Important Terms for Dental Assistant Students

Important Terms for Dental Assistant Students

Dental assistant terminology dictionary

As a dental assistant student, it’s important to understand the terminology used in dentistry. This knowledge is essential for communication among dental professionals and patient education. In this article, we will cover the critical terms that every dental assistant student should know.

Anatomy and Physiology

The first set of important terms for dental assistant students relates to anatomy and physiology:

Enamel – The hard outer layer of teeth that protects them from damage.

Dentin – The layer beneath enamel that makes up most of the tooth’s structure.

Pulp – The soft tissue inside teeth that contains nerves and blood vessels.

Periodontium – The tissues surrounding and supporting teeth, including gums, ligaments, and bone.

Maxilla – The upper jawbone.

Mandible – The lower jawbone.

Dental Procedures

The second set of important terms for dental assistant students relates to various dental procedures:

Scaling – A procedure to remove plaque or tartar from above or below the gum line using specialized tools like ultrasonic scalers or hand instruments like curettes.

Root Canal Therapy – A procedure to remove infected pulp tissue from inside a tooth followed by cleaning, shaping, filling with an inert material like gutta-percha followed by sealing with cement.

Crown – An artificial cap placed over an existing tooth to restore its shape, size, strength, and appearance.

Bridge – An artificial replacement for one or more missing teeth supported on either side by natural teeth or implants.

Implant – A titanium post surgically inserted into the jawbone as an anchor for replacement teeth.

Extraction – Removal of one or more natural teeth due to decay, disease, trauma, etc., under local anesthesia.


Radiology plays an essential role in diagnosing various oral health conditions; hence it’s crucial for every dental assistant student to understand these radiographic terminologies:

Bitewing X-rays – These X-rays show details about cavities between your back molars.

Periapical X-rays – These show images around one specific tooth root area.

Panoramic X-rays – This type shows all your upper & lower jaws’ structures, including sinuses and temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) – This advanced imaging technique provides 3D images allowing detailed evaluation before implant placement, orthodontic treatment, etc.

Digital Radiography – the use of digital sensors instead of traditional film; reducing radiation exposure time, processing time, storage space required, etc.

Infection Control

Infection control measures are crucial in any healthcare setting; hence every aspiring dental professional must be aware of these infection control terminologies:

Sterilization – Complete elimination/destruction/removal/ killing of all forms/types of microorganisms/pathogens/bacteria/viruses/fungi/spores present on surfaces/instruments/equipment and materials using heat/chemicals/radiationand/or steam under controlled conditions.

Disinfection – Killing/reducing microorganisms/pathogens/bacteria/viruses/fungi present on surfaces/instruments/equipment/materials using chemicals/disinfectants/solutions/wipes/sprays/gels.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Gloves/masks/gowns/face shields/respirators worn during patient care procedures preventing cross-contamination.

Hand Hygiene – Washing hands thoroughly with soap/water/alcohol-based sanitizers before and after patient care procedures avoiding spread/transmission infections.

Standard Precautions – Set guidelines/practices/procedures adopted while handling patients and/or environmental surfaces/instruments/equipment/materials to protect oneself/others against infectious agents, irrespective of source (known/unknown).

Patient Communication

Effective communication skills play a vital role in building trust between patients and healthcare providers; hence mastering these communication terminologies can help you become successful as a future Dental Assistant:

Informed Consent – Explaining risks/benefits/procedure alternatives involved when obtaining written consent from patients before performing any invasive/non-invasive treatments.

Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) – Federal law protects sensitive medical information/patient data privacy/confidentiality/security by ensuring compliance while handling records/documents.

Medical History Form – A document containing detailed information about past/current medical/dental history/allergies/medications that helps dentists/hygienists plan appropriate treatment options to avoid complications/adverse reactions.

Treatment Plan – A detailed outline explaining diagnosis/treatment options/cost estimates/payment plansĀ  that helps patients make informed decisions regarding their oral health needs/goals.

Patient Education Materials – Brochures/videos/posters/pamphlets explaining preventive measures/oral hygiene techniques/dietary habits/lifestyle changes that promote better oral health awareness among patients.


Mastering these essential terminologies can help you communicate effectively with other healthcare professionals and educate your patients better about their oral health needs, goals, treatment options, and preventive measures, thus promoting better outcomes overall. As a dental assistant student, it’s crucial to have a good understanding of these terms in order to excel in your profession and provide optimal care to your patients.

Are you interested in pursuing a career in the dental field? Dental Assistant School Jersey City can help you achieve your goals!

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