Root Words, Prefixes and Suffixes Used in Dental Terms

One of the fun parts of learning dental/medical terminology is making difficult, long, impressive-looking words understandable. By learning what the word parts mean, it is much easier to understand what a brand new word is, even if you have never seen or heard it before. Most medical terms originated in either Greek or Latin, so when someone says, “It’s Greek to me” … it really is!

Once again, the prefixes and suffixes that follow are by no means all inclusive, but will provide a starting place of commonly used word parts. There are specific rules for combining words and for the order of the root words within a word, so it would be a good idea to study further to really understand how dental/medical terms are put together and read. Two excellent resources for additional medical terms are Building a Medical Vocabulary or Quick & Easy Medical Terminology both by Peggy C. Leonard, published by W. B. Saunders Company. The intent here is just to provide a starting place for building a good, useful dental vocabulary.

When words are combined, they often acquire an “o” to make the word flow better and be more pronounceable. Words sometimes end in -ia for the same reason and/or to indicate a condition of: