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The Language of Dentistry (AGD 130)

Presenter: Esther K. Andrews, MA


Every occupation uses a special language, with its unique slang and technical terms. Medicine and dentistry use a vast and precise scientific language that may be difficult to understand by people who are new to the healthcare professions. Allied dental professionals have many responsibilities related to the use of proper dental terminology. Dental professionals perform dental charting; record and translate the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan; and record services rendered on a daily basis. These permanent, legal records of the patient must be complete, accurate and legible. As a healthcare coworker, it is important to speak intelligently with office staff, patients, and other healthcare entities. Conversely, the dental team members must be able to translate technical terms and procedures into simple, everyday English for patients. Doing this requires a full command of medical/dental terminology.

There is often more than one correct way to pronounce medical/dental terms. It is the speaker’s preference as to which pronunciation to use. Helpful hints for pronunciation include:

1) ch is often sounded as a k;
2) ps is often sounded as an s, such as psychology;
3) i at the end of a word is sounded as “eye”.

It is not the writer’s preference when spelling a dental term. A change or error in spelling may totally change the meaning of a word. Phonetic spelling is unacceptable and a reference guide should be used if unsure of proper spelling. With experience, the use of technical language becomes second nature. This course offers a good base of knowledge to use and record dental terms correctly.


Esther Andrews earned a Master of Arts in curriculum and teaching from Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., an Associates of Applied Arts and Science from Grand Rapids Community College in Dental Hygiene, Grand Rapids, Mich., a Bachelor of Science and Associates of Applied Science in Allied Health Education and Associates of Applied Science in Dental Assisting from Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Mich. She is currently retired and living in the Bull Mountains of Montana. She authored Practice Management for Dental Hygienists, published in 2006, online continuing education courses, and journal articles. Honors and awards bestowed include: 2005 Dental Assisting National Board Achievement for 30 year continuous Certification; in 2004 and 2006 - the American Dental Assistants Association Journal Award and in 2000 Life membership in the American Dental Assistants Association.


At the completion of this course, the dental professional should be able to:

• Recognize the origins of medical and dental language.
• Identify and utilize word roots to produce compound words and combining word forms to produce medical/dental terminology.
• Define and utilize common dental prefixes and suffixes to produce medical/dental terminology.
• Build medical/dental terminology into singular and plural word forms.
• List common abbreviations and acronyms and describe their use.


The ADAA has an obligation to disseminate knowledge in the field of dentistry. Sponsorship of a continuing education program by the ADAA does not necessarily imply endorsement of a particular philosophy, product or technique.

The ADAA cautions participants taking this course on the hazards of using limited knowledge when integrating new techniques into their practices.

Credits earned upon completion of this course may be used to meet DANB’s Recertification Requirements.


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