6. General Anatomy

General Anatomy

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this chapter, the student will be able to achieve the following objectives:

Electronic Resources

imageAdditional information related to content in Chapter 6 can be found on the companion Evolve Web site.

Key Terms

Abdominal cavity Contains the stomach, liver, gallbladder, spleen, and most of the intestines.

Abdominopelvic cavity Part of the ventral cavity that contains the abdominal and pelvic cavities.

Anatomical (anatomic) position (an-uh-TOM-i-kul, an-uh-TOM-ik) The body standing erect with face forward, feet together, arms hanging at the sides, and palms forward.

Anatomy (uh-NAT-uh-mee) Study of the shape and structure of the human body.

Anterior Toward the front.

Appendicular (ap-en-DIK-yoo-ler) Pertaining to the body region that consists of the arms and legs.

Axial (AK-see-ul) Referring to the body region that comprises the head, neck, and trunk.

Connective tissue The major support material of the body.

Cranial (KRAY-nee-ul) cavity Space that houses the brain.

Cytoplasm (SI-toe-plaz-em) Gel-like fluid inside the cell.

Differentiation Term for the specialization function of cells.

Distal Farther away from the trunk of the body; opposite of proximal.

Dorsal cavity Cavity located in the back of the body.

Epithelial (ep-i-THEE-lee-ul) tissue Type of tissue that forms the covering of all body surfaces.

Frontal plane Vertical plane that divides the body into anterior (front) and posterior (back) portions.

Horizontal plane Plane that divides the body into superior (upper) and inferior (lower) portions.

Medial Toward or nearer to the midline of the body.

Midsagittal plane Imaginary line that divides the patient’s [face] into equal right and left sides.

Muscle tissue Tissue with the ability to lengthen or shorten to provide movement to body parts.

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) The federal government’s lead agency for scientific research on oral, dental, and craniofacial disease.

Nerve tissue Responsible for coordinating and controlling body activities.

Nucleus (NOO-klee-us) “Control center” of the cell.

Organelle (or-guh-NEL) Specialized part of a cell that performs a specific function.

Parietal (puh-RYE-e-tul) Pertaining to the walls of a body cavity.

Pelvic cavity Contains portions of the large and small intestines, the rectum, the urinary bladder, and reproductive organs.

Physiology (fiz-ee-OL-uh-jee) Study of the functions of the human body.

Planes Three imaginary lines used to divide the body into sections.

Posterior Toward the back.

Proximal Closer to the trunk of the body; opposite of distal.

Regenerative medicine Process of creating living, functional tissues to repair or replace tissue or organ function through the use of stem cells.

Sagittal (SADJ-ih-tal) plane Any vertical plane parallel to the midline that divides the body into unequal left and right portions.

Spinal cavity Space in the body that contains the spinal cord.

Stem cell Immature, unspecialized cells capable of replication and differentiation into other types of cells or tissues.

Superior Above another portion, or closer to the head.

Thoracic cavity Contains the heart, lungs, esophagus, and trachea.

Ventral cavity Cavity located at the front of the body.

Visceral (VIS-er-ul) Pertaining to internal organs or the covering of those organs.

It is important for the dental assistant to understand the basic structure and anatomy of the human body. Anatomy is the scientific study of the shape and structure of the human body. Physiology is the scientific study of how the body functions (see Chapter 7). Studies of anatomy and physiology are closely related because one continuously influences the other. Remember that function affects structure, and structure affects function.

To communicate effectively as a health professional, you must begin by learning some basic terms that relate to the anatomy of the body. This chapter discusses terms used to describe directions and regions of the body. You are learning a new vocabulary that will continue to grow as you progress through the book. The basic anatomic reference systems are (1) planes and body directions, (2) structural units, and (3) body cavities.

Planes and Body Directions

The word anatomy comes from the Greek words ana and tome-, which means to “cut up.” In the study of anatomy, the human body is described as if it were dissected. Terms used to describe directions in relation to the whole body are easier to understand if you think of them as pairs of opposite directions, such as up and down, left and right, or front and back (Table 6-1).


Directional Terms for the Human Body


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Term Definition Example
Superior Above another part, or closer to head Nose is superior to mouth.
Inferior Below another part, or closer to feet Heart is inferior to neck.
Proximal Closer to a point of attachment, or closer to trunk of body Elbow is proximal to wrist.
Distal Farther from a point of attachment, or farther from trunk of body Fingers are distal to wrist.
Lateral The side, or away from the midline Ears are lateral to eyes.
Medial Toward, or nearer the midline Nose is medial to ears.

Jan 8, 2015 | Posted by in Dental Nursing and Assisting | Comments Off on 6. General Anatomy
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