How often do you go to the dentist? The dentist is a doctor who cares for your teeth, and it’s recommended that you go to the dentist regularly (again and again). However, if English is not your native language (the language you grew up speaking), then you probably need some vocabulary for the dentist. Going to any doctor can be intimidating (scary, make you feel uncomfortable) if you don’t know what to say once you’re there!

As always, we’re here to help with some important vocabulary for the dentist. Keep reading to find out some of the words you may hear the most when you get your teeth checked out (looked at).

Cavity

Hopefully you never get a cavity! But cavities are one of the most common complaints (issues, problems to be unhappy about) that people have with their teeth. A cavity, also called tooth decay, is a damaged (harmed, not perfect) bit of tooth that can turn into small holes in your teeth. Cavities can be caused by a few things, such as eating too many sweets (candy) or sugary drinks, or not taking care of your teeth well enough. I hope you never have a cavity, but if you do, it’s not the end of the world (it’s not the worst thing).

For example:

  • She always took very good care of her teeth, so she was surprised when the dentist told her she had a cavity. The dentist said they would repair it with a filling in a week or two, and made an appointment for her to come back.
  • When I was a kid, I got a cavity in a baby tooth (the first teeth you grow). Because it was in a baby tooth, my dentist decided not to fix it and rather just wait for the tooth to fall out.

Gums

Do you know what the pink skin around your teeth is called? In English, these are your gums. I absolutely hate the German word for gums, Zahnfleisch (literally, tooth meat). I just find that word really gross! But because your gums help to keep your teeth in place, it’s important to know what they’re called in English. It’s always just as important to take care of your gums as it is your teeth. Your dentist will probably ask if you’ve been taking care of your gums and your teeth.

For example:

  • Having healthy gums is an important part of overall health. Gum disease has been linked to other illnesses, so it’s important to make sure your gums are well cared for.
  • His gums were bright red and bled easily, so his dentist told him he had gum disease and needed to start taking care of them. She gave him some easy tips to make sure his gums were healthy.

Floss

I have a confession (to admit doing something wrong): I rarely floss. It’s something I can never remember to do! Flossing is an important part of taking care of your teeth. To floss is when you take a piece of string and put it between your teeth and around your gums to remove any small food that is stuck. Flossing helps get food and plaque (a sticky deposit around your teeth) out from between your teeth. Flossing helps preserve your teeth and keeps them healthy. Your dentist will probably ask you how often you floss, so they can get a better idea of the health of your teeth and gums.

For example:

  • My dentist asked me how often I floss. I lied and said “sometimes,” even though I rarely floss. I think my dentist knew that I wasn’t telling the truth, because he told me to remember to floss every day!
  • Her mom takes very good care of her teeth. She brushes her teeth twice a day and flosses in the morning and at night.

Procaine

If you need to have some work (surgery or repairs) done on your teeth, how do dentists make sure you don’t feel anything? They will inject (to put in your body with a needle) a numbing agent to make sure you don’t feel any pain. When I was growing up and had to get a cavity fixed, we called this numbing agent (substance) Novocaine. However, dentists have started using Procaine instead, because many people were allergic to Novocaine. Procaine will make sure that your mouth is numb (can’t feel anything), so that your dentist can do things such as fix cavities without you feeling any pain.

For example:

  • When he had to get a cavity fixed, the dentist injected his mouth with Procaine. This was so they could drill his teeth without it hurting him.
  • She never liked getting Procaine injected at the dentist, because she didn’t like her mouth being numb. But she knew it was necessary sometimes.

Root canal

No matter what, I hope you never have to get a root canal. If you have a tooth that is badly damaged, your dentist may have to perform a root canal. A root canal is a medical procedure that is done to save a badly damaged or infected tooth. It is done to keep the tooth from being removed. The area around the root of the tooth (what connects the tooth to the jaw) is cleaned or repaired, then filled. Root canals used to be very painful, but with modern technology, they’re pretty painless nowadays. That’s good at least!

For example:

  • She was hit in the face with a ball, and one of her teeth was badly damaged. Her dentist recommended that she get a root canal to repair the tooth.
  • Unfortunately, one of Steve’s teeth got a very bad infection. His dentist said he would have to perform a root canal in order to fix it. Steve was very nervous that it would hurt, but was surprised that it didn’t hurt at all!

How often do you go to the dentist? Have you had to use any of this vocabulary for the dentist? Share your story with us in the comments below!


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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and should probably make an appointment at the dentist’s. Then she can use her vocabulary for the dentist!

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