Dental Science for Dental Assisting Exam Study Guide (page 4)

Updated on Jun 23, 2011

Oral Pathology

Oral pathology is the study of the diseases of the oral cavity, and dental assistants need to be aware of any abnormalities to alert the dentist.


Often, the patient will not realize there is an issue involving their soft tissue health. Upon examination, the dental healthcare provider will inspect the entire oral cavity. This is usually when an abnormality is discovered. The dentist then determines the best route for diagnosis. A biopsy is the most common method of diagnosis. Dental assistants cannot diagnose, but they do play an important role in helping the dentist to do so.

Lesions of the Oral Cavity

Oral lesions are abnormal tissue development in the mouth. These can include ulcers, abscesses, cysts, blisters, and plaques.

Classifications of Lesions

Lesions are classified by whether they extend above or below the oral mucosa. Ulcers, erosions, abscesses, and cysts are below the mucosal surface, while blisters and plaques are above that surface.

Soft Tissue Diseases

There are five major diseases of the oral soft tissues: leukoplakia, lichen planus, candidiasis, aphthous ulcers, and cellulitis. However, these are not the only soft tissue diseases.

Conditions of the Tongue

Inflammation of the tongue is called glossitis. Other conditions of the tongue include black hairy tongue, geographic tongue, and fissured tongue.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is more common than one would think. Like other cancers, the oral disease can be treated by radiation and chemotherapy or surgery.

Other Pathological Disorders

Symptoms of HIV/AIDS often include oral lesions. Other pathological disorders with oral symptoms include hairy leukoplakia, Kaposi’s sarcoma, herpes simplex, herpes zoster, and human papillomavirus (HPV).

General Anatomy

Every dental assistant must understand the shape and structure of the human body as well as its functions.

Body Planes

Imaginary lines known as planes divide the body into sections from top to bottom and left and right. Structural Components of the Body There are four structural components of the body. These are cell, tissues, organs, and body systems.


The human body contains about 75 trillion cells. Each cell has a nucleus surrounded by cytoplasm wrapped in a membrane.


Hard and soft tissues are formed by many millions of cells that perform a similar function. There are four types of tissue in the human body: epithelial, connective, muscle, and nerve tissues.


The different types of tissues come together to form organs. These include, but are not limited to: the eyes, ears, lungs, heart, and liver.

Body Systems

A body system is formed when a group of organs work together to allow the body to function.

General Physiology

Physiology is the biological science that studies how the human body functions, in particular the ten systems of the human body. These systems are skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, nervous, respiratory, digestive, reproductive, integumentary, urinary, and endocrine.

Skeletal System

The skeletal system consists of 206 bones. The bones are connected by cartilage and joints.

Muscular System

The human body has more than 600 individual muscles, of which there are three types: striated, smooth, and cardiac.

Cardiovascular System

The cardiovascular system has three parts: the heart, the circulatory system, and the lymphatic system.

Nervous System

The human body is composed of the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. These are the communication systems of the human body.

Respiratory System

The respiratory system delivers oxygen to cells and expels carbon dioxide. The system consists of the nose, throat or pharynx, epiglottis, larynx, trachea, and lungs.

Digestive System

The digestive system is the arrangement of interactive body organs that break down food into nutrients for the body to absorb. The digestive process has five stages: ingestion, digestion, movement, absorption, and elimination. The system consists of nine major structures: mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.

Reproductive System

The system includes the sexual organs that allow men and women to reproduce.

Integumentary System

The integumentary system is the outer covering of the body. Also known as the skin system, it consists of three layers: the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous fat. Skin appendages in humans include hair, nails, and glands.

Urinary System

This body system filters out unneeded liquids from the food we eat as well as toxic wastes and then excretes them. The system consists of four main organs: kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra.

Endocrine System

The endocrine system consists of a series of glands that secrete hormones directly into the circulatory system that regulates bodily functions.

Practice problems for this study guide can be found at:

Dental Science for Dental Assisting Exam Practice Problems

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