How Can I Get the Most Out of a Dentist Appointment?
by Dr Richard Barry
You’ve scheduled your dental hygiene exam, now what? How can you be sure you get the most out of it and benefit your overall health as well? There are different answers to this question, and knowing them ahead of time can help you prepare for a better experience.
Get the Most Out of Your Next Dentist Appointment
Instead of viewing your appointment as just another routine cleaning or exam, it has the potential to be so much more. Here are five proactive ways to get the most out of your next dentist appointment.
1. Assess Your Dental Health Before Arriving at Your Appointment
Before you arrive for your appointment, assess your dental health at the present moment. You don’t need to know all the symptoms or names for dental issues, just identify what you experience daily while eating, drinking, brushing, and flossing. Things to look for include:
Are any specific teeth sensitive to hot or cold? While you may not be aware you have a cavity, a tooth may seem overly sensitive to that morning coffee or ice cream dessert after dinner.
Do your gums bleed while flossing? Perhaps you floss, and a certain area of your gums bleeds, indicating gum disease might be present.
Do you have sores in your mouth? If so, consider how long you’ve had them. Normally mouth sores disappear on their own, but those that don’t may be an issue, including an abscessed tooth or a possible indicator of oral cancer.
Is your bad breath not responding to toothpastes and mouthwashes? Chronic bad breath not treatable by brushing and using a mouthwash can be a condition of a more serious oral health issue.
Are any teeth noticeably darker than others? Glance in a mirror and see if there are any tooth discolorations. If so, is this making you self-conscious? Several things can cause tooth discoloration, from staining to health issues.
Is your jaw tired or sore upon waking in the mornings? If so, mention this to your dentist. You might grind your teeth while sleeping or clench your jaw unknowingly.
While your dentist will look for these also, you may forget to mention symptoms if not prepared. A way to smartly get around this is to write down a list of issues you are experiencing as well as any questions you may have.
2. Identify Any Changes to Your Medical History
The condition of your mouth is part of your overall health, and symptoms displayed here can be connected to medical issues elsewhere in your body.
Whether this is your initial appointment with a new dentist or you’ve been with them for years, every appointment is the best time to update any medical information in your file.
Changes in your health can happen between dental visits. You may be diagnosed with a certain condition, prescribed new medications, or choose a new vitamin and supplement routine to follow. All of these can affect your dental health as well, so letting your dentist know can help speed up a diagnosis.
For instance, issues affecting your teeth and gums can be an indicator of diabetes. Any diagnosis for respiratory or gastrointestinal disease can be the cause of your chronic bad breath. If you receive a diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome, a common symptom is dry mouth, which can lead to cavities as well.
Are you taking any different medications since your last visit? Bring the bottles with you to the appointment or write them down, including the dosage information. Since many prescriptions can have side effects, some of these can directly affect your oral health.
For example, blood-pressure regulating medication, a prescription to help with depression, or a prescribed allergy medication can lead to dry mouth. If you take blood thinners, your dentist will need to know this before any procedure which may cause you to bleed.
Also, inform your dentist of any vitamins and supplements you’ve added to your diet recently.
By knowing your most updated medical history, your dentist can better determine when a dental issue is isolated to your oral health and when it may be connected to another health issue.
3. Reveal Any Anxiety You Feel at the Appointment
If dental appointments make you anxious, you’re not alone. Even scheduling a dentist appointment can make many patients nervous long before stepping inside the office.
You don’t have to hide your anxiety. When you schedule your appointment, mention it to the staff and ask them to relay it to your dentist. Once you arrive for your appointment, openly discuss any anxiety with your dental hygienist and your dentist directly.
A few ways to reveal your apprehension are to:
Tell them you feel nervous, anxious, or scared. If you have a particular reason, such as a bad past experience with a dentist, let them know.
Express any fears, such as the fear of injections or shots.
If pain is a concern, start off by revealing any current pain or sensitivity you experience, so your dental team will know to take special care in those areas.
Explain you are protective of your personal space, and it’s difficult to let anyone get close to you.
Working together, you can come up with ways to alleviate the anxiety, fear, or apprehension. For example, choose a signal to use to alert your dentist you want to take a break during a procedure. This solution gives you more control during the appointment and can help you avoid feeling panicked at any time.
You may also want to discuss undergoing sedation during a procedure. While you won’t be asleep and completely unaware of what is going on, you will remain calmer throughout. Another option is to bring a trusted companion with you to the appointment.
Essentially, learning to trust your dental team is the key to overcoming many of these fears and apprehensions.
4. Develop a Suitable Treatment Plan
Following your exam, if further procedures are necessary, develop a treatment plan that works for you. Learn what your options are and how much time each one will take. Also, ask about costs and payment options available.
Seek out explanations for anything you don’t understand. Ask for details, or choose to accept an overview of a procedure if the details make you overly anxious.
Schedule appointments before you leave, so you’ll know what to expect going forward.
5. Ask What You Can Do to Continue with Good Oral Health
Even if you already practice good oral hygiene, your dental team may have other suggestions on how to maintain your teeth and gums. Ask for recommendations, such as the best mouthwash to use for your sensitive teeth, occasional bad breath, or congregating bacteria.
Your dental health may differ from others in your household, so knowing unique ways to keep and positively affect your own is essential. Knowing how to continue with good oral health can also lessen the number of appointments you’ll likely need in the future.
Contact Lifetime Dental Health for All Your Dental Needs
Making the most of a dental visit is a valuable way to spend your time and can also benefit your overall health. Let Lifetime Dental Health help you get the most out of your next visit by scheduling an appointment with us today. Our team of compassionate and experienced professionals is here to help with whatever dental needs you have now and in the future.