Learning Italian For Members

The key Italian vocabulary you'll need if you go to the dentist

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected]
The key Italian vocabulary you'll need if you go to the dentist
A dentist is pictured as she treats a patient in April 2017. Photo by FRED TANNEAU / AFP

A trip to the dentist can be a daunting experience in and of itself, but possibly even more so if your Italian 'dentista' doesn't have a good command of English.


While some Italian dentists may be competent and confident English speakers, this certainly doesn't apply to everyone. 

Additionally, an Italian dentist’s English vocabulary may not be enough to cover the full extent of medical and dental procedures involved, which is why they may naturally switch to talking to you in their native tongue when asking questions or providing information. 

So having some handy vocabulary under your belt can be a big help when trying to bridge any potential language gaps during your next visit.

Most people going to the dentista (dentist) will be heading there to have their denti (teeth) checked as part of a visita di controllo (routine checkup).

Once in the dentist's seat, you may be asked, ‘può aprire la bocca?’ (‘can you open your mouth?’). You may be given some mouthwash (colluttorio) and asked to sciaquarti la bocca (rinse your mouth) and sputarlo (spit it out). 

The assistente (dental assistant) may take care of these steps while the dentist prepares for the rest of the examination. 

From there, it's onto the appointment proper. The dentist will begin inspecting your teeth and your gengive (gums) for signs of carie (cavities). Plaque will also be on the agenda, and the dentist may opt to rimuovere la placca (remove the plaque) during a pulizia dei denti (literally, ‘teeth cleaning’) procedure. 

READ ALSO: 'Very professional but underequipped': What readers think of Italy's hospitals

When taking a closer look at your teeth and gums or trying to remove plaque, the dentist or assistant may kindly ask you to girare or ruotare la testa verso di me (‘turn your head to me’). 

At this point, the dentist may also recommend you use filo interdentale (dental floss) more often, replace your spazzolino (toothbrush) or use a different dentifricio (toothpaste). 


If you are lucky, that may signal the end of your appointment. However, if your teeth haven't fared so well since your last visit to the dentist, then it may mean you need further treatment, with a radiografia (X-ray) possibly required to determine the next steps.

In the event you do need some work done on your teeth, then there are a number of common treatments. The most common of these is an otturazione (filling). 

While some will get off lightly with a filling, other patients will need to have some more extensive procedures done. 

Treatments range from getting a corona (dental crown), undergoing an estrazione dentale (having a tooth removed) or doing the dreaded devitalizzazione (root canal treatment). 

If you have denti storti or affollati (crooked or crowded teeth), or a morso inverso (reverse bite), you may be required to wear un apparecchio (braces).

Whenever extensive (and painful) treatment is required, you’ll need to fare l’anestesia locale (get local anaesthesia).


Barring some exceptions, Italy's public healthcare system doesn't provide free dental care, which means you’ll have to pay for treatment out of your own pocket, though some services may be significantly cheaper than in the private sector. 

READ ALSO: Italian healthcare: Should you switch from public to private insurance?

Most Italians however prefer private treatment to public dental care to avoid long waiting times. 

Whether you seek private or public treatment, you’ll need to make a pagamento (payment) after any work done on your pearly whites. 

Other useful terms

Chew – Masticare

Molars – Molari

Premolars – Premolari

Canines – Canini

Incisors – Incisivi

Wisdom tooth – Dente del giudizio

Baby teeth – Denti da latte 

Tartar – Tartaro

Bad breath – Alito cattivo

Toothache – Mal di denti

Dental bridge – Ponte

Whitening – Sbiancamento

Waiting Room – Sala d'attesa


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also