Whether it’s your first time going to the dentist in a long time or you’ve moved to a new area and are seeing a different dentist, it can be reassuring to know what to expect during an initial dental checkup. Your dentist is your partner in taking the best care of your oral health, so it’s essential to find a professional you feel comfortable working with.
So what can you expect during your initial dental checkup? The following are a few things that will happen during your appointment so you can be prepared to make the most of your time with your dentist!
X-Rays to Check for Cavities
Unless you’ve recently had x-rays done with a dentist—within the last year or so—your dentist will want to take an x-ray of your oral cavity. The x-ray has a few important purposes.
First, an x-ray allows your dentist to see cavities between your teeth that may not otherwise be visible . An x-ray can also be a diagnostic tool for any bite issues or jaw abnormalities that could be causing you discomfort, including jaw pain or even headaches. X-rays can also identify potential problems with a tooth position or tooth roots. While x rays aren’t strictly necessary, they give your dentist important insight into your smile.
An Oral Exam
The next step is getting an oral exam, during which your dentist or dental hygienist will examine your teeth and gums. To do this, your dentist or hygienist will typically use a probing tool to check for problem areas in your mouth, such as gums that may have detached from the teeth or cavities.
An oral exam is painless and gives your dentist an idea of what to focus on, whether you need a deep cleaning for gum health, to seek treatment for teeth grinding, or even to consider orthodontia for misaligned teeth.
A Professional Teeth Cleaning
After the exam, a dental hygienist will carefully clean your teeth, including brushing, polishing, and flossing to remove plaque and bacteria. Regular teeth cleanings such as these help reduce the chances that you’d develop gum disease or even a cavity and can also help reduce chronic bad breath .
While a teeth cleaning should not hurt, a professional cleaning may cause some mild soreness if you have not had one in a while. The more plaque or tartar you have built up in your oral cavity, the more work it will take to remove. Keeping up with your bi-annual checkups can reduce the chances of discomfort after a teeth cleaning.
An Oral Cancer Screening
Your dentist will also do an oral cancer screening during your initial dental checkup. These screenings should happen annually whether or not you smoke and can help identify oral cancer early. Your dentist will check your oral cavity, face, and neck for any signs of cancer, such as lesions, lumps, or abnormal patches of cells, and ask a few questions as part of the screening .
Finally, your dentist will discuss their findings with you, talk about future treatments you may need, and discuss with you how to improve your brushing and flossing techniques, if needed. Your dentist or hygienist will discuss ways to improve your oral health or address any issues with your smile before you book your next appointment.
Booking Your Next Appointment
Your dentist will let you know when you need to come back for an appointment, whether it be six months for your next cleaning and checkup or sooner if you need a cavity filled or another treatment. Keeping up with your appointments can help you have a beautiful, healthy smile for life and prevent common oral health issues such as tooth decay and gum disease!