For the First Time (in a Long Time) You’re Going to the Dentist

For the First Time (in a Long Time) You’re Going to the Dentist

Here’s What to Expect

Maybe you lost your dental insurance when you were laid off. Or you never picked up a plan after being on your parent’s policy when you graduated from college. Whatever the reason, you’ve finally found yourself with affordable dental insurance again and have scheduled a checkup with the dentist. But it’s been so long (years, even) that you don’t really remember what to expect.

Here’s what a typical new patient appointment is going to look like:

A Review of Your Medical and Dental History

Be sure to bring a list of any medications or supplements that you take, numbers of your physician(s) and any dates of hospitalizations or surgeries that you’ve undergone. “Why does my dentist need to know that,” you ask? You might be surprised to know how many medical conditions (even something like aspirin or a joint replacement) can alter the normal dental routine. Many health problems have added oral signs of the disease or illness, which can aid your dentist in diagnosing or recommending appropriate treatment.

Comprehensive X-rays

Dental x-rays are essential to your examination process. Without them, your dentist will have no idea what is going on under your gumlines, between your teeth, though your jaw, or under old fillings. Your dentist will use the films to assess everything from bone density to tooth development and even screen for tumors.

Most new patients will receive a set of comprehensive exams, such as a panoramic film, or a set of several individual x-rays across the entire mouth. Fortunately, digital x-rays are so safe, that you’re exposed to less radiation than you would be on a ride in an airplane. The “bitewing” x-rays that you remember will probably be included in these films, and then taken once a year afterward.

A Complete Exam

During your exam, your dentist will thoroughly assess how your teeth bite together, the function of your jaw, integrity of existing dental restorations, and the health of your teeth. You may hear him calling out multiple acronyms or “dental lingo” to the assistant or hygienist as they make note of their findings. Some offices will also use intraoral cameras to show you any significant concerns that need to be brought to your attention.

Periodontal and Oral Cancer Screenings

Your dentist or hygienist will carefully record measurements around each tooth to see where the gums attach. This reflects the bone levels around your teeth, and shows if periodontal (gum) disease is involved. Gum disease causes premature tooth loss, so it needs to be addressed immediately. You might hear this process as a series of numbers being called out, such as “3, 2, 4, 3, 3, 5…” etc. Numbers above three are considered unhealthy, while three and below are healthy/normal.

Even if you’re not a smoker, you will also receive an oral cancer screening. This quick exam could save your life, as factors from sun exposure to simple viruses can lead to a mutation in tissues.

A Cleaning With the Hygienist…Possibly

Wait…”possibly?” Yes, it’s a maybe. If it’s been years since your last checkup, imagine all of the tartar buildup that’s collected under your gums and between your teeth. Most people have a cleaning every six months, so if you’ve missed a few years, you’re more than five or six cleanings behind. It can take longer to clean your teeth and the hygienist may need to book some extra time in her schedule. Or, if you now have gum disease, you may need to break the deep cleanings up into two longer appointments. The only real way to know if you’re able to get a cleaning that day is going for your exam and seeing what they have to say!

Treatment Planning

Hopefully your teeth look great. If you do need any type of treatment, it will be reviewed after the exam and/or cleaning. Your treatment plan will outline the specific teeth involved, the procedure being recommended, how long the appointment(s) will take, and all of the costs involved. Relax. Most first visits back to the dentist are considered “preventive” in nature. They’re usually covered at 100% under your Cigna dental plan. Call today to find an in-network dentist in your area.

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