Know Before You Go: The Dentist

healthy teeth

According to the CDC, just under 62% of Americans visited the dentist in 2011. The latest information from the ADA Health Policy Resource Center tells us that Americans are visiting their dentist less frequently. The CDC also came out with alarming information that nearly half of adults have some form of periodontal disease, a number much higher than previously speculated. Add to the fact that we are seeing more research connecting oral health to overall health, and we have a very compelling reason to find a great oral health professional. 

As we all know, the more preventive we become towards plaque control and the more diligent we are towards our biannual dental visits, the greater the probability of catching problems before they become expensive and time consuming.

Ask yourself, are you happy with your dental professional office? You shouldn’t have to feel gripping fear every time you go to your dentist’s office. The trick is to find an office with modern technology and compassionate professionals.

Following the steps I’ve laid out, you can eliminate the anxiety – and the pain – of finding and visiting a quality oral health professional. 

Step one: Ask for recommendations

Talk to people who’ve had the kind of dentistry you require and see if they can recommend someone they had a good experience with. Also, call the closest dental school and see if any of the names you received from word-of-mouth referral are associated with the dental school.

Step two: Narrow your search

Once you identify a couple of names, narrow your search to two or three offices, check out their website for information and call. Be sure to ask the following qualifying questions:

Question 1: Does the dental professional have a particular specialty? Most dental professionals aren’t trained in every single specialty so it’s important to work with a professional who specializes in what you need, or who takes a cross-disciplinary approach and can refer you to other specialists, if necessary. Be sure to conduct due diligence on these specialists as well.

Question 2: Are there hygienists on staff and are they performing the cleaning? The hygiene appointment should include an oral health assessment, prophylaxis and education on home care. This is all part of the hygienists skill set and is overseen by the dentist.

Question 3: How much time will a routine cleaning and checkup take? It should last about 45 minutes.

Question 4: Has the doctor taught or been published? A dentist who lectures at a reputable dental school or who has worked published in a professional journal is commendable.

Step three: Evaluating the initial visit

During your initial visit, it’s helpful to ask or be aware of the following:

  • Is there a dedicated sterilization area? Make sure the office uses an autoclave (heat sterilizer) on every instrument that goes in the mouth. Confirm that all exam rooms are barrier-controlled for full sterilization.
  • Inquire about patient communication technology, which can aid your dentist in explaining concerns or procedures. Look for a dental professional who uses computer imaging, patient education software, and intra-oral cameras.
  • Finally, don’t underestimate the value of office aesthetics. Make sure to ask yourself: Does the office, examining rooms, staff and environment seem dedicated to making patients comfortable?

Medical Concerns to Know Before You Go:

Before you get in the dentist’s chair, going down this list will help prevent potential bumps later on down the road.

If you bleed easily, check with your physician as to whether this could influence your dental appointment.

Heart Issues
If you have any heart-related issues, find out from your cardiologist or internist if there is anything you need to be aware of prior to visiting the dentist or undergoing a dental procedure.

Sensitivities of Allergies to Medications
Keep your dentist or hygienist abreast of any medications you are taking or of any allergies or sensitivities you may have.

If are pregnant or suspect you may be, it is advisable to avoid major dental procedures through preventative care to avoid dental infection is even more important. In the event that dental work can’t wait, talk to your obstetrician and dentist about what pain medications are safest for you and baby.

Pregnant and potentially pregnant women should not be x-rayed. On the rare occasion when an x-ray can’t wait, make sure you’re receiving a digital x-ray and that two aprons are placed over you.

Hormonal changes brought on by pregnancy render gums more susceptible to plaque, so increase the frequency of cleanings.

You are now armed with facts that will guide you towards choosing a dental office best suited to your individual needs, the important office attributes to be mindful of during your initial visit, and the pertinent safety information to consider to ensure your dental appointments are focused on your well-being.