At what age should someone start visiting the Dentist?
Pedodontists (children’s dentists) will generally recommend that the first visit for a child be at 18 months. Most all dentists agree that every child should be seen by age 3 for a complete assessment of all teeth present and for any early indications that orthodontia (braces) might be needed in the future. Some Dentists will recommend a prophylaxis (cleaning), fluoride treatment and x-rays, others might wait until the child is a bit older.
How often should I visit the dentist?
Generally speaking, each adult and child should visit the dentist every 6 months. At these visits, a thorough oral cancer exam is done, appropriate x-rays are taken and a prophylaxis (cleaning) is performed. Your Dentist will check for decay and gum tissue problems and help you determine what treatment (if any) you need. This is your opportunity to express any concerns you might have such as sensitivity to cold, heat, sweets and/or air and possible problems with chewing your food.
Some of my friends visit their Dentist more often. Why is that?
Your friends might have problems with their gums that require their teeth to be cleaned more often. Perhaps they collect calculus (tartar) on their teeth quicker than you do, have had gum surgery in the past or have had a lot of dental work done that needs more maintenance. They might even just like the feel of clean teeth and healthy gums and want to experience it more often.
I have friends who do not visit their dentist regularly. Why is that a problem?
There are people who do not seem to collect much calculus (tartar) on their teeth, who do not experience much staining from food and beverage products and whose gums/teeth seem to be fine. They are the lucky ones! Most people however benefit from regular cleanings, if for no other reason than to make sure that there are no small problems that might become bigger problems if left alone. Your Dentist and Hygienist check carefully under the gums and between the teeth to make sure no debris or decay goes un-noticed. They also look at x-rays when appropriate to check for those things not visible to the naked eye.
What about my friends who have no teeth of their own and wear dentures. Why do they need to see a Dentist?
Your Dentist is checking more than teeth at your regular exam. He/she is also checking the health of the supporting gum tissues; this is never more important than with denture wearers. Unless your friends have implants that are helping to support their dentures, there is a good chance that sore spots can develop, infections can occur and the teeth can become so worn that the ability to chew is affected. Oftentimes, denture wearers become used to the poor fit of the dentures and do not know that things could be improved. Talking with the Dentist and keeping informed about options could very well affect the quality of their lives.
What things should I look for when I visit my Dentist?
From the time you arrive in the office and are seated in the waiting room until the time you leave, the Staff should be pleasant and friendly, the overall appearance of the office should be up to date and inviting, appropriate items such as gloves, masks, glasses, plastic barriers just to name a few should be in evidence and efforts should be made to make the experience as individual a one as possible. You want to feel well cared for by the Dentist and Staff.
My Dentist and Hygienist feel around for “lumps and bumps” inside and outside my mouth. What are they looking for during this part of my visit?
A very important part of your regular dental exam is the Oral Cancer check. Oftentimes, the first sign of cancer occurs within the mouth and many times under the tongue. Checking for “lumps and bumps” and changes in color, texture and consistency of all your tissues inside and outside your mouth helps your Dentist assess your overall dental health. You should tell your dentist about anything that feels odd or different than since your last visit. The smallest problem could have an easy solution if found and treated early.
Why does my Dentist take x-rays of my teeth?
A visual exam of your teeth and gums gives your Dentist much information about the overall health of your mouth, but he/she is unable to see between the teeth or under the gums without x-rays. He/she will take 2-4 x-rays once/year that are generally called check-up x-rays or bite-wing x-rays. These show the top and bottom teeth together and are almost always taken of your back teeth only. Once every 3-5 years, your Dentist will take 18 or so x-rays otherwise known as full mouth x-rays or perhaps a panorex which is a pan-oral view of your mouth. Most Dentists use digital radiography which minimizes your exposure and offers the opportunity to show them to you on a computer monitor, tablet or some other device. While there are standards as to when and what type of x-rays should be taken, your Dentist will determine the need on an individual basis.
What is intra-oral photography?
Your Dentist might have a camera wand with which he/she takes digital pictures of your teeth to show on a computer monitor, tablet or some other device. This takes away much of the guesswork for you in that you can see what your dentist can see without needing a mirror. Oftentimes, the images are enlarged enough to show cracks, fractures, changes in color and other things that signal problems with your teeth and gums. Having pictures of your teeth are helpful when you or your Dentist have questions about what the teeth looked like in the past when compared to future treatment. Both x-rays and pictures are helpful in talking with specialists about your care and can be transferred to your new Dentist should you request a change.
What other technology might my Dentist have in his/her office?
There are devices that use light to look within the tooth to check for decay/fractures, machines that can make crowns while you wait and products that can assess oral cancer risks just to name a few. Your Dentist works with technology that expands his/her ability to provide excellent care for you.
Why does my Dentist charge so much?
You might be surprised to know that 60-80% of the fees your Dentist charges go to support his/her office overhead. Dentistry is not a commodity like toothpaste or shampoo. It is an art and a science that requires talented individuals and good quality products and services to provide the best results. Your Dentist is aware that there is little or no coverage to be had with insurance and that your budget needs to be addressed when making decisions about treatment. Many times in-office financial arrangements can be made interest free and a variety of credit cards are usually accepted. There are even health care credit cards that offer multi-year payment options.
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