Dental Exams: Preparing to Ace Your Next Routine Checkup

Dental exams should occur every six months, or as often as your dentist recommends based on your dental health concerns. Yet even if you’ve gone through dozens of these exams over the course of your life, it’s easy to get a little nervous about the next one coming up. Preparing for your dental exam can make you feel confident and ready to enjoy the experience rather than feeling fear or avoiding it all together. Here’s a quick guide on facing your exam head-on with some proactive prep tips.

1. Brush and Floss

The longer you put this tip into action before your appointment, the better. Brushing really well the week leading up to a dental exam simply can’t counteract the accumulation of tartar for months leading up. By brushing and flossing daily all six months before an exam, you’ll have a pleasant time due to the reduced need for cleaning. It’s much quicker for the hygienist to simply polish your teeth rather than having to manually remove tartar from around the gum disease. Daily brushing and flossing routines also reduce the chances of gum disease, meaning you’ll likely get nothing but good news from your next dental exam.

2. Consider Your Anxiety Level and Make Sedation Arrangements

Dental anxiety causes millions of exam appointments to get skipped each year. You may think you’re just fine with getting the work done until the night before the appointment, then find yourself making up an excuse to cancel. Being honest with yourself about how you feel about going to the dentist will allow you to explore options that could reduce your discomfort. Sedation dentistry can range from mildly calming medications taken as tablets before the appointment to IV sedation for more advanced stress control. Relaxing during the treatment will make it easier for the dentist to get the work done quickly, resulting in less time spent in the exam room and lower anxiety levels overall. Discuss your options with your dentist before your next exam if possible so there is time to arrange for your preferred method of anxiety control.

3. Write Down Any Dental Concerns

Don’t count on your ability to recall everything perfectly from six months of twinges and passing sensitivity in your teeth. Take notes, even just on your phone in a notes app, to give your dentist a quick update on any troubling symptoms that might have popped up since your last exam. Some dental symptoms are only short-lived but still need attention. Note any swelling, irritation, redness, bleeding, looseness, or pain along with the date and how long it lasts. Health journaling apps can make this process particularly easy, but even a simple piece of paper is sufficient for keeping notes on your dental condition. If you have questions or are interested in cosmetic procedures, you can also discuss these things during your regular exam rather than having to schedule a separate consultation.

4. Check Your Insurance Coverage

Figuring out how you’re going to pay for your dental exam and what kind of co-pay to expect can take a lot of the anxiety out of seeing the dentist. Check out your insurance company’s website or call their service number for help with your particular plan. Many dental plans can be tricky to make sense of depending on what they cover and the annual deductible. Your dentist’s front office staff can also help by contacting the insurance company on your behalf and determining what kind of coverage applies to your dental exam. If you plan to pay out of pocket, discuss that in advance with your dentist to see if they offer discounts or payment terms as well.

5. Request Records and Dental Health History

Moving to a new dental office can add a little extra anxiety to the lead-up to your first exam. Take the time to transfer your records and dental health history from your previous dentist to the new office ahead of time. Waiting until the day of the appointment can delay the transfer, making it harder for the dentist to give you custom care based on your records. Most dentists use digital file formats now even for X-rays, making it easy for you to receive and transfer your records as necessary. Call your new dentist and see if they use a specific system or software so you can be sure you’re getting the right files from your former dentist.

Bonus Tip: Ask About Fluoride and Sealants

Strengthening your teeth by protecting the outer enamel layer requires more than just brushing and a good diet. Sometimes it’s helpful to add a layer of fluoride through external treatment. This supports the remineralization process that keeps teeth strong for life. Sealants can also keep food out of the deeper valleys and pits in the molars, preventing tooth decay that leads to cavities. Ask your dentist about these two preventative treatment options during your next dental exam to find out if they could help you.

Take a few steps to feel more prepared for your next dental exam and feel your anxiety levels drop. Schedule an appointment today to find out more about how to take good care of your smile.