Introduction

Imagine for a moment that you have been invited to live for a while in a totally new and unfamiliar land where the natives speak a language you do not know. Oh, sure, you have heard of a few words spoken by natives, but never really quite knew what they were saying. While the prospect of living in that new land is exciting and something you are eager to begin, you realize you will have to quickly learn the language in order to survive. This is the position in which most newcomers to the oral healthcare professions find themselves when they enter the new land of dentistry.

When we need to learn a language we will actually be using soon, the first words we want to learn are the very practical ones, like how to be able to ask where the rest room is! For oral healthcare providers, the words needed most are also practical terms that will be used almost every day in practice. Knowing how medical and dental words are constructed also helps to understand even what a new and unfamiliar word means. Additional helpful information having to do with vocabulary is to learn the shorthand ways that dental personnel communicate via abbreviations and acronyms.