Getting Ready for a Dental Checkup
75% of adults experience some fear, from mild to severe, of the dentist, and 30% avoid going to the dentist because of it. Even for those of us who aren't afraid of the dentist, it's easy to see why these routine checkups can be put off longer than they should — it's not particularly fun to sit in the dentist's chair, and after all, we're busy people, so as long as we brush regularly we should be fine, right?
Checkups and cleanings twice a year are a critical part of your dental care. Your dental health can have an impact on your overall health, and regular checkups allow your dentist to notice any warning signs long before a problem becomes too big to handle. And, of course, having a good relationship with your dentist means being able to have conversations about your dental health as well as cosmetic concerns. Your dentist is your number one ally in achieving your ideal smile.
So now is the time to schedule your next dentist appointment if you don't have one on the calendar already. And after you've done that, you can read some of these tips for getting ready for your dental checkup.
First, practice good dental hygiene
The importance of good dental hygiene cannot be understated — and it begins at home. Your daily dental routine should include at least two sessions of quality tooth-brushing. This means picking out an ADA-approved toothbrush and toothpaste and carefully brushing each tooth, front and back, while also massaging the gums, for a minimum of two minutes, morning and night. At least one of these sessions should also include flossing to remove plaque and debris your brush just can't reach, and mouthwash to clean out the deeper areas within your mouth.
You can also boost your oral health at home by avoiding sugary drinks, gums, and hard candies, which can hasten tooth decay because they let sugars sit on your teeth for an extended time. And when you do have a sugary snack or drink, be sure to wash it down with water.
If you have specific dental concerns, from removed wisdom teeth to a desire for whitening, make sure to follow your dentist's or orthodontist's specific advice and to use quality tools that are endorsed by the ADA (American Dental Association).
Getting ready for a dental checkup
So now you’ve made your appointment, you're taking good care of your teeth at home, and you're ready to see the dentist. Before the appointment, be sure to thoroughly brush and floss. Even though there will be a cleaning at the appointment, you want to make sure your dentist has the best view possible for the checkup.
If you're a new patient, make sure to transfer any old records from prior dentists and arrive at your appointment early so you have time to complete the intake forms and to relax before the appointment begins. You should also have information about your medical history, including medications you take, and be sure to have your insurance information on you if applicable.
Prepare your questions and concerns ahead of time. It's easy to forget things in the moment, especially if you're facing some dentist office anxiety and a stranger has their hands in your mouth. Prepare a list of them ahead of time to make sure you cover each of them with your dentist. If you are interested in cosmetic changes like straightening or dental implants, now would be the time to bring these up.
Finally, when the checkup is over, be sure to stop at reception on the way out and schedule your next appointment. Your dentist may need you back for a follow up if they spotted something out of the ordinary, and even if they don't, you should be sure to schedule your next checkup for six months from now. We get busy and forget things — don't trust your future self to make that appointment in a few months. Just make it now.
Checkup and cleaning: what to expect
When you arrive at your dentist's office, you'll likely be asked to fill in some forms, especially if you are a new patient or your insurance or payment information has changed since your last visit.
Your dentist will start with a checkup. They will look at your overall oral health by checking for cavities, looking for tartar and plaque buildup, and checking your gum health, especially between the teeth. These steps may include X-rays and tools that help the dentist check between teeth, and they will also be looking for signs of disease, decay, instability, or broken teeth or fixtures.
After this, your dentist or hygienist will perform a teeth cleaning that uses a special tool to scrape built-up tartar off your teeth. This will be followed by teeth polishing and flossing.
Be sure to bring up any concerns you may have and ask questions. If you are concerned about anything, or if the dentist detected anything abnormal during your checkup, they will be able to advise you on your options and next steps and come up with a treatment plan.
For example, if you are interested in straighter teeth, your dentist will likely point out that straight teeth are not just a cosmetic concern but can actually improve your oral and jaw health. They can recommend orthodontic procedures or implants that work to fit your specific needs, budget, and lifestyle. This might mean traditional braces or an accelerated treatment, and they can guide you towards the best dental implants for your situation. Most dentists and orthodontists offer payment plans for these procedures, so even if your insurance won't cover them, your dentist can still help you navigate dental implants' cost.
Dental health is an often-overlooked area of healthcare for many reasons. Some patients feel intense fear or anxiety about the dentist, and others just don't prioritize dental care because of cost or its seemingly cosmetic nature. But great dental hygiene and regular checkups can keep your gums and teeth healthy and help prevent dangerous problems and complications like tooth decay, heart disease, or cancer, so schedule your next checkup soon.
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