How to Navigate Dental Clinic Appointments as a Non-native English Speaker

Even the most confident speaker of English as second language can struggle to translate the specific dental terms you might hear in a dental appointment. It is important for a number of reasons that you understand the procedures the dentist is discussing so that you can understand the pros and cons of the suggested procedures. It's also just as important to communicate any concerns such as pain relief or medication allergies, so that you can choose a dental procedure and give informed consent to perform the procedure.

Here are some ways you can navigate your dental appointments, and increase your understanding of the dental treatments you are undergoing.

Talk to multilingual dentists

Be sure to let the dental clinic know about your native language. They may be able to set your appointment with a dentist or dental technician who speaks your language and can translate confidently. Equally they may be able to head on line and find some appropriate documentation or flyers in your language that they can offer so you can read up and ask any questions.

Ask for diagrams

Ask the dentist to use diagrams when they explain what they are doing. Many dental terms such as pulp and roots will be translated differently if you attempt to literally translate (or use auto translate programs) in this context. Get the dentist to label parts of the teeth they will be working on to give you a clear idea of the procedure. Visualising the procedure will help you better understand what they will do and why it is necessary.

Ask lots of questions

Make sure that the communication goes both ways, and you ask any questions that you need to fully understand the question. Asking the same question multiple times is not a problem if that helps you to fully understand what needs to be done, so don't be embarrassed if this happens to you. Even native English speakers can get nervous when facing new dental procedures and need several explanations before the details fully sink in.

Your dentist will be equally eager to make sure that you are able to consent to your dental procedures with full understanding of the procedures involved. Fully understanding the procedure is likely to make you feel more comfortable with any dental work being done and reduce any anxiety. Make sure to explain your language restrictions as best you can and they will be more than willing to help make your procedure as understandable as possible.