Idioms we need to stop using in dentistry [giveaway!]

Puns are fun. No matter how cheesy they are, they are always good for a laugh or an eye roll. As a dental student, you are probably numb to all the puns of your profession. Unfortunately, not all puns are appreciated by their audience. Many of your patients will not look forward to their appointments. You will find yourself coping with their sensitivity in more ways than one. As you are on the cusp of becoming dentists, I want to brace you for dental puns that could leave your patients negatively impacted.

True, getting your patients to show up on time is like “pulling teeth.” You may just want to “fill them in” on proper brushing technique. Perhaps you want to “drill deeper” into the issue that is causing them pain. No. Don’t even say the word “drill” unless absolutely necessary. Ever notice that the word “drill” always seems to have a negative connotation? Drill sergeant, fire drill, you get the point. Guess what the most feared drill is? I’ll give you a clue: you’ll spend much of your career holding it. That goes double for “probe.” Not only is it a scary looking tool, it’s just not a pleasant word.

Try not to mention “scratching the surface” or getting to the “root” of the problem. These puns will leave your patients at a floss for words. Avoid sayings like “back to the grind” when returning from a break. Don’t say you need to “extract” more information and not expect them to erupt from your chair. Be extra cautious with your choice of words around new patients. The doctor-patient relationship can decay quickly if you haven’t polished your conversation skills early on. You certainly don’t want to make a bad first impression.

If you really want to bridge the gap between you and your patient, you’ll want to be sensitive to their fillings. Dentistry probably lends itself to more puns than any other profession. By scaling back on the puns, you will make it easier for your patients to open up to you, literally. Try waxing intellectual with them. You may just end up creating a bonding experience that they actually enjoy.

~Brian Jones, membership development manager

Can you think of a dental pun that’s best used outside the clinic? Leave us a comment below and you’ll be entered to win one of four gift baskets courtesy of MedPro. The basket includes a S’well water bottle, t-shirt, beach towel and more. Winners will be chosen on June 1. This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to the winners! Please stay tuned as ASDA plans to giveaway more prizes each month on Mouthing Off!

About Brian Jones

Brian Jones is the manager of membership development at the American Student Dental Association. He works with ASDA's Predental Advisory Committee on new predental member benefits, programming and events. If you have questions about this blog or ASDA predental membership, you can contact him at


Comments (19)

  1. Samantha Whitten

    I say “now you know the drill” after explaining the procedure to the patient. I do it almost every time without thinking about it!

  2. Michelle

    I really like the pun “brace yourself”! It has a good play on words for an orthodontist, but can also be used outside the clinic.

  3. Jordan Brown

    **5 minutes into perio probing**

    Patient: Dr. Brown I can’t take it anymore! That little stick thing is awful! You’re a terrible dentist!

    **Dr. Brown thinks to himself **Does she not know I have fillings too 🙁

  4. Jordan Brown

    Doctor: From the looks of it, you have acute gingivitis

    Susan: Thank you Dr., but I am married.

  5. Leslie Lopez

    I hear these two puns quite often, and although funny don’t belong in the dental clinic :

    “My dentist said I need a crown, I’m like I know right?” and “Best time to go to the dentist is 2:30” (tooth dirty)

  6. Josh Velasquez

    What does the dentist of the year get? A little plaque 😉

  7. Michelle Singapori

    Tooth (truth) be told, I love dentistry =)

  8. Katie

    Dentists usually have really great life flossophies!

  9. Sara Tarte

    My dad told me to put my money where my mouth is….

    So I got a porclein crown.

  10. Karen

    It’s important not to not hit any nerves…there are many sensitive tissues!

  11. Sarah Khan

    Any time I try something new, I remind people that I know the drill!

  12. Nancy Mo

    Let’s decorate our house for the holidays with FESTOONS of gorgeous flowers, balloons, and lights

  13. Yasmeen

    “My dentist told me I needed a crown, and I was like, ‘I know, right?'”

  14. Hilary

    I got my job at the dentist’s office by word of mouth.

  15. Hana

    Discovered this one by accident yesterday while texting a friend but I told her that I need to “buccal down” and start studying for my CBSE.

  16. Shruti Shah

    The dentist should feel the sensitivity and fear of the patients and act accordingly. It is good to read this informative blog. Thanks.