57 million people in the country speaking the language. Those individuals who only speak Spanish may find that they are unable to communicate when they need it most, like during a medical emergency. In fact, 49% of patients who did not speak the local language reported confusion over their medical care, while 15.8% suffered a consequence like a bad medication reaction because of it.  To better support your patients, there are some dental terms in Spanish you should know, as well as services you can use to break communication barriers.

Learning dental terms in Spanish will enable you to better support your patients
Learning dental terms in Spanish will enable you to better support your patients.

25 Dental Terms in Spanish to Know

Achieving fluency in any language typically requires 2-3 years of consistent study — a valuable goal that enhances communication with patients and improves their experience. However, full fluency is not necessary to convey many treatments and plans to patients. Here are twenty-five essential dental terms in Spanish to facilitate communication.


English Word

Translation (and Pronunciation)


Cita (See-tah)


Frenillos (Freh-nee-yos)


Puente dental (Pwen-teh den-tal)


Caries (Cah-ree-ays)


Limpieza (Leem-pie-eh-sah)


Corona dental (Koh-roh-nah den-tal)


Dentadura (Den-tah-doo-rah)


Esmalte (Es-mahl-teh)


Extraccin (Ex-trahk-see-on)


Relleno (Reh-yeh-no)


Hilo dental (Hee-lo den-tal)

Gum disease

Enfermedad de las encas (En-fehr-meh-dad de las en-see-ahs)


Implante dental (Im-plant-eh den-tal)


Protector bucal (Proh-tehk-tor boo-kal)

Oral hygiene

Higiene oral (Ee-hee-hen-eh or-al)


Placa dental (Plah-kah den-tal)


Dolor (Doh-lor)


Retenedor (Reh-teh-neh-dor)

Root canal

Endodoncia (En-doh-don-see-ah)


Sensibilidad dental (Sen-si-bee-lee-dad den-tal)


Diente (Dyen-teh)


Cepillo dental (Seh-pee-yo den-tal)


Tratamiento (Trah-tah-mee-ento)


Blanqueamiento dental (Blan-kay-ah-mee-en-to den-tal)


Radiografa (Rah-dee-oh-grah-fee-ah)


These terms may help you express the basics to your Spanish-speaking patients. However, to truly communicate, you will need to employ some tools and resources for your team.

Tools to Close Language Barriers in Dental Practices

Translation has come a long way thanks to technological development. There are a wide range of options for dental practices that want to close language barriers. Of course, not all solutions are equally effective, and not all options are affordable for every practice.

Here are a few translation options for your dental practice, as well as their pros and cons.


Translation type



Professional Interpreters:

These are trained individuals proficient in both the source and target languages who facilitate communication between parties.

  • Accurate and dependable.

  • Ensures clear communication.
  • May be expensive.

  • Requires scheduling in advance.

Language Translation Apps:

Mobile or web applications can use artificial intelligence to translate text or speech from one language to another.

  • Instant translation.

  • Cost-effective or free.
  • May lack nuance.

  • Relies on technology, which can have errors.

Translation Services:

Companies or agencies offer professional translation services, often for written documents or more complex communication needs.

  • Offers a wide range of translations in both verbal and written formats.

  • Can manage large volumes.
  • Cost may vary.

  • Turnaround time may not be immediate.

Language Access Lines:

Telephone services provide immediate access to interpreters for real-time translation over the phone.

  • Immediate access to interpreters for dozens of languages.

  • 24/7 availability.
  • Costly, especially for frequent use.

  • May lack personal connection.

Translated Written Materials:

Documents, brochures, or educational materials are translated into different languages to provide information to patients in a written format.

  • Permanent reference for patients.

  • Ensures accuracy.
  • Time-consuming to create.

  • Limited to written communication.


These tools, while useful, are all external to your practice. You will need to depend on third-party services to provide the translation. While they can be a great supplement, you shouldn’t depend on them alone. Instead, build diversity into your practice through hiring and professional development.

Building a More Diverse Dental Practice

Dental anxiety is something that affects an estimated 36% of patients and a big factor in alleviating that anxiety is communication. When your patients understand the care and instructions they're given, their anxiety decreases, and oral health improves. While many translation tools can help eliminate communication barriers, they don't replace the ability to speak to a dental professional who is fluent in their language.

Hiring a diverse team and developing the skills of your existing staff can help you close the language gap in your practice. Here are some tips to improve:

  • Expand your hiring: Actively seek candidates with diverse language skills when hiring. You can find many of these candidates at post-secondary schools within their communities, or through community outreach programs. By broadening your recruitment efforts, you increase the likelihood of building a team that reflects the linguistic diversity of your patient population.

  • Offer language training: Provide language training for existing staff to improve communication skills. You can start by training all your staff on common dental terms in Spanish, and then offer more detailed training to those who express an interest in expanding their fluency. This type of program is a win/win, as your team member learns a second language, and your practice benefits from greater language diversity.

  • Incorporate cultural competency training: Incorporate cultural competency training to understand patient backgrounds. This helps to enhance your team's sensitivity to cultural differences, promoting better understanding and communication with patients from diverse backgrounds.

  • Encourage language exchange: Foster a workplace culture that supports language exchange among staff members. Create opportunities for team members to practice and improve language skills by encouraging language exchange within the team.

  • Provide multilingual resources: Ensure your practice has readily available multilingual resources, such as pamphlets and educational materials. Consider simple things, like the signs your office uses to direct patients. Do they reflect the languages they read in at home? If not, consider adding these options to build a more inclusive environment.

  • Seek patient feedback: Regularly gather patient input to understand their language-related challenges. This allows you to make continuous improvements in language access and communication.

Learning dental terms in Spanish to help your patients is just the beginning. By building greater cultural diversity in your workplace, you embed that closeness and understanding directly into the fabric of your practice. This not only enhances communication but also fosters an environment where patients feel seen and valued. The benefits extend beyond language proficiency, creating a practice that is more inclusive, culturally competent, and better equipped to provide exceptional care to a diverse patient population.