Make the most of your dental appointment

September 08, 2015

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As with any medical exam, heading to the dentist's office takes some preparation. After all, a dental exam should be viewed as more than a quick cleaning - It's an opportunity to talk to a dental health professional about any oral care issues you've been experiencing, or ask general dental hygiene questions. Here are some ways you can prepare for your next dental visit:

Schedule regular appointments
Many oral health problems can be combated with preventative care, but that requires regular visits to the dentist. You should schedule appointments as often as necessary for your unique oral care regimen, but the typical rule is to go in for a cleaning every six months.1 High-risk groups, such as smokers, pregnant women, diabetic individuals and people with current oral health problems, may benefit from more frequent visits.

Make sure to visit the dentist twice a year.
Make sure to visit the dentist twice a year.

Daily brushing and flossing are necessary elements of maintaining a healthy smile, but this routine isn't sufficient to fight all oral health ailments. Dentists can check for issues that you can't see or feel, such as cavities, gum disease and oral cancer. The earlier a dental health professional catches these problems, the more likely you'll be able to fully treat them. For example, gum disease has several stages. Gingivitis, the mildest form of the disease, occurs when the gum tissues become red and swollen and easily bleed, and it can be treated with proper care. Periodontitis, on the other hand, is the most severe stage of gum disease, and it occurs if gingivitis goes untreated. At this point, the tissues and bones that support the teeth are destroyed. The resulting infection has been linked to serious systemic diseases such as heart ailments and diabetes.2

Scheduling regular appointments not only allows you to better maintain your well-being, it can also help build a stronger relationship with your dentist. This way, you may feel more comfortable sharing concerns about your dental health, allowing him or her to provide more individualized care.

"Dental discount cards can help families achieve affordable dental costs"

Handle coverage ahead of time
Does your health insurance provide dental coverage? Whether your health care plan doesn't apply to dental visits or you're without insurance all together, it's important to know how you're going to pay for your dentist appointment. After all, you don't want anything, even high costs, to deter you from regularly visiting the dentist.

Dental discount cards can help families achieve affordable dental costs. Essentially, a dental discount card is your key to a membership program that offers you access to low cost dental care. One low monthly payment, usually about $10, will provide discounts on anything from regular cleanings to dental emergencies - all by just presenting your card upon arrival. Figuring out your dental care plan before heading to a dentist appointment will keep you stress-free and make the check-in process go smoothly.

Provide history
Two people with the same dental care routine may not enjoy the same degree of health. That's because, though oral ailments can be caused by poor oral hygiene, they also have genetic components.3 Individuals inherit different resistance levels to bacteria, and nearly all oral issues have to do with these microorganisms. Additionally, gum disease has been linked to certain systemic diseases that also have hereditary influences. Therefore, it's important to keep these issues in mind when speaking with your dentist, so he or she can have a more comprehensive understanding of your oral health.

However, talking to your dentist about your health history involves more than divulging information about hereditary issues. It's also vital that you let him or her know about the medications you're taking, past oral care problems, allergies and your overall well-being. This way, your dental team can evaluate your risk for other oral health problems and avoid making issues worse.

Be honest
Without fail, your dentist will ask if you have been brushing your teeth twice a day and regularly flossing. While it can be tempting to say "yes" when you've actually been insufficient in your oral care routine, it's crucial to be honest with your dental health professional. Though your dentist will give a thorough cleaning and examination anyway, he or she still needs to know what to pay particular attention to. For example, if you say you floss every day and your dentist discovers bacteria between your teeth, he or she may be led to believe there's a different issue at play. 

Regularly visiting the dentist is a crucial element to maintaining both your oral health and overall well-being. Make sure you're prepared for your next appointment.

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1. "How often should you go to the dentist?" Colgate, May 7, 2014. http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/basics/dental-visits/article/how-often-should-you-go-to-the-dentist

2. "Types of Gum Disease," American Academy of Periodontology. https://www.perio.org/consumer/types-gum-disease.html

3. "Genetic Considerations of Diseases and Disorders that Affect the Oral Cavity," S. Michele Robichaux, D.D.S. http://www.medschool.lsuhsc.edu/genetics_center/louisiana/article_oralcavity1_p.htm

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