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0107 Going to the Dentist

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 107: Going to the Dentist.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 19. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

On today’s podcast, we’re going to go to the dentist. Let’s go!

[start of dialogue]

I went to the dentist to get a check-up and cleaning. I showed up at the dentist's office a few minutes before 10. I gave the receptionist my name and told her that I had a 10 a.m. appointment. She said that the doctor was running a little late and that I should take a seat. After about 15 minutes, a dental assistant came out and told me to follow her. She led me to a room and told me to take a seat in the exam chair, and then she put a dental bib on me.

The dentist came into the room.

Dentist: Hello, how are you today? Here for your six month check-up?

Gary: I'm fine, Dr. Meecham. Yes, just a cleaning and check-up today.

Dentist: Oh, fine. Let's take a look.

She probed my teeth and checked my gums.

Dentist: Well, it looks like you have a cavity and your crown is loose. We need to fill that cavity before it gets any worse and the crown needs to be refitted. Make an appointment for next week and I'll take care of them.

Gary: Okay, I'll do that, but my crown was just put on last year. Will my dental insurance cover the work?

Dentist: Since you had that done here, we'll take care of it. There won't be a charge. And your insurance should cover the work on the cavity. Now, I'm going to have the hygienist do your cleaning and I'll see you soon for the other work.

Gary: Thanks, doctor.

The hygienist came into the room and had me rinse with mouthwash. She began her cleaning and finished by polishing my teeth. On my way out, I tried to make an appointment for the following week. Unfortunately, there were no appointments available for two weeks, and the time they had was an inconvenient one, but I said I'd manage. I have to say, going to the dentist can be a pain, in the mouth and in the butt.

[end of story]

Today we are at the dentist and we are going to the dentist for a check-up and a cleaning. A “check-up” (check-up) is when you go to the dentist or the doctor and there’s nothing wrong with you but you want the doctor or here, the dentist, to look at you, to look at your teeth and to see if they are okay. You can also go to the doctor for a check-up where he checks your health. A “cleaning” is when they clean your teeth at the dentist.

I said “I showed up at the doctor’s office a few minutes before 10.” “To show up” means, of course, to arrive at a place. The doctor, apparently, was “running a little late.” “To be running a little late” or “to be running late” means that they’re not on schedule. So, you have an appointment at 10 o’clock but the dentist can’t see you until 10:30 – they’re running a half hour late, we would say.

A dental assistant, who is someone who helps the dentist, came and put me in one of the exam chairs – that’s the chair you sit in at a dentist office – the “exam” or “examination chair” – and she put a dental “bib” on me. A “bib” (bib) is what they put on you on your neck so that it covers the front of your clothing so that your clothing doesn’t get dirty. We use the same word for a little baby who has a “bib” around their neck so when they’re eating, they don’t spill food on their clothes or let food fall onto their clothes.

The dentist comes in and asked me if I’m here for a check-up. I say, “I am.” So, she “probed” my teeth and checked my gums. “To probe my teeth” means to take the little metal instrument that the dentist has and they check your teeth to make sure you don’t have any “cavities.” A “cavity” (cavity) is a hole in your tooth. Well, she probed my teeth and she checked my “gums.” My “gums” (gums) – plural – my gums are the part of your mouth that’s below the teeth, the red part. It’s where the skin is. The teeth are in the gums – the bottom of the teeth are in the gums.

The dentist said that I had a cavity, a hole, in one of my teeth and that my “crown” was loose. My “crown” (crown) – when a dentist talks about a crown, he or she means it’s like a cap that’s – something that’s put on top of a tooth that is falling apart, that isn’t healthy. And so, they put a crown on. It looks just like a tooth. It’s like a little jacket for your tooth. And the word “crown” is also used for what you put on. A king would put on his head, or a queen would put on her head – that’s a crown – that round thing with diamonds or whatever. Well, this is a crown for your teeth. Often, crowns are made of gold. At least they used to be made of gold – probably too expensive now.

The dentist said that she needed to “fill” my cavity. “To fill a cavity” or “to put in a filling” means that they take a little drill and they clean out the hole and then they put in something to fill the hole, so the tooth doesn’t have more damage done to it – that the hole doesn’t get bigger. And we call that a filling – and the verb “to fill” – just like you would “fill” a glass with water, pour water into it and fill it. So, we use the same verb for what you put in your teeth and the noun is “filling.”

My “crown” needed to be “refitted.” “To fit” something means to put it on and make sure that it’s the right size. “To refit it” means they have to take it off and adjust it and then put it back on again.

I asked my dentist if my insurance, my dental insurance, would cover the work. “Dental insurance,” of course, is insurance that you buy or that your company buys, that you work for, and it pays for a certain amount of your dental work. Some dental insurance plans cover half of the cost and some cover 80% of the cost. It depends on how much insurance you buy. Most companies, for full time employees in the United States, will have some health insurance – private health insurance and some dental insurance. Of course, medical care in the United States is mostly private, and there is very little public assistance – public help for health problems.

The dentist said that there wouldn’t be a charge for the crown. A “charge,” meaning she wouldn’t – I wouldn’t have to pay money. A “charge” is like a bill. The verb “to charge me,” for example, would mean to bill me, to give me a bill.

After the dentist left, the hygienist came in to do my cleaning. A “hygienist” (hygienist) is someone – is responsible for cleaning your teeth. “Hygiene” is another word that we sometimes use for the idea of something being clean, of cleanliness. So, a “hygienist” makes sure your teeth are clean. To do that, she had me “rinse” with mouthwash. “To rinse” is to take something like water, in this case, “mouthwash” – all one word – and not to drink it but to put in your mouth and then move it back and forth. The “mouthwash,” which is usually a green or blue, helps clean your mouth and your teeth. The hygienist then “polished” my teeth. “To polish” (polish) is a verb which means to – usually to put some sort of chemical on it to make it even cleaner, to remove any dirt or stains. For example, if you drink a lot of coffee or tea, your teeth can get brown. So, the hygienist will clean it and then polish it. So, it’s another type of cleaning.

Well, unfortunately, I had to return to the dentist and they didn’t have any appointments for the following week. I told them that I would take an appointment “two weeks from now.” Even though it was inconvenient, I said, “I’d manage.” When you say, “I’ll manage” or “I’d manage,” “to manage” here means I’ll be able to take care of it. I would be able to; it won’t cause me any great problems. I’ll manage, I can take care of the situation. I said, “I have to say, going to the dentist can be a pain.” “I have to say” is an expression we use when you’re going to say something very honest. It’s sort of like to tell the truth. “I have to say, I’m not very happy with my government” or “I have to say, I’m very happy that the holidays are coming up.”

The dentist, I said, “can be a pain in the mouth, and in the butt.” Well, to be a “pain” as a noun – a “pain” – means that it’s a problem. It causes me problems. “It’s a pain in the mouth;” literally, it can cause pain in your mouth. “To be a pain in the butt” means to be very inconvenient and that’s an informal slang expression. Your “butt,” I think you probably know, is that thing you sit on.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue this time at a native rate of speech.

[start of dialogue]

I went to the dentist to get a check-up and cleaning. I showed up at the dentist's office a few minutes before 10. I gave the receptionist my name and told her that I had a 10 a.m. appointment. She said that the doctor was running a little late and that I should take a seat. After about 15 minutes, a dental assistant came out and told me to follow her. She led me to a room and told me to take a seat in the exam chair, and then she put a dental bib on me.

The dentist came into the room.

Dentist: Hello, how are you today? Here for your six month check-up?

Gary: I'm fine, Dr. Meecham. Yes, just a cleaning and check-up today.

Dentist: Oh, fine. Let's take a look.

She probed my teeth and checked my gums.

Dentist: Well, it looks like you have a cavity and your crown is loose. We need to fill that cavity before it gets any worse and the crown needs to be refitted. Make an appointment for next week and I'll take care of them.

Gary: Okay, I'll do that, but my crown was just put on last year. Will my dental insurance cover the work?

Dentist: Since you had that done here, we'll take care of it. There won't be a charge. And your insurance should cover the work on the cavity. Now, I'm going to have the hygienist do your cleaning and I'll see you soon for the other work.

Gary: Thanks, doctor.

The hygienist came into the room and had me rinse with mouthwash. She began her cleaning and finished by polishing my teeth. On my way out, I tried to make an appointment for the following week. Unfortunately, there were no appointments available for two weeks, and the time they had was an inconvenient one, but I said I'd manage. I have to say, going to the dentist can be a pain, in the mouth and in the butt.

[end of story]

That brings us to the end of this ESL Podcast. I want to thank you for listening. I’m Jeff McQuillan from Los Angeles, California. We’ll see you next time on ESL Podcast.

ESL Podcast is a production of the Center for Educational Development in Los Angeles, California. This podcast is copyright 2005. No part of this podcast may be sold or redistributed without the expressed written permission of the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
check-up – a visit to a doctor where the doctor checks or looks at all of one’s health instead of looking at a specific problem

* Mike did not feel any pain in his mouth, but he had not visited the dentist in two years, so he thought he should at least go in for a check-up.


to run late – to be arriving to an appointment, meeting, or event later than planned

* Ivana woke up later than she planned, and now she is running a little late for class and will probably arrive after it starts.


dental assistant – someone who helps the dentist by providing help, such as guiding patients, helping to clean a patient’s teeth, and giving the dentist tools the dentist needs as he or she works

* The dental assistant told the patient what the dentist planned on doing today during the appointment.


exam chair – a special chair or seat one sits in as the dentist looks at one’s teeth and cleans one’s teeth

* Josh sat in the uncomfortable exam chair as the dentist asked him questions about the things Josh does to take care of his teeth.


dental bib – a piece of cloth or paper tied around one’s neck that covers one’s chest, worn at a dentist’s office to protect one’s clothes from getting dirty during a dental exam or procedure

* Toothpaste got on the dental bib instead of the front of Tahra’s shirt.


to probe – to examine or look at something, like teeth, with great detail and usually by poking at it with a special tool

* Dr. Ling probed the inside of the patient’s mouth with a thin metal tool and a thin mirror, looking for any signs of disease or decay.


gums – the pink flesh that covers the bottom part of the teeth

* The sharp piece of food cut Bryant’s gums as he chewed, causing the inside of his mouth to bleed.


cavity – a hole in a tooth caused by decay; a hole in a tooth that usually happens when a tooth is weak or hasn’t been properly cleaned

* Darlene had a cavity, and the hole was big enough to cause her pain every time she ate.


crown – a cap or covering put on the top of a damaged tooth that protects the tooth

* After the dentist worked on Quinton’s damaged tooth, she put a crown on it to keep the sensitive tooth safe from further harm.


to fill – to put something into an empty space or hole; to put a special substance into a cavity (a hole in the tooth) so that the hole is no longer there, done to stop or slow damage to the tooth

* Even though Greta did not want to go to the dentist, she knew that the dentist needed to fill the cavity in her tooth before it got worse.


to be refitted – to have something that was put on in the past put on again, usually because it no longer fits properly

* Tobias could feel the dental cap in his mouth getting loose, so he asked the dentist to have it refitted.


dental insurance – a plan one has with an insurance company that pays some of the costs one is charged with when visiting the dentist

* Lenore had to pay the entire cost of the dental treatment because she did not have dental insurance.


charge – a fee or cost one must pay after receiving an item or a service; a fee one must pay for a service or product one gets

* Even though Dirk was supposed to get a discount that would reduce the charge, the seller asked him for the full price.


hygienist – someone who helps the dentist with more difficult tasks, such as cleaning teeth

* The hygienist cleaned the patient’s teeth while explaining to her the importance of daily brushing and flossing.


to rinse – to wash away with water; to put liquid in one’s mouth and to spit the liquid out instead of swallowing it

* Miriam had a mouth full of toothpaste and could not talk until she rinsed it out with water.


mouthwash – a special liquid one uses that can clean the mouth and teeth, uses by taking it into one's mouth and spitting it out instead of swallowing it

* The mouthwash tasted like peppermint and made Eldon’s mouth feel very clean.


to polish – to make something, like a tooth or decoration, smooth by rubbing it with a special tool or cloth

* Alisa polished the vase with a special cloth until it looked smooth and shiny.