Dental Abbreviations

The medical community often uses abbreviations for commonly used words, phrases, ailments, and body parts. The dental field is no exception. Taking abbreviated notes saves time and allows for better patient and doctor interactions. It also makes patient files smaller for easier transport from practice to practice.

However, the abbreviations used in files and notes need to be universal across the entire industry or else they will do more harm than good. Confusing one notated word for another could cause expensive and unhealthy mistakes for both the doctor and the patient. The last thing you'd want is for your new dentist to misinterpret notes taken by your old dentist!

As a patient or student, it helps to stay on top of these dental abbreviations yourself.


List of Commonly Used Dental Abbreviations

Keep this list handy whenever you come across a dental chart or file.

  • abs - abscess
  • A.D.A. - American Dental Association
  • ADL/ADLs - area dental laboratory, area dental laboratories
  • am or amal - amalgam
  • ant - anterior
  • B - buccal
  • B/U - build-up
  • BWX - bitewings
  • clm - claim
  • comp - composite
  • CR - crown
  • D - distal
  • DB - distobuccal
  • DI - disto-incisal
  • DK - decay
  • DL - distolingual
  • dn pmt - down payment
  • D/O - dental office
  • EOB or predet - estimate of benefits
  • F or Fa - facial
  • fx off - fractured off
  • ga - gage
  • Gi cem - gingivitis
  • gm(s) - grams
  • Hg - mercury
  • hx - history
  • imp - impression
  • L or li - lingual
  • M - mesial
  • MB - mesiobuccal
  • mg - milligram
  • MID - mesio-inciso-distal
  • min - minute
  • ML - mesiolingual or milliliter
  • mm - millimeter
  • MO - mesio-occlusal
  • MOD - mesio-occulso-distal
  • N2O - nitrous oxide
  • O - occlusal
  • oz - ounce
  • pmt - payment
  • prophy or pro - prophylaxis
  • RC - root canal
  • Rx - prescription
  • sens - sensitive
  • th - tooth
  • top - topical anesthetic
  • tx or trt - treatment

Some groups, such as the Army or even offices within insurance groups, may also maintain their own lists of acronyms and abbreviations. This list was compiled using resources from Reference that website if you are interested in learning more abbreviations.

Chew on This

Specialized dentists, such as orthodontists (who you may know better as the dentists who help align teeth with braces and other products) or periodontists (who specialize in gum and bone disease), need to be able to read notations left on medical charts left by the primary dental provider.

Nurses and hygienists need to be able to understand notations in order to care for the patient properly too. Even office associates, like front desk and reception staff, must understand dental abbreviations in order to bill the insurance companies and patients properly. Shorthand is supposed to save time, so it shouldn't take extra time to figure out what the notes mean!

Knowing the abbreviations commonly used in the dental community can benefit doctors, patients, nurses, and dental students alike. Having a list of abbreviations can aid patients and doctors finding alternative treatments or further information on problems. Patients can also look over their medical records and understand the various notations if they have a list of abbreviations available.

Patient in dental office