What to Expect During Your Dental Exam

Does the idea of going to the dentist make you nervous? Find out here what happens during dental exams, and why there’s nothing to be scared about.

February 26, 2019 | HF Healthy Living Team

Dental exams are an important part of your healthcare. Regular visits to your dentist can help prevent oral health conditions like tooth decay and gum disease. They also help to keep your teeth healthy and to make you more confident about your smile!

A dental exam can cause stress and nervousness for many people. But knowing what to expect and what to ask your dentist can help ease any discomfort you may feel.

Read on to find out what may happen during your dental cleaning and how to be prepared!

Dental Exam NYC
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Your Dental Exam

At your dental exam, your dentist or dental hygienist will look at your mouth, teeth, gums, and jaw to assess your oral health. S/he may ask you questions about how you care for your teeth and about your overall health-any conditions you might have or medicines you might be taking-and about your family history.

During this exam, your provider is looking for signs of conditions like gingivitis (gum disease), tooth decay, and other oral health problems. Your provider will also clean and floss your teeth.

S/he will use handheld dental tools to remove plaque (a film that forms on your teeth and contains bacteria) and tartar (chalky buildup). You may hear or feel scraping while this happens. Once your teeth are clean, your dentist or dental hygienist may polish your teeth using a handheld tool and a substance similar to toothpaste. This paste may feel or taste gritty, but it leaves your teeth shiny and smooth.

You may also receive a fluoride treatment. Your provider will coat your teeth with fluoride foam or gel for a few seconds then ask you to rinse your mouth. Fluoride helps strengthen teeth and protect them from bacteria, but swallowing too much of it can be unhealthy. If you get a fluoride treatment, you will be asked not to eat or drink for 30 minutes afterwards.

Your dentist or dental hygienist may take X-rays of your teeth to check the placement and spacing of your teeth and check for problems. He or she may also examine your lips, cheeks, jaw, and neck for signs of oral cancer.

During your exam, your dentist or dental hygienist may talk to you about how you should care for your teeth. Asking questions may help you feel more at ease during your dental exam and help you better understand how to keep your teeth healthy for your next checkup. If it helps you remember, write down your questions before you visit the dentist and bring them with you to your appointment.

Brushing your teeth
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After Your Dental Exam

Caring for your teeth at home is key to good dental health! Before you leave your dentist’s office, make sure you know how to brush and floss your teeth, and how often to do it.

Remember to see your dentist for an exam and cleaning every six months or as recommended-regular dental checkups can help prevent oral health conditions and allow your dentist to spot any problems you might have early, when they are most treatable!

Do you avoid the dentist because checkups are too expensive? Find out here how much skipping them can cost you.


© 2019 HF Management Services, LLC.

Healthfirst is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Healthfirst group of affiliated companies.

This health information or program is for educational purposes only and not intended to treat, diagnose, or act as a substitute for medical advice from your provider. Consult your healthcare provider and always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

“Dental Exam,” Mayo Clinic. January 16, 2018.

“Know Before You Go: Teeth Cleanings,” Ask the Dentist. Accessed February 12, 2018.

“What are dental cleanings (scale and polish) and why have them?” Dental Fear Central. Accessed February 12, 2018.

“What Happens During a Teeth Cleaning?” Healthline. Accessed February 12, 2018.

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