Commonly used terminology in oral surgery and oral medicine: the patient's perspective

Alice Hamilton (Lead / Corresponding author), Philip Lamey, Aman Ulhaq, Eleni Besi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Dentistry is progressing into person-centred care and away from a paternal approach. Effective verbal and written communication are crucial to allow this collaboration; however, misunderstanding of terminology can lead to confusion, poor decision-making and poor health outcomes.

Methods: A voluntary questionnaire with multiple-choice and short-answer questions was given to patients attending the NHS Lothian Oral Surgery and Oral Medicine Department over two weeks; 137 were completed. Eighteen terms were assessed, including: ulcer, local anaesthetic, impacted tooth, radiograph, sedation, biopsy, mucosa and benign. Exclusion criteria were non-English speakers who required a translator.

Results: The multiple-choice questions revealed that terms such as 'blister' and 'local anaesthetic' are relatively well understood. Other terms, such as mucosa, were poorly understood. Over a third of patients confused 'sedation' with general anaesthetic. Short-answer questions revealed a wide range of answers. 'Biopsy' and 'radiograph' were generally better understood compared to other terms. Demographics, educational background and English as a first language appeared to have an influence on understanding.

Conclusion: Patients had a varied understanding of terminology. Incorrect interpretation of words may lead to ill-informed decision-making or unnecessary concern. It is essential that challenging terminology is identified and explained at an understandable level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-830
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Dental Journal
Issue number12
Early online date25 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


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