If you're going in for your first dentist appointment-whether you’re a kid or an adult-it can be intimidating. Pop culture has led us to believe that dentist offices are scary places where people hurt you and drill, drill, drill. We want you to know that your first visit with a dentist is nothing to be afraid of, and therefore we’ve created this guide of what to expect from your first dentist appointment.
One of the first things that the hygienist will likely do is perform x-rays, especially if you've never been to the dentist before-or if you’ve been to another dentist and don’t have the records. With an x-ray, they’re looking for tooth decay, gum disease, bone loss, as well as impacted teeth, bone abnormalities, tumors and more.
The process of getting an x-ray from the dentist is very easy-you don’t even need to go into a special x-ray room, you just stay right in the same chair. The hygienist will put small pieces of x-ray film in your mouth-you just bite down on them, they won’t choke you or stop you from breathing-and then they'll maneuver the x-ray machine into position at the side of your face. They'll cover your torso and legs with a lead apron to shield you from radiation, and then they'll take a quick picture and you’re done.
The x-rays will be developed very quickly so that your dentist can discuss them when they come in to see you. This will give them a full understanding of your teeth.
For cleaning, the hygienist will pin a paper cloth across your chest, and then begin the process of cleaning each tooth. They work one tooth at a time, gently cleaning it and scraping away any build up of plaque or tartar. They might floss your teeth, too. When that’s done (and you can take as many breaks during this as you need if your jaw hurts from being open) you rinse your mouth well, and then the hygienist polishes your teeth with a spinning head using something called buffing paste. When that’s done, you’ll rinse again.
Once your teeth are clean, the dentist comes in to talk to you and do an examination. Typically, they'll use a little tool called a periodontal probe to reach around inside your mouth, as well as a tilted mirror so they can get a look from the back side of the teeth. The hygienist typically stays in the room during this exam to take any notes that the dentist has to give while they’re looking in your mouth.
When the dentist probes your teeth and gums it may hurt a bit, and your gums may bleed if they're tender, but it's generally nothing worse than a vigorous toothbrushing.
The dentist will then tell you if they’ve found any problems. Don't feel bad if they do! Everyone has dental trouble of one kind or another, and that's the whole reason you're there, after all. They'll talk to you about the problems, be they cavities or gum disease, or anything else, and they'll make a plan for moving forward. If you have no problems they'll ask you to come back in six months for another cleaning. If you do have problems, they'll want to schedule an appointment where they can address them.
And that's it! No drills, no needles. Nothing like that on the first appointment. Just cleaning and making a plan.