Monday, January 30, 2012

Technically Speaking

While doing a crossword puzzle one day, the clue given was “A space between the teeth.” Having worked as a dental technician for more than a dozen years, of course I immediately thought of diastema. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the word it wanted was only three letters. Apparently, diastema wasn’t going to fit.

(For all of you reading this who think I’m a complete idiot, I do know the word is gap. So, I’m not a complete idiot. And for anyone wondering what a dental technician is, it is one employed in the fabrication of dental prostheticis – they make dentures, crowns and bridges, and other dental/oral appliances.)

The puzzle got me to thinking. Thinking back to when I first started working in a dental laboratory. I was fifteen years old and could see no reason for using the technical terms. Just fancy words. The common words were sufficient and much easier to understand. It seemed much simpler to say “between the teeth” than “interproximal area.” And, upper and lower appeared to make more sense than maxillary and mandibular.

But somewhere along the way, I gave in, adapting to the technical terms. Or, maybe I just learned the proper terms are more descriptive and concise, which in the long run make them easier to understand. For example, when referring to the sides of a denture, lingual and labial are clearer, at least to a technician, than the everyday terms of inside and outside (does the “inside” indicate the palatal area or the tissue side).

But, now that I’m a truck driver, an extensive dental science vocabulary serves no purpose.

So, now I wonder why did I need to learn all the technical jargon? It appears to have been a massive waste of time and effort. Sure, I know a lot of strange words, but I can’t use them unless I want to sound like an idiot. (See paragraph two above). People return blank stares if I say things like distal, mesial, buccal, or frenum, and apparently, eyetooth is far more popular than cuspid. In retrospect, I may have been right at age 15. Just fancy words.

The problem is however, it is difficult or next to impossible to unlearn something. Even after being out of the field for over 16 years, I can’t switch back. Something in my head forces me to use the correct technical terminology. On the bright side however, if I ever need to know the clinical term for dry mouth, I’m all set. Doubtful, I know.

I did find a use for some of the terminology recently. No, it wasn’t a crossword puzzle for dental technicians, and it wasn’t a game show where I could win millions of dollars – it was a blog. You’re reading it. Thanks.

Oh, and for whatever it’s worth, the proper term for dry mouth is - xerostomia.

Bruce A. Borders, author and songwriter has over 500 songs and 9 books. Over My Dead Body, and The Journey, his latest books, are available on Apple I-Pad®, Amazon Kindle®, Barnes & Noble Nook® and Sony Reader®, Kobo, Diesel Books, and Smashwords. For more information, visit See Bruce’s Amazon Author Page at or view his Smashwords Profile at

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