How to Speak English for Medical Purposes: Dental Check-up

Doctor showing x-ray to patient
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Visiting the dentist requires a very particular set of English skills. A patient must understand how to respond to a dentist's questions and communicate concerns about their teeth. Learn important vocabulary and study the following authentic dialogue to prepare for your next visit to the dentist.

Vocabulary

  • gums: the pink tissue connecting your teeth to your jaw
  • to recline: to lie or lean back
  • open your mouth: (at the dentist) to open your mouth as wide as you comfortably can and leave it open until told otherwise
  • inflammation: irritation that is often painful; usually of the gums
  • X-rays: an imaging procedure that allows a dentist to see a patient's bones/teeth
  • standard procedure: common practice; normal
  • cavities: a hold in the tooth resulting from decay
  • fillings: used to fill cavities
  • superficial: shallow; not deep
  • to identify: to find or locate
  • tooth decay: rotting of the teeth
  • evidence of further decay: signs that the tooth is rotting more
  • protective apron: worn by a patient during an X-ray to keep them safe from the rays emitted by imaging equipment
  • to drill: to use a special tool to remove bacteria from a cavity in order to prepare it for filling and prevent more decay
  • to take care of: to fix or correct a problem
  • to get your teeth cleaned: to go to the dentist where they remove plaque (a material coating the teeth) in order to prevent cavities and gum diseases

Dialogue From a Dentist Appointment

The following conversation represents an exchange between a dentist and their patient during a dental check-up. Make sure that you understand the terminology used and expectations of the patient.

Sam: Hello, Doctor.

Dr. Peterson: Good morning, Sam. How are you doing today?

Sam: I'm OK. I've been having some gum pain recently.

Dr. Peterson: Well, we'll take a look. Please recline and open your mouth...that's good.

Sam: (after being examined) How does it look?

Dr. Peterson: Well, there is some inflammation of the gums. I think we should also do a new set of X-rays.

Sam: Why do you say that? Is something wrong?

Dr. Peterson: No, no, it's just standard procedure every year. It looks like you may have a few cavities as well.

Sam: That's not good news.

Dr. Peterson: There are just two and they look superficial.

Sam: I hope so.

Dr. Peterson: We need to take X-rays to identify tooth other decay and make sure that there isn't any between the teeth.

Sam: I see.

Dr. Peterson: Here, put on this protective apron.

Sam: Okay.

Dr. Peterson: (after taking X-rays) Things look good. I don't see any evidence of further decay.

Sam: That's great!

Dr. Peterson: Yes, I'll just get these two fillings drilled and taken care of and then we'll get your teeth cleaned.

English Dialogue in Other Medical Settings

Make sure that you know what to expect from other medical appointments as well so that medical professionals can help you with any problems that you may have.

Dentist

You'll interact with professionals other than the dentist when you get your teeth checked. Be able to communicate with a dental receptionist and dental hygienist—they will be the first people you talk to during your next dentist appointment.

Doctor

There are a number of different experiences that you might have during a doctor's appointment. Know how to tell a doctor or nurse about any symptoms or pain you are experiencing and be prepared to answer their questions about your general health as well.