth-colored restorations made of porcelain - cemented or bonded in place.

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Dentures and partials are removable replacements for missing and extracted teeth that closely resemble natural teeth and gums. We understand the emotional effect of the appearance of your smile, especially when you have teeth missing, so going even a day without a denture or partial is very uncomfortable.

Two types of dentures are available: Complete and Partial.

  • Complete Dentures: are used when all the teeth are missing.
  • Partial Dentures: are used when some natural teeth remain.

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Is the removal of a tooth.

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Mouth Guard

A soft-fitted device that is inserted into the mouth and worn over the teeth to protect them against impact or injury. Many of our offices have the capability to make Sports Mouth Guards in-office. Mouth Guard material comes in many colors, allowing them to be customized to your school's colors or for your favorite sports team. Talk to your Family First Dental office to see if this option is available and right for you! 

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Night Guard

A removable acrylic appliance that fits over the upper and lower teeth used to prevent wear and temporomandibular damage caused by grinding or gnashing of the teeth during sleep.

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Nitrous (N₂O)

A gas (also called laughing gas) used to reduce patient anxiety. Many of our offices offer this type of sedation to help reduce the anxiety of going to the dentist. Ask your Family First Dental office about your sedation options.

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Root Canal

Endodontics (Root Canal Therapy): Root canal therapy is necessary when a tooth is infected and will not heal on its own. Symptoms include pain when biting and chewing, sensitivity with hot and cold, and constant aching and discomfort. A lot of people are intimidated when they hear the word “root canal”, but at our office there is no need to be afraid. Most general dentists will refer you to an Endodontic specialist, and in some complex cases we may need to refer you to an Endodontist too, but the majority of the time we can take care of this problem for you. This will save you time and extra doctor’s visits.

Root Canal Procedure: The root canal system is composed of nerves and blood vessels that supply nutrients and feeling to the tooth itself. These structures are housed in a small chamber, or canal, within the tooth. When these structures are disrupted due to infection or trauma, they must be removed, the canal area is then cleaned and sealed.

Symptoms or signs that a root canal is needed: severe pain, sensitivity to cold and hot, abscess, and in some cases no symptoms at all exist.

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A thin, clear or white resin substance that is applied to the biting surfaces of teeth to prevent decay. A sealant is most often applied when a permanent tooth first erupts or comes into a child’s mouth. This is when sealants are needed most because there is a low contamination of bacteria in the grooves of their teeth. It is also important to have sealants applied to your children’s teeth due to lack of interest in brushing at a young age.

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Gum Disease – Periodontal Disease / Gingivitis / Periodontitis

This is a serious bacterial condition that damages and destroys the gum tissue and bone that support your teeth. Untreated periodontal disease is a leading cause of tooth loss among adults. Except in its earliest stages, periodontal disease cannot be completely cured. It can be controlled and managed.

Current research shows some alarming new information about the effects of periodontal disease. Many studies, including several published in the Journal of Periodontology, confirm that people with periodontal disease are at a greater risk for other serious illnesses. That is because infected gums release significantly higher levels of bacteria into the bloodstream that then spread to other organs in the body.

Periodontal bacteria may contribute to, but is not limited to: Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, and pre-term and low birth weight babies. There are many stages of periodontal disease and it is important to discuss your individual situation with your doctor.

Contributing risk factors included but are not limited to: age, smoking, stress, poor dental care, diabetes, genetics, hormonal changes, medications, other systemic diseases, poor nutrition, and cleaning and grinding teeth.

Other than poor oral hygiene, there are several other factors that may increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco: Tobacco users are more likely than non-users to form plaque and tartar on their teeth.
  • Certain tooth or appliance conditions: Bridges that no longer fit properly, crowded teeth, or defective fillings that may trap plaque and bacteria.
  • Many medications: Steroids, cancer therapy drugs, blood pressure meds, oral contraceptives. Some medications have side effects that reduce saliva, making the mouth dry and plaque easier to adhere to the teeth and gums.
  • Pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and puberty: Can cause changes in hormone levels, causing gum tissue to become more sensitive to bacteria toxins.
  • Systemic diseases: Diabetes, blood cell disorders, HIV / AIDS, etc.
  • Genetics may play a role: Some patients may be predisposed to a more aggressive type of periodontitis. Patients with a family history of tooth loss should pay particular attention to their gums.

Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease:

  • Red and puffy gums: Gums should never be red or swollen.
  • Bleeding gums: Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
  • Persistent bad breath, caused by bacteria in the mouth.
  • New spacing between teeth, caused by bone loss.
  • Loose teeth: Also caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone).
  • Pus around the teeth and gums is a sign that there is an infection present.
  • Receding gum or loss of gum around a tooth.
  • Tenderness or discomfort is caused by plaque, calculus, and bacteria which irritate the gums and teeth.

Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.

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