Your Dental Visit

You should visit the dental office every 6 months. During your visit, your dental provider will make sure your teeth and gums are healthy. If problems are found, your dentist or dental hygienist will recommend self-care and treatment.

Chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth.

Front view of upper and lower teeth.

Your tooth chart

Your dentist or dental hygienist may use this chart, or one like it, to mark areas of your mouth that need extra care. If you have questions about how to care for a problem area, be sure to ask.

Your health history

Since oral health is linked to general health, your visit will likely start with a health history. Tell your dental provider about any health problems you have or medicines you take. This includes any prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, herbs, vitamins, or supplements you take. It also includes any street drugs you use. You may also be asked about your daily tooth and gum care. Tell your dental provider if you grind your teeth or often breathe through your mouth. You should also bring up any oral health issues that concern you.

Your dental evaluation

Your dentist or dental hygienist may start by screening for oral cancer. This involves feeling your neck and throat and looking inside your mouth. Then your dental provider will:

  • Examine your teeth. If you have any tooth decay, it will be marked on your dental record. Notes will be made about any restorations, such as fillings or cracked teeth.

  • Examine your gums. A probe is used to measure any areas where the gum has separated from the tooth (pockets) and gum recession. Your dentist or dental hygienist will also evaluate any bleeding that occurs. Bleeding gums can be a sign of gum disease.

  • Take X-rays and pictures and molds of the teeth (impressions), if needed. These will be put in your record so your dentist or dental hygienist can refer to them at your next visit. This helps keep track of any changes to your mouth over time.

Finishing up

Depending on what your dental provider finds, the rest of your visit may include:

  • A cleaning to help prevent gum disease. Your dental provider will clean below the gumline, where your toothbrush and floss can’t reach.

  • A cosmetic polishing to remove stains on the surfaces of your teeth (if needed).

  • Further evaluation and treatment for any problems your dental provider finds. You may be referred to a specialist.

  • Instruction for giving your teeth and gums the best care at home.