What to Expect from Seeing the Dentist

Man that just had his dental cleaning done and is looking in a mirror and smiling really big.

Many people fear seeing a dentist because they only think of shots and drills. However, seeing the dentist is often very laid-back and stress-free for your mouth. The most common dental appointments are for dental cleanings and comprehensive exams, which help clean your mouth intensely and find tooth decay. Find out what you can expect from these basic appointments and how they can help you avoid lengthy procedures in the future!


Seeing the Dentist Often

Did you know that there are actually specific guidelines for how often you should be seeing the dentist? The American Dental Association recommends that every person visits the dentist at least twice a year for biannual checkups and dental cleanings. Children around 1 year of age or within 6 months of getting their first tooth should see the dentist. This can ensure that the baby teeth are growing in like they should without any abnormalities.


After that initial visit, children should visit the dental office every 6 months. These appointments are vital for making sure your child doesn’t develop tooth decay that can become serious and lead to tooth loss. You must keep this up all throughout life, which only requires about 45 minutes of your time twice a year. Patients who are seeing the dentist for these appointments have a much greater chance of avoiding major oral health diseases like tooth decay and gum disease. Plus, seeing the dentist often will help you find problems when they are small so you don’t have to have lengthy dental procedures that can be costly.


Close-up view of a woman having her dental cleaning done.

What Can You Expect at the Dentist?

Visiting the dentist can be nerve-wracking for some patients because they think of shots and drills being used. However, these types of dental tools are not used during a dental cleaning and comprehensive exam. The goal of biannual checkups is just to see if you have cavities in your teeth and if your gums look healthy.


When you eat, sugars mix with bacteria in your mouth to create plaque. That plaque then coats your teeth and the acids in it start to erode your tooth enamel and that is how your teeth decay. If patients are brushing at least twice a day and flossing as the ADA recommends, they have a high chance of not having dental issues. However, sometimes cavities simply happen, which is why 6-month exams are needed to make sure those cavities don’t grow large. At your visit, you can expect to have a dental cleaning followed by a comprehensive exam and an oral cancer screening.


Dental Cleaning

A dental cleaning isn’t simply brushing your teeth. These cleanings help prevent oral cancer, gum disease and tooth loss, while maintaining good physical health. Dental cleanings are intense (but gentle) cleanings for your teeth that buffs and polishes them, removing tobacco, coffee and tea stains as well as tartar and plaque.


During a dental cleaning you can expect a dental hygienist to:

  • Remove tartar with ultrasonic treatments or fine hand tools. Tartar is mineralized plaque that is on the teeth that you can’t get yourself.
  • Brush and polish your teeth with fluoride toothpaste using a slow-speed handpiece with a soft rubber cup. This spins and buffs your teeth until they are shiny and smooth.
  • Apply fluoride as a foam or gel to your teeth for 30 seconds to help strengthen them.
  • Assess the existence of gingivitis and gum disease. We do this by measuring the depth of your gum pockets, checking for bleeding sites and assessing bone loss through digital x-rays and/or observation.
  • Clean and adjust dentures and partials.
  • Show you the best practices for brushing and flossing.
  • Provide counsel for proper eating and drinking to keep your teeth healthy.
  • Take digital x-rays of your teeth to find areas of tooth decay.


Dentist and hygienist that are looking at dental x-rays with a patient

Comprehensive Exam and Oral Cancer Screening

A comprehensive exam goes hand-in-hand with a dental cleaning. Once your teeth are clean, the dentist must examine them to see if there is hidden decay or gum problems remaining. The dentist will check your biting, chewing and swallowing patterns to make sure they are normal. If you have gum disease, you will get antibiotics for persistent gum infections or bacteria. The dentist will check all your tooth surfaces and examine x-rays for signs of tooth decay. If there is decay, you will receive recommendations for future treatment and schedule an appointment to remove the decay.


Oral cancer claims around 50,000 lives each year, when it’s progression can be stopped if it is found early. Usually this cancer will show abnormalities in the mouth like sores, discolored gums or lumps somewhere in the mouth, face or neck. The dentist will quickly check all of these places for anything out of the ordinary. It literally takes about 2 minutes and it can ensure you don’t have cancer forming without your knowledge.


Make Seeing the Dentist a Priority

There are countless benefits to dental cleanings, comprehensive exams and oral cancer screenings. Not only can you keep your teeth and gums healthy, but you can avoid any procedure that would be costly or intense in the future. Plus, you can keep your natural teeth until the day you die with proper oral care and with seeing the dentist often. Those are quite amazing benefits! If it has been some time since you have had a dental visit, make sure to call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies today at (970) 223-8425!