Central Mississippi Down Syndrome Society


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Central Mississippi Down Syndrome Society

667 US-51 Suite C
Ridgeland, MS 39157
601-385-DOWN (3696)

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Dental Glossary

Common Terms in Pediatric and Adult Dentistry

Below is a glossary of terms that can be used as a reference. The intent of listing these terms is simply for exposure. The more knowledgeable you are, the more confident you will be in preparing for your child’s future. Your dentist and pediatrician should be very familiar with the recommended guidelines for care of your child with Down syndrome and will help navigate these unfamiliar waters. Most dental problems can be avoided by simply following the recommended guidelines set forth for any child. Start early!

Providing adequate oral hygiene at an early age and having your child become accustomed to the routine will greatly benefit both you and your child in the future. The most important thing to remember is you have a beautiful new baby.

Below is a glossary of terms for pediatric and general dentistry referring to children and adults with Down syndrome.


Atlantoaxial instability: a condition characterized by excessive movement at the junction between the first (C1) and second (C2) cervical vertebrae.

Baby bottle tooth decay: a dental condition that occurs in children from 1 to 3 years of age as a result of being given a bottle at bedtime, resulting in prolonged exposure of the teeth to milk, formula, or juice with a high sugar content. Dental caries results from the breakdown of sugars to lactic acid and other decay-causing substances. Newer term is early childhood caries.

Bruxism: the involuntary gnashing, grinding, or clenching of teeth. It is usually an unconscious activity, whether the individual is awake or asleep; often associated with fatigue, anxiety, emotional stress, or fear, and frequently triggered by occlusal irregularities, usually resulting in abnormal wear patterns on the teeth, periodontal breakdown, and joint or neuromuscular problems.

Dental specialties: the eight specialties recognized by organized dentistry: endodontics, public health dentistry, oral radiology, oral surgery, oral pathology, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, and prosthodontics.

Gingivitis: inflammation of the gingiva (gums).

Hypodontia: a condition characterized by having fewer teeth than normal.

Macroglossia: An enlarged tongue.

Microdontia: abnormally small teeth. The term may apply to one, several, or all teeth.

Oligodontia: a subcategory of hypodontia in which six or more teeth fail to develop.

Open bite: When the anterior teeth do not occlude in any mandibular position.

Pedodontics: the branch of dentistry that deals with the care of children and includes the following: training the child to accept dentistry; restoring and maintaining the primary, mixed, and permanent dentitions; applying preventive measures for dental caries and periodontal disease; and preventing, intercepting, and correcting various problems of occlusion.

Periodontist: A dental practitioner who is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease, and in the placement of dental implants.

Periodontitis: Inflammation of the supporting tissues of the teeth. Usually a progressively destructive change leading to loss of bone and periodontal ligament.

Plaque: It consists of proteins from saliva, microorganisms (bacteria), and other byproducts of the microorganism. It forms on the oral cavity surface, and is a factor in initiation and continuation of dental caries and periodontal disease.

Supernumerary teeth or hyperdontia: a dental condition marked by the presence of excessive teeth in the oral cavity.