A Checklist for Your Next Dental Visit

Regular dental visits are imperative to help keep your teeth and gums in good condition, and the American Dental Association says that on average people should see their dentist every six months for an evaluation and professional cleaning. But are you making the most of these trips to your dental office?

A dentist and a doctor smiling

Regular dental visits provide the chance for you to establish a strong line of communication with your dentist, which is crucial for a successful relationship between you both as partners in your long-term oral healthcare and treatment. To work effectively, this dialogue needs to be a two-way street: you should be asking your dentist questions as well as listening to his or her advice. This may not be as simple as it sounds, particularly if you tend to get nervous or flustered in a dental practice environment, or you feel your dentist just doesn’t have the time for an in-depth conversation with you.

A good dentist will always take the time to listen to their patients and put them at ease by addressing any concerns. However, if you wait until you’re in the dental chair before thinking about what questions you should be asking your dentist, the chances are you won’t be able to proceed in a logical, methodical way, and may well temporarily forget issues that are important to you. You can avoid this type of scenario by drawing up a checklist for your next dental visit and taking it with you.

If you’re not actually experiencing pain, you may still have some worries but feel they are too trivial to bother your dentist with. This could be a big mistake. Voicing your worries, however, minor, can point your dentist in the right direction when it comes to early diagnosis of potentially serious problems that may not be immediately apparent. For instance, symptoms of gum disease and oral cancer are painless and remain hidden during the early stages. Remember that however experienced your dentist is, they’re not a mind-reader!

Here are eight questions you might want to consider putting on your checklist for your next dental visit.

1. How Can I Improve My Oral Hygiene Routine at Home?

Oral hygiene is essential not just for healthy teeth and gums but for your overall wellbeing: infections in your mouth can spread to other parts of your body. It’s vital to keep to a good routine of daily brushing and flossing, but your dentist can provide advice on measures to take your at-home oral healthcare to the next level. In particular, your dentist can advise you on foods and drinks that are especially beneficial in keeping your teeth and gums healthy – and those to avoid. If you’re a smoker, the dentist can offer advice to help you kick the habit.

2. My Gums Sometimes Bleed a Bit When I Brush My Teeth. Is This Anything to Worry About?

Spots of blood when you brush your teeth may be an early warning of gum disease (periodontitis). Left untreated, a gum infection will invariably escalate to a serious, painful condition that may even require dental surgery. There are many causes of gum infection, and it also tends to run in the family. Your dentist will be able to get to the bottom of the problem and devise an effective treatment plan. If a gum problem is detected early, it can usually be treated with the minimally invasive procedure of deep cleaning and root planing.

3. I Clean My Teeth Regularly but They Still Get Stained. What Can I Do?

Many people experience discoloration of teeth over the years – stains caused by certain foods, and drinks such as wine and coffee. Advances in teeth whitening technology and techniques have led to fast and painless procedures that produce outstanding results. Ask your dentist about a whitening system designed especially for you. A professional dental whitening treatment typically takes less than an hour and delivers better results than weeks of repeat applications of messy, over-the-counter teeth whitening products.

4. Do I Need Dental X-Rays?

Your dentist will have taken a full set of dental X-rays of hidden areas of your mouth early in your doctor-patient relationship. Most adults have bitewing X-rays (a single view of the upper and lower back teeth) every year and a full mouth series every four to five years, although patients with a higher risk of tooth decay may need them every six to 18 months.

5. Why Are My Teeth Sometimes Sensitive to Hot or Cold Drinks?

Tooth sensitivity is caused by thinning of your tooth enamel, lessening the protection afforded to the tooth pulp from exposure to extreme temperatures and sweet or acidic food and drinks. The condition can arise from receding gums or grinding your teeth. Your dentist will inspect the affected teeth and recommend treatment to reduce sensitivity.

6. Am I a Good Candidate for Dental Implants?

Dental implants – tooth root replacements that provide a solid base for removable or permanent artificial teeth – have a success rate of up to 98 per cent, and most adults are suitable candidates for this procedure, which provides a highly-effective alternative to dentures and bridges and can be used to replace a single tooth, several teeth or all your teeth. Implants look and feel like your own teeth and with proper care can last a lifetime.

7. What Sort of Mouthwash Should I Use?

Your dentist will tell you that an over-the-counter mouthwash containing fluoride will help to prevent cavities as well as freshen your breath. However, you may need special therapeutic rinses to treat conditions like gingivitis (early stage of gum infection) or tooth sensitivity. Prescription mouthwashes often contain a germicide that kills the bacteria that causes plaque, bleeding and inflammation.

8. What Are My Options for Sedation Dentistry?

Many people are apprehensive about the prospect of dental treatment, especially more complex procedures such as root canals or extractions. Your dentist can discuss with you the various options to make you more relaxed and comfortable during treatment, including conscious sedation, when mediation is administered by a pill, injection or a combination of both.

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