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Dental and Medical Terminology Concepts

The difficulty in learning dental medical terminology concepts comes from trying to understand and pronounce the long words, which are rather impressive when you learn the meaning and part of the word. Medical terms originated from Latin or Greek and the pronunciations are difficult and often sound awkward because of the origin. These terminologies are a combination of word parts with suffixes or prefixes at the end. Words combinations follow a specific order and rule, where parts are not necessarily all inclusive to the root word. The pronunciation of a long medical term is acquired through the introduction of vowels such as an “a” in between or “i” and “a” at the end. Although these oral health care terms sound like a totally new language, the meaning is brought out by the prefixes (starters) or suffixes (endings or postfixes).

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), there are very many clinical, dental health and administrative terminologies that form the dental glossary. These terms must as a result meet the association’s formation criteria and ought to be scientifically right. For instance, abutment is a term used to indicate an artificial crown implant or fixture used for supporting immediate dentures called prosthesis. As part of our field study, we visited a dentist in Salem, Oregon who uses these terms on a daily basis as part of their practice.

A small number of standard, but randomly-selected prefixes from the glossary include arth-, endo-, glyc-, hyper-, hypo-, infra-, inter-, intra-, itis-, neo-, peri-, super-, supra- and xeropost-, meaning joint, within, sugar, excess, deficient, below, between, within, inflammation, new, around, behind, excessive, above and dry respectively. On the other hand standard suffixes in medicine include –algia, -a, -emia, -ia/-iasis, -oma, -osis, and -path, meaning pain, without, blood, condition, tumor, condition, and disease respectively.

The common examples of prefixes and their meanings in dental care terminologies include dent-, adont-, gingiv-, lingu-, muc-, perio-, and sial-, meaning tooth, teeth, referring to to the gum, pertaining to the tongue, mucous, teeth structural support, and saliva respectively. Example of a suffix is –entomy that means removal or excision.

A few word examples from the American Dental Association database clearly show the different parts that combine to form these complex expressions. These sample terminologies include andontalgia, adontoma, dentectomy, endodont, adontalgia and periodontitis meaning tooth pain, tumor on tooth structure, tooth removal, inside a tooth, condition of a tooth pain and inflammation of teeth structures respectively. All these terminologies seem complicated when the parts are combined; nevertheless, understanding individual fragments of the term easily assist in understanding what the entire word means or describes.

The terminologies and definitions are revised and updated by the Dental Association for easy practicing and clarity. These administrative terms, however, revolve around the same concept of interconnected parts. Next time you visit your dentist try to read through these terminologies on the report and perhaps some will appear familiar.