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What to Expect at Your Dental Check-Up

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So you did it, you scheduled your next dental check-up for 2023. Good Job! Regular dental check-ups are a critical part of keeping both your mouth and body healthy. Whether this dental check-up is a first for you, the first time in a long time, or after relocating to a new area, you may want a refresher on what to expect at your dental check-up. So, we’ve put together this quick resource to help you get prepared for your next dentist appointment.

Preparing for Your Dental Check-Up

  • Before that next dental check-up, there are some things you should be sure you do, especially if this will be your first visit to a new dental office.
  • Gather information about your health history, including medications you are taking and contact information for your most recent doctor and dentist.
  • Request your former dentist to transfer your records to your new provider. Sometimes they will require a form, fax number, or email address. Help foster the transfer so your new dentist has a complete picture of your dental history.

Let them know if you have health concerns such as pregnancy, diabetes, epilepsy, or special needs, so they can best support you.

Be sure to mention any concerns you have or accommodations you may require, including dental anxiety. Fear of the dentist is common and your dental team can help make your checkup more comfortable.
Follow your normal dental routine, and if you need to eat before your appointment, then eat. You can always brush your teeth at the dentist when you arrive if needed. Give yourself extra time to arrive for your first appointment so you can complete the paperwork and be in a calm state of mind.

At Your Dental Check-Up

While every dentist's office has its own process, you can expect some version of the following at your dental check-up.

Check-In: You will be welcomed by an office staff person or receptionist who will make sure the office has what they need from you to ensure a successful visit. This includes collecting your contact information, health history, and insurance information. A few helpful tips to ensure an easy check-in:

  • Be sure to answer all the questions in the health history so the dental team can make the best recommendations for you. Include information about any medications you are taking, and allergies you have. Remember, your information is always kept private, so it’s important to be thorough and honest.
  • Be sure to bring your insurance information so your insurance benefits can be verified and a claim can be filed. If you don’t have insurance, let the staff know as they will likely have ways to help you pay for any treatment you need.
  • Remember, you will likely be asked to update this information every time you go to the office.

Once you’ve checked in, a member of the clinical team will escort you to the back for your dental check-up. Again, every office has its own process, but you can expect some version of the following:

  • X-rays: If you are new to this dentist, or haven’t been to the dentist in the last year, you will likely have X-rays taken. This helps the hygienist and dentist see things he or she couldn’t see about the condition of your teeth and jaw, especially below the gum line. It is an important part of dental check-ups and can help with the early detection of certain diseases and disorders. And don’t worry, x-rays are safe!
  • Evaluation: a comprehensive evaluation will be performed to determine the health of your teeth and gums. It will likely include a review of your x-rays, a physical examination of your teeth and gums as well as a physical examination of your tongue, jaw, and neck. During this evaluation, the team is looking for signs of gum disease, cavities, and other abnormalities including signs of oral cancer. The dental team will educate you and recommend treatment to help you achieve optimal oral health. They may recommend specific home care techniques, products, or dental procedures.
  • Treatment: based on the evaluation, your dentist will recommend treatment to remove any plaque and tartar as well as to address any other issues they might find concerning. You’ll likely have your teeth flossed and polished. Fluoride may be recommended – yes, even for adults. (And, yes, fluoride is safe too!)
  • Q & A: Take the opportunity with the dental team to ask questions about any concerns you have with your oral care, such as pain, habits, or cosmetic services.

Once you finish with the clinical team, you’ll need to pay for your visit and schedule your next appointment, so it’s likely back up front to visit with the office team or receptionist before you depart. The office staff will help you with any financial questions you have including expected insurance payments and your out-of-pocket costs. They will also help you reserve your next appointment. It is recommended that most people get a dental check-up at least twice a year, but the length between visits will vary based on your oral health.

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