The Dentist — a short story for English reading

This is a horror story about a man who is visiting the dentist. He has a terrible fear of going to the dentist and the pain that it involves. And then things get a lot worse for him…

You can use this story in your English or ESL class, if you are a teacher.

Or if you are a student, you can read it alone or with your friends and try all the exercises by yourself.

But I hope it is useful and I hope you enjoy this short story.

Let me know in the comments below!





Do you like to go to the dentist? why/why not?

What do you dislike about going to the dentist?

What is a psychopath?

Could a dentist be a psychopath? What if he was?



The Dentist


Michael hated it. He hated sitting in the chair and feeling helpless. The bright light above his head and the clean, hygienic walls that surrounded him.

It all made him feel incredibly uneasy.

Michael, I can assure you there is nothing to worry about,” said Mr Crane. He wore his dentist’s white coat and had perfect white teeth. He gazed back at Michael with a relaxed air. Like there was nothing to worry about.

It was all right for him. He wasn’t sitting in the chair. He was not about to have treatment for a new crown to be fitted.

Michael shifted his weight in the chair and grimaced.

I’m sorry about last time,” he said. “It’s just a stupid fear I have.”

Fear of going to the dentist?” asked Mr Crane. “Don’t worry about it. I get this all the time from patients.”

He leaned forward. “Some are a lot of trouble, I can assure you.”

He gave Michael an encouraging smile.

This did nothing for Michael’s nerves. He would rather be anywhere else than in this dentist chair. He could accept the pain in his tooth. That was much better than sitting here while Mr Crane drilled into the offending tooth.

Michael, I have something I want to show you,” said Mr Crane, going to a small tray to the side of the room. He turned and held a small vial to show Michael. It was filled with a clear liquid.

This is a new anaesthetic on the market,” he went on. “It is brand new and only my private students are allowed to have it. The company that makes it wants it to be very secret.”

Mr Crane sat on the stool next to Michael and looked down on him. “But this is an incredible formula. It is probably the best pain-killer on the market.”

The dentist continued to hold Michael’s gaze. “Would you like to try it?”

I don’t want to be any trouble,” said Michael.

But his eyes were fixed on the small vial in Mr Crane’s fingers.

It’s no trouble at all,” said Mr Crane. “Our little secret.”

The thought of being given something so powerful that he would not experience any pain at all sent a calm soothing feeling through Michael’s nerves. He could feel himself relaxing already as if he were already under the influence of the new anaesthetic.

Are you sure?” asked Michael.

No problem,” said Mr Crane.

Michael lay back in the chair while Mr Crane filled the syringe from the tiny bottle. He hummed a small tune as he did it and Michael recognised it as a popular song that was on the radio. Through the window, he could make out normal life carrying on outside. He heard a bus drive by and the sound of a bell on a bicycle. People’s voices and children laughing.

Everything was fine. There was nothing to worry about at all.

Shall we?” said Mr Crane and he raised the syringe in front of him.

Michael nodded. He would pass by all this pain and torture and not feel a thing. He was so happy. So relieved.

Mr Crane leaned forward. “You’ll just feel a little jab as the needle goes in. Then nothing to worry about.”

Michael tensed as the needle entered his gum. Yes, very uncomfortable, but in a few minutes nothing but deep relaxation.

All done,” said Mr Crane. “I’ll be back in a few minutes and we can begin.”

Michael lay deeper into the chair and half-closed his eyes. The muscles of his arms, legs, his entire body felt relaxed. A warm soothing feeling washed over him and he felt as if all the worries and anxieties he ever felt left him for good.

His body was so relaxed that all he could do was breathe. He tried to lift the little finger of his right hand and it felt as if it moved a little but he couldn’t be sure. He forgot about it and allowed the dream-like quality of the anaesthetic to wave over him.

A little nagging thought tapped at his inner-most mind and he tried to move the little finger again.

It felt as if it moved but he could not feel it really move. It was like he imagined it moving only.

He went to move his head to the right to see his hand more clearly. He could not.

A small jab of tension cleared his mind a little and he tried again. Nothing. He could not move his head at all.

He took a deep breath of air into his lungs and automatically tried to lift both of his hands. But they stayed on the arm-rests of the chair like they were glued there.

No resistance. No feeling at all.

He simply could not move his arms or head at all.

He kicked out and neither foot moved.

Michael sucked in a chest full of air and went to call out to Mr Crane. No sound came.

He could not move and he had lost the power to make any sound.

He was paralysed. Stuck to the chair but wide awake.

A shadow appeared beside him.

We should be about ready by now,” said Mr Crane.

His voice sounded like an echo and far away.

And where was the nurse? The dental assistant. There was usually a young woman helping. It was just him and Mr Crane. Why was he alone with him?

The dentist’s face loomed up in front of Michael.

Shall we see if this new drug has taken effect yet?” he asked.

He had a bright, shiny scalpel in his hand.

Michael tried to scream but no sound came. He just lay in the chair unable to move.

Mr Crane opened Michael’s mouth and jabbed the scalpel against his tongue. A dagger of pain soared through Michael’s mouth and into his brain.

Inside his head, he let out a scream.

Let’s get to work then,” said Mr Crane, closing the blind of the window.



Essential Vocabulary


There may be a lot of new or unfamiliar vocabulary to you in the story. This is the perfect time to get to know these new and strange words and phrases.

Write down all the new words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look up the meaning of the new vocabulary in a dictionary or online and write down the meaning next to the word or phrase.

It should look something like this:

Hygienic – adjective, something that is clean and good for our health. It can describe a place or a thing that we use with our body. Or food and water that we eat or drink.

To feel uneasy – to experience or have the sensation of an uncomfortable feeling. A feeling that causes anxiety or nervousness.

Then write a sentence of your own that uses the new word or phrase in the correct way.

I don’t like buying food in that store. The whole place doesn’t look very hygienic.

The new teacher is kind of strange. He makes me feel uneasy.

If you do this in the correct way, it will help you learn many new words and phrases. This will build your English vocabulary and writing down all the words and phrases, making sentences of your own, will all help you to remember all of this new vocabulary.


True or False


Go over all the sentences below and say if they are true or false.

  1. Michael is at the dentist.
  2. Michael loves going to the dentist.
  3. Mr Crane doesn’t know Michael.
  4. Michael needs a new filling for his tooth.
  5. Mr Crane shows Michael a little vial.
  6. Mr Crane introduces a new teeth cleaner to Michael.
  7. Michael doesn’t want to try this new medicine.
  8. It is during the daytime at the dentist.
  9. Mr Crane lets Michael use the syringe.
  10. Michael feels relaxed afterwards.
  11. Michael can only move his little finger.
  12. Michael cannot speak.
  13. The nurse helps Mr Crane.
  14. Mr Crane taps Michael’s gum with his finger.


Comprehension Questions


Look at all the questions below about the story and answer them.

  1. Where is Michael?
  2. How does he feel being there?
  3. What does Mr Crane think about Michael’s feeling? What expression does he use to try to calm him?
  4. Is this Michael’s first visit to see Mr Crane?
  5. Where does Michael want to be instead?
  6. What does Mr Crane show Michael?
  7. Does Mr Crane want Michael to try the new anaesthetic?
  8. What kind of patients usually use this anaesthetic?
  9. What can Michael hear outside the window?
  10. How does Michael feel immediately after Mr Crane gives him the injection?
  11. What part of his body does Michael try to move?
  12. What does he try to move next?
  13. Is there a nurse to help the dentist?
  14. What does Mr Crane have in his hand?
  15. What does he do with this object?
  16. What is Michael’s reaction?
  17. What does Mr Crane do next?


Discussion Questions


  1. What is Michael’s feeling about going to the dentist?
  2. Why does he feel like this?
  3. Describe the dentist, Mr Crane, and his attitude to Michael. Does he seem like a nice person?
  4. Has Michael been to visit Mr Crane before? What happened last time do you think?
  5. Is Mr Crane used to people being afraid? How do you know?
  6. Mr Crane shows Michael a new anaesthetic. What is really in this little vial do you think?
  7. Why is there no nurse to help the dentist today?
  8. Is Mr Crane a psychopath?
  9. Or is Michael imagining it all?
  10. What do you think about this story?
  11. Do you think it is realistic? why/why not?
  12. Do psychopaths live within our normal society? What do they do? What kind of jobs do they have?


Role Play


This role play requires two people.

1. Michael

2. Mr Crane

Take all the existing dialogue and use this as a basis for your role play. You can add your own lines of dialogue if you wish, you can change all the dialogue if you really want to, but in the end, you should have a complete role play to show the class.

Take some time to prepare and when you are ready, perform your role play in front of all the class.




Get into groups of 3 or 4 students and make a list of questions about going to the dentist. Ideally, you should have around 5 or 6 questions.

Then go around the class and ask all the other students your questions. You should then present all your findings to the class.


Quiz – Are You a Psychopath?


This is just for fun! Or maybe not… Answer all the questions and find out if you or any of your classmates are psychopaths!

  1. Do you never feel fear?
  2. Do other people like you a lot?
  3. Do you like to act spontaneously?
  4. Do you lose interest in people and new interests quickly?
  5. Do you think the idea of falling in love is silly?
  6. Are you good at charming others?
  7. Do you think money is the most important thing in the world?
  8. Do you sometimes pretend to be nice to people, even though you don’t want to?
  9. Do you think you are better than others?
  10. Do you have the ability to be very polite when needed?
  11. Do you find other people to be a little stupid sometimes?
  12. Do you get bored easily?
  13. Do you get jealous of other people sometimes?
  14. Do you tell many lies?
  15. Do you sometimes spend money on foolish things?
  16. Have you ever cheated your family or friends?
  17. Do you feel indifferent when people are sad?
  18. If you get caught doing something wrong, do you feel no sense of shame or guilt?
  19. Are you good at manipulating and/or exploiting others to get what you want?
  20. Do you think you are an aggressive person?
  21. Do you have few friends in your life?
  22. Do you like to take risks?
  23. Do you laugh at inappropriate moments?

If you answer ‘Yes’ to most of the questions, then you could be a psychopath!

Now discuss in the class. Which people answered yes to most of the questions. Do these people seem like psychopaths to you?




Continue the story from above. Write what happens next. Use the questions below to help you come up with some ideas.

  • Does Mr Crane try to kill Michael?
  • Is the pain all inside Michael’s head? If so, why?
  • What does Mr Crane do when he finds that Michael cannot move or speak?
  • Does someone come to help Michael?


Did your students like this short story lesson plan? Please let me know in the comments below!


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2 thoughts on “The Dentist — a short story for English reading”

  1. I think this is a great story and an excellent topic for discussion. Going to a dentist is an inevitable experience we must all undergo and not too many people are thrilled about it! It is also en excellent opportunity to discuss fear and pain. I particularly liked the extension activities in this lesson as they opened new doorways and opportunities for additional related lessons.

    1. Many thanks Leona, I am glad to hear your thoughts on this lesson. I am hoping to write more of these short story lesson plans in the future as I think they could be useful for students and make learning English fun.

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