Basic Dental Terminology

Appointment Abbreviations:

  • NP – shorthand for New Patient and is when the patient has never been seen by your office before.
  • FMX – Full mouth X-rays – 20 images composed of 16 periapical and 4 bitewing images.
  • BW – x-rays that show teeth above the gum line and the height of the bone between teeth. Bitewings help diagnose gum disease and cavities between teeth. The bitewing X-ray is placed on the tongue side of your teeth and held in place by biting down on a tab. Normally four bitewings are taken as a set.
  • VBW – Vertical Bitewings – these are similar to the regular bitewing x-rays but are turned vertically to show more of the teeth and the height of the bone between teeth. With vertical bitewings, typically 7 images are taken as a set.
  • Occlusal – Occlusal x-rays show the roof or floor of the mouth and are used to find extra teeth, teeth that have not yet broken through the gums, jaw fractures, a cleft palate, cysts, abscesses or growths.
  • PAN – Panoramic x-rays, just like panoramic photos, are used to take images of your entire mouth area. It shows the position of fully emerged, emerging, and impacted teeth, all in one image.
  • PA– A periapical (PA) X-ray refers to a single X-ray that is taken to show a specific area of concern.
  • TXP – Treatment Plan – The dentist’s plan for the patient that outlines exactly what dental services is recommended and in what timeframe

Hygiene Terminology:

  • Prophy – Prophylaxis – A “prophy” or “cleaning” is a hygiene service for someone that generally has healthy gums and teeth. Prophylaxis involves removing plaque, calculus & stains from teeth.
  • SRP – Scaling and Root Planing – (sometimes called a Deep Cleaning or Perio Therapy) is a deep cleaning below the gumline used to treat gum disease. Root planing is a procedure that involves removing tartar, bacteria, and toxic deposits from the root of a tooth, all the way down to where the gum attaches to the tooth.
  • Perio – periodontal disease (gum disease) – Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the soft (gum tissue) and hard structures (bone) that support the teeth.

Dental Insurance Terms:

  • Balance Billing – Billing a patient for the difference between the dentist’s actual charge and the amount reimbursed under the patient’s dental benefit plan.
  • Co-Payment – Beneficiary’s share of the dentist’s fee after the benefit plan has paid.
  • Coverage – Benefits available to an individual covered under a dental benefit plan.
  • Deductible – Sometimes referred to as co-insurance is the amount the patient is responsible for paying before services are covered by their insurance plan.