French Language Blog

Going To Le Dentiste In French Posted by on Nov 9, 2016 in Culture, Vocabulary

Knowing who to call in an emergency and when and where pharmacies are open is important to know. Outside of les urgences (emergencies), talking to les médecins et les dentistes (doctors and dentists) can be difficult, especially in another language.  Figuring out how to describe what’s wrong and answering all the questions le médecin ou le dentiste asks is a quick lesson in how much more there is to learn!

"Dentist" by Herry Lawford on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Dentist” by Herry Lawford on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

When mes dents (my teeth) started hurting I knew I needed to go to le cabinet du dentiste (the dentist’s office) to figure out what was wrong. I thought it might be my wisdom teeth, but I did not know how to say the word in French! I knew I had to look up how to say it before I left.

Dents de sagesse
Wisdom teeth

I was surprised to learn that thinking in English would have worked to figure out how to say the word! Ensuite (next), I needed to figure out how to say that my teeth hurt.

J’ai mal aux dents.
My teeth hurt.

I thought that would be enough, but was soon left trying to answer questions about mon dossier médical (my medical history) and the pain I was feeling while le dentiste examined mes dents.

Quand est-ce que vous avez commencé à avoir mal ?
Est-ce que vous pouvez répéter s’il vous plaît ?

When did you start feeling pain?
Can you please repeat that?

The real vocabulary surprise came after the general check-up and le dentiste told me he needed une radiographie.

J’ai besoin d’une radiographie. Vous pouvez la passer près d’ici.
D’accord, mais qu’est-ce que c’est une radiographie ?
Une radiographie ? C’est comme une photo pour les os.
Aaah, oui, je comprends !

I need une radiographie. You can get one close by.
Alright, but what is une radiographie?
Une radiographie? It’s like a photo for bones.
Aaah, yes, I understand!

After the brief exchange I understood that une radiographie is an X-ray!

My first confusing visit chez le dentiste was over and fortunately l’assurance (the insurance) was easy to figure out! I still needed to come back and prendre un rendez-vous (make an appointement) to figure out how to deal with mes dents de sagesse, but I was much more confident about how to talk to le dentiste after that first visit.

Voici un petit vocabulaire des dents :

"Detist Day!" by Francis Bourgouin on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Detist Day!” by Francis Bourgouin on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Le dent – Tooth
Le dent de sagesse – Wisdom tooth
Le dentiste – Dentist
Le cabinet du dentiste – Dentist’s office
Les bagues – Braces
L’appareil orthodonique – Retainer
Se brosser les dents – To brush teeth
La brosse à dents – Toothbrush
Le dentifrice – Toothpaste
Le bain de bouche – Mouthwash
Le fil dentaire – Dental floss
La carie – Cavity
La radiographie – X-ray
La radio – X-ray (informal)

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.