Biannual Checkups & Cleanings

Video Transcript

If you’re an adult visiting a new practice for the first time, here’s what you can typically expect during a regular dental exam.

Plan to arrive 15 minutes early to your appointment to complete any required new patient forms. Sometimes these forms can be emailed or downloaded from a website in advance.

Regular exam appointments can take 30 to 60 minutes and most often consist of a cleaning and an oral exam.

The cleaning portion of the exam may be done by a licensed dental hygienist. Part of the hygienist’s role is to educate and counsel patients on how to improve or maintain good oral health. Once seated in the operatory, your hygienist may ask you for your medical history. Be prepared to answer questions about the kinds of prescribed and over the counter medications you take and if you have any health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, or drug allergies.

Dental x-rays are typically taken at a first visit to help diagnose problems such as impacted teeth, abscesses, and decay between the teeth, and to have a baseline to help identify changes in the future.

Today’s modern x-ray machines emit virtually no radiation, no more than you would receive from a day in the sun or a weekend watching TV. But as a precaution, the hygienist will place a lead apron over you.

Your hygienist most likely will conduct a periodontal exam, checking the health of your gums. The depths of any pockets around a tooth will be measured with a periodontal probe, and any visual signs of gum disease will be noted on your dental chart.

Your hygienist may remove any plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth using either a handheld or ultrasonic power scaler or both. A handheld scaler allows your hygienist to manually eliminate tartar deposits from every tooth. An ultrasonic power scaler has a small tip that uses high energy vibrations to break up and remove tartar deposits with a spray of water to flush the area clean of bacteria.

With the tartar removed, your hygienist may use a dental handpiece and some special paste to polish your teeth, removing any stains and plaque from your teeth’s enamel.

After you rinse your mouth with water, your hygienist may clean between the teeth using dental floss or tape.

The second part of a regular exam is when your doctor performs an oral exam. During the oral exam, your doctor may check for or ask you about any tooth pain or sensitivity and note any abnormalities in the mouth that could require additional attention.

If x-rays were taken, your doctor may look for decay, cavities impacted teeth or other problems. If there is a problem and treatment is required, you may have to schedule another appointment with your doctor before you leave the office.

It’s recommended that most people get a regular dental checkup every six months.

Regular dental exams are an important part of preventative health care. If you need an exam, call your doctor’s office and make an appointment.