We realize that very few of you out there actually enjoy going to the dentist, but there are some patients that are downright frightened of it. However, as with most things, the anticipation of things we deem as unpleasant is often worse than the actual experience. This is usually the case when going to the dentist. They say knowledge is power, so by having a good idea of what to expect before your dental appointment, the easier it might be to start going. Your dental health is vital to overall bodily health, so let’s dive in and take a look at what happens during a routine dental check-up.

Are Regular Dental Visits Necessary?

There is no question that routine dental care is extremely important to your overall wellbeing. You visit a dermatologist for your skin, an optometrist for your eyes, and your primary care physician for your general health. Dentists specialize in all the things that happen inside your mouth. Getting a dental checkup twice a year helps to make sure your teeth and gums stay healthy. It can even potentially ward off problems such as cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease. You only get one set of teeth, and they need to last for decades. You and your dentist can work together to make sure they stay healthy and strong.

What Is Included in a Dental Check-Up?

A regular dental checkup is comprised of two parts – the cleaning and the exam. When you arrive at your dental office, you’ll check in with the receptionist and be brought into the exam room. The first part of your visit is taken care of by your dental hygienist, the second part with your dentist.

Medical History

The first thing your hygienist will do is take a detailed patient medical history. They’ll need to know of any and all medical issues you may be dealing with, such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression, and even pregnancy. They will also ask you to list all of your current medications, both prescription and over the counter. All of these things can have a direct impact on your oral health. They will also ask if you have noticed any particular problems inside your mouth, or with your teeth and gums, such as pain or sensitivity. Now is also the perfect time to mention if have any anxiety about being in the dentist chair. If you are nervous, don’t be afraid to discuss your fears with your hygienist! They work with many patients every day and are happy to answer any questions you may have.


Once your patient history is complete, the first thing your dental hygienist will do is clean your teeth. This is also called oral prophylaxis. Using a variety of metal instruments, they scrape down each tooth, getting rid of any plaque and tartar that has built up on your teeth and also above your gum line. Daily brushing will help keep plaque under control, but you usually can’t get it all. Any leftover plaque turns into tartar, which can only be removed by a dental professional. This is not a painful process, but let your hygienist know if you are feeling any discomfort. They will give you short breaks during the cleaning so you can rinse your mouth as needed. Once they are done scaling your teeth, each tooth is polished with a high-speed polishing wand. The paste used to polish your teeth will help to remove stubborn surface stains. Finally, they will carefully floss each tooth and may give you a special fluoride rinse to ensure your mouth is nice and clean.


Dental x-rays of your mouth are usually taken once a year so your dentist can look for any underlying issues not visible to the naked eye. To complete the x-ray, you’ll be asked to bite down on a special piece of plastic. The hygienist will place an x-ray machine up against your cheek and leave the room briefly to take the picture. A good x-ray will show not only your teeth but the roots below the gum line and your jaw bone. Often x-rays will catch problems early, like hairline cracks and cavities. Your dentist will be able to recommend the right treatment plan for these issues before they turn into a much bigger issue.

Dental Exam

Once your cleaning is done and the dentist has had time to review your x-rays, it’s time for your dental exam. Dental exams are extremely important because this is where dentists look for signs of anything that threatens your oral health. Your dentist will go over the results of your x-rays and alert you to any potential signs of tooth decay that would require treatment. They will feel along your jaw and ask you to bite down to check your jaw alignment and make sure there are no excessive catches or clicking in your joints. The dentist will also use a special tool to measure the size of any pockets or gaps between your teeth and gums. You will feel them move the tool from tooth to tooth and call out numbers to your dental hygienist. Keeping track of these numbers from visit to visit will help track any progression of gum disease.

One of the most important parts of your appointment is an oral cancer screening. Once a year, your dentist will conduct a thorough exam of the tissues in your mouth, looking to see any signs of oral cancer. They will check your cheeks, lips, tongue, gums, the hard palate, and the floor of your mouth. As with any type of cancer, the earlier you catch any signs of oral cancer, the quicker you will be able to start treating it.

Advice and Wrap Up

When your exam is complete, you’ll have a discussion with your dentist about measures you can implement to improve your oral health until your next dental exam. They will show you the proper way to take care of your teeth, how to brush and floss correctly, and tips on establishing a solid oral hygiene routine. It’s important information that will keep your teeth healthy in-between dental visits. This is also when you will make an appointment for additional procedures, schedule visits with any specialists, and get any additional information you’ll need for follow-ups. And before you know it, your dental checkup is complete!

Schedule Your Appointment!

You should plan on regular visits to your dentist every six months. While you may only get dental exams once a year, routine cleaning and polishing of your teeth should happen twice a year. Your hygienist can also spot problems before they get out of control, making treatment of any dental issues much easier to bear. So contact us today! The bottom line is that getting your dental check-up is extremely important to your overall health. If you can’t remember the last time you’ve been to the dentist, it’s definitely time to come and see us.

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