How often you go for a dental exam depends on your current oral health.
The goal of every dentist is to catch small problems early, and for many people, this might mean a dental exam every six months. Your dentist may suggest that you visit more or less often depending on problems you have that need to be checked or treated, how fast tartar builds up on your teeth, how well you care for your teeth and gums, and so on.

Answer the following questions:

  • Do you floss every day?
  • Do you brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and follow your dentist’s instructions on how to brush properly?
  • Do you eat a well-balanced diet, including food from all food groups, and limit sweets and sticky foods?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Do you have a history of cavities or gum disease?
  • Is your overall health good?

The answers to these questions are all factors that affect your oral health. They will help you and your dentist decide how often you need to visit for dental exams. It’s worth noting that you should not determine your need for dental care based on what your dental plan covers.

How often you need to have x-rays also depends on your oral health. A healthy adult who has not had cavities or other problems for a couple of years probably won’t need x-rays at every appointment. If your dental situation is less stable and your dentist is monitoring your progress, you may require more frequent x-rays.

Dentists suggest that both adults and children have X-rays about once per year. If you are not sure why a particular x-ray is being taken, ask your dentist.

Remember that your dentist uses digital x-rays, which deliver far less radiation than traditional dental x-rays. X-rays are a vital tool used by your dentist to ensure that small problems don’t develop into bigger ones.

Original dental records belong to the dentist who provided the treatment, and not the patient, as dentists have to keep all of their records for a period of time, as set out by their provincial dental regulatory body. You can however request that a copy of your records be transferred from your former dentist.

You may be required to sign a release form from your former dental office and you may also be charged an administrative fee for having your records copied and sent to another dental office. If you have questions about the records transfer process in your province, ask your dentist or contact the provincial dental regulatory body.

Your health is very important to your dentist. One of the ways that your dentist helps you stay healthy is by preventing the spread of germs. One of the best ways to do this is to use barrier protection such as gloves and masks.

Your dentist and other dental team members also wash their hands regularly. In addition, they sterilize equipment used in the dental office and clean the furniture and fixtures in the examining rooms.

If you would like to know how this system is carried out in your dentist’s office, ask to be shown how it’s done. Dentists always welcome the opportunity to ease their patients’ concerns, rather than have them leave the office with unanswered questions. Once you see the work that goes into making the dental office a clean and safe environment, you will feel reassured.

It is worth noting that even though these precautions are used, it is still important to tell your dentist of any changes in your health. This will help your dentist suggest the right choices of treatment for you.

It’s important to get an early start on dental care, so that your child will learn that visiting the dentist is a regular part of health care. The Canadian Dental Association encourages dental assessment of infants, within 6 months of the eruption of the first tooth, or by one year of age.
It’s important to make the first visit a positive experience for your child, just one reason why it’s a good idea to visit before a problem develops. If you think may be a problem, however, take your child to the dentist right away, no matter what age.

If you are a nervous dental patient, ask your spouse or another family member to take the child for the appointment. If your child senses that you are nervous, he or she may feel nervous too. When you talk to your child about going to the dentist, explain what will happen without adding things like “it won’t hurt” or “don’t be scared.”

Also, be sure to get an early start on regular dental care at home. Start cleaning your child’s mouth with a soft damp cloth before teeth come in and continue with a soft toothbrush once he or she has a first tooth. Limit the number of sugary treats you give your child, and focus on healthy food choices from the very beginning.

Dental plans, offered by many employers, are a means to help you pay for your dental treatment. Most Canadians enjoy dental plans, and the insurance companies that provide them are benefit carriers. Carriers reimburse patients based on the level of coverage decided by the patient’s employer.

When you visit the dentist, it’s the dentist’s role to make a treatment plan based on your oral health needs. Your needs may be different from what is covered by your dental plan. It is your right to decide whether or not to go ahead with any treatment.

You should not decide to get treatment solely based on what your plan covers. If you agree to have the treatment, it’s your responsibility to pay for it. It is the responsibility of the benefits carrier to reimburse you for the amount covered by your dental plan.

Many dentists are willing to contact a patient’s benefits carrier, on a patient’s behalf, to find out if a treatment is covered. The patient has to pay the portion that’s not covered and the dentist may offer a payment plan to help.

If you do not have a dental plan and cannot afford to pay your entire bill at once, ask your dentist about a payment plan. If you cannot afford care, even with a payment plan, contact the nearest:

  • Social services agency to see if you qualify for government-funded dental care
  • Dental school where senior dental students provide treatment at a reduced cost

Dental services may seem expensive. In Canada, we don’t have to pay directly when we visit a doctor or hospital, so we may not realize the high cost of providing health services. Overhead costs are high for doctors and dentists. They have staff, equipment and other operating costs.

The good news is that you can avoid costly dental treatment by brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly for a dental exams. Regular dental exams cost money, but they are less expensive than fixing serious dental problems that stem from neglect.

Dentists have been doing what’s called “non-vital” bleaching for many years. Non-vital bleaching is done on a damaged, darkened tooth that has had root canal treatment. “Vital” bleaching, which has become more popular in recent years, is done on healthy teeth.

Vital bleaching, also called whitening, may be carried out in the dental office, or the dentist may instruct the patient on how to do the bleaching at home. There are also a wide variety of products for sale in stores. Not all products are the same, nor do they all give the same results. In addition, different products, including those used by dentists, come with different risks and side effects.

Overview

Whitening toothpastes with abrasive ingredients are really not bleaching products at all, but work on surface stain only. These products are sold in many stores.

Some whitening toothpastes do contain a chemical ingredient (or “bleach”) that causes a chemical reaction to lighten teeth. Generally, they have the lowest amount of “bleach.” They may not whiten as well as stronger products, but they have less chance of side effects. These pastes are brushed onto teeth and rinsed off, like regular toothpaste.

Bleaching kits sold in stores stay on your teeth longer than toothpaste and contain stronger bleach. These store-bought products do not come with the added safety of having your dentist monitor any side effects. They also come with a one-size-fits-all tray that holds the bleaching solution, and are more likely to leak the chemical into your mouth.

Dentists use products with stronger bleach, but they give patients careful instructions to follow. They are also trained to spot and treat the side effects that patients sometimes report during bleaching. In addition, if a tray is needed to apply the “bleach”, dentists supply custom-made trays. Because products used by dentists are strong, they tend to produce the best results.

Patients should be aware that the long-term use of whitening or bleaching products may cause tooth sensitivity or tooth abrasion. Please consult with your dentist before using a whitening or bleaching product.

Ask questions. It sounds simple enough, but sometimes we feel embarrassed to ask simple questions.

You will feel much better, and be able to make a better decision, if you understand the dental procedure that is being recommended to you. If you don’t say anything, your dentist may think that you already understand.

Here are some possible questions:

  • How much will the procedure cost, and how much of the cost is likely to be covered by insurance?
  • How long will the procedure take?
  • How many times has your dentist has done this procedure in the past?
  • What are the chances that the procedure will need to be redone in the future?
  • Are there alternatives to the procedure and if so, what are each option’s pros & cons?

The final decision about how and when to proceed with any treatment is always yours. To help you understand what is involved in the treatment, your dentist may give you some websites to visit so that you can feel fully informed. Be careful if you are conducting your own internet search. Some of the information you find is likely to be unreliable.

If you have unanswered questions after an appointment, call your dentist’s office.