Your dentist will recommend how often to have routine checkups. Many people should see their dentists once or twice a year. Your dentist will examine your teeth and gums for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and other health problems.
Your dental hygienist will begin to clean your teeth by scraping hard mineral buildup (tartar) off of your teeth with a small metal tool. Then the hygienist will floss your teeth, use a polishing compound, and apply fluoride. Cleanings usually aren’t painful.
Occasionally your dentist will want to take X-rays. The X-rays take only a few minutes.
Your dentist or technician will have you put on a heavy apron to shield your body from X-rays. Everyone else in the room will either wear a protective apron or step behind a protective shield.
Your dentist or technician will have you bite down on a small piece of plastic. This will help align the teeth properly for the machine. Your dentist or technician will repeat this process several times to get pictures of all your teeth.
If necessary, your dentist will put a sealant on the chewing surface of your back teeth to help prevent cavities. Sealants keep food and bacteria from getting stuck in the rough chewing surfaces or grooves of your teeth, and they protect your teeth from plaque.
Your dentist or hygienist may apply a fluoride solution directly to your teeth to help prevent tooth decay. Your dentist may recommend a series of fluoride applications.
If you are prone to infections, you may need to take antibiotics before you have any dental work. This includes those who:
- Have heart valve problems, which put you at risk for endocarditis
- Have an impaired immune system
- Had recent major surgeries or have man-made body parts, such as an artificial hip or heart valve
Your dentist or hygienist may ask you about the foods you eat. What you eat and whether you get enough vitamins and minerals can affect your dental health.
If you have active tooth decay or gum disease, your dentist will talk to you about changing your brushing or flossing habits. In severe cases, he or she may recommend antibiotics or other dental treatments. If your teeth and gums appear healthy, your dentist will recommend that you continue your usual brushing and flossing.