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Going to the dentist - What to expect

Why You Need to Go
Everyone should go to the dentist at least once a year. The dentist or dental hygienist cleans your teeth and checks them for decay, cavities, and more.

In kids, the dentist looks at how the teeth are coming in and if the bones around the mouth are forming correctly. In adults, in addition to looking at the teeth, the dentist looks for gum disease and can spot other diseases that might cause mouth sores, like oral cancers, diabetes, and some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Before You Go
Before you go to the dentist, here are a few things you need to remember.

  • Write down your questions so you don't forget them.
  • Bring your insurance, medical, or dental scheme information.
  • Bring any old dental records or x-rays. You can ask your old dentist to give them to you or send them to your new dentist.
  • If you're taking a child, act excited and don't scare them.

At the Office

Step 1: X-Rays
When you get to the dentist's office, the dental hygienist may do most of the exam. You might have x-rays taken. These pictures show the bones around your mouth and how the teeth fit together. Cavities can even show up on x-rays. To take the x-rays, the hygienist will put special film in your mouth and use a special x-ray machine. They usually take four x-rays and you'll be able to see them in a few minutes.

Step 2: Cleaning
To examine your teeth, the dentist or hygienist will use a little mirror and metal instrument to scrape off any plaque or tartar because they cause tooth decay. He might also use a tube to suck the saliva out of your mouth. To clean your teeth, the dentist or hygienist will use an electric brush and special toothpaste. These tools polish your teeth and make them feel extra smooth. The dentist or hygienist may also floss your teeth.

Step 3: Fluoride
You might also get a fluoride treatment. Fluoride is a mineral that makes your teeth very strong and prevents cavities. Fluoride is in most toothpastes. The fluoride treatment at the dentist is usually a liquid you have to swish around your mouth or a gel the hygienist spreads on your teeth. It has to stay on for a few minutes before you can rinse or spit.

Step 4: Gum Check
Your dentist will come in and check your teeth and gums for cavities or signs of disease. You and your dentist might talk about how you take care of your teeth and the kinds of foods you eat. Your dentist will tell you what you need to do to keep your teeth healthy. If you have any questions, remember to ask.

That's It!
You're done! Depending on what the dentist found, you might have to come back soon to get a cavity filled or get fitted for dentures or bridges. The dentist will let you know when your next appointment should be.

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