What to Expect at a Routine Dental Check-Up

If the mere thought of having a dental check-up gives you anxiety, you are not alone. In fact, it's quite common to have some nervousness associated with going to the dentist. True dental phobia, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. Dental phobia is a paralyzing fear of the dentist, which leaves sufferers feeling panicked and terrified. Unfortunately, dental phobia often leads to avoidance behaviors, sometimes causing sufferers to stay away from the dentist for years at a time. The effects of long-term avoidance of the dentist can be devastating, as simple concerns like a small cavity can turn into much more serious oral health problems like a tooth abscess. One of the simplest things you can do to help alleviate some of the fear associated with the dentist is to educate yourself on what exactly happens when you set foot in the dentist's office. Here's what you can typically expect at a dental check-up:

  • A deep cleaning. Routine check-ups often begin with a thorough cleaning of your teeth by either a hygienist or your dentist. She will scrape any built-up plaque from your teeth using special dental tools. Excess plaque can lead to decay and gum disease so it's essential to remove any build-up from your teeth. Your teeth will then be polished and flossed. During this time, your dentist or hygienist can also demonstrate proper flossing techniques for you.
  • The exam. After your teeth are sparkly and clean, it's time for the actual dental exam. You can expect your dentist to ask you about any health problems you're experiencing and medications you're currently taking. Then, she will conduct a full examination of your teeth and gums, looking for any signs of decay, gum disease, and any other concerns. She will also conduct an oral cancer screening which involves checking the inside of the mouth, feeling the sides of the neck and under the jaw, and even examining the sides of the tongue for any abnormalities. Her goal, of course, is to identify any problems early on so that they can be treated before they become more serious oral health concerns.
  • Dental X-rays. During a check-up, your dentist might also suggest taking dental X-rays. This helps her to identify problems that might not be visible to the naked eye. Today, most dentists use digital X-ray technology, which exposes patients to very little radiation. Still, you will likely be asked to wear a lead apron during the X-rays to minimize exposure even more. Dentists commonly request bitewing X-rays, which allows them to view the crowns of both the upper and lower teeth. Panoramic X-rays-- which give dentists a view of the entire mouth-- might also be necessary.
  • Follow-up. At the conclusion of your check-up, you will likely schedule your next dental appointment. If your mouth is in good shape, your dentist will probably recommend that you come back for routine check-ups and cleanings every six months. If you need treatment, however-- like a filling or a root canal-- you will need to come back sooner. Additionally, if you're considered high risk for decay or gum disease, your dentist might suggest more frequent check-ups.

Knowing what to expect at your dental check-up can go a long way towards alleviating the anxiety associated with going to the dentist. You should also communicate your concerns openly with your dentist, so that together you can come up with a plan to help you make it through your check-up as comfortably as possible. Remember: dental anxiety is common and it's nothing to be ashamed of. However, it should not serves as an excuse to avoid the dentist altogether. Contact us today for more information.