What happens during a regular dental appointment?

When patients make a "regular" dental appointment, the assumption is they are coming in for a dental prophylaxis, check up and xrays.  Typically for an existing patient, the dental hygienist will take xrays, either check-up xrays or a full mouth series, do a cleaning, take probing measurements to identify any gum disease or bone loss, and then have the dentist come in to do a comprehensive clinical evaluation.  This should include a review of the medical history, an intra-oral exam of all the teeth as well as the tissues, and an extra-oral exam of the head and neck to identify any disease or abnormalities. 
During a "regular" dental appointment many things can happen. Treatment may include such things as examination, cleaning, periodontal evaluation, examination of the oral mucosa, placement of a restoration or minor bite adjustment. It depends on the definition of "regular dental appointment".

For this answer let's define a regular dental appointment as a recall, check-up or continuing care visit. Services provided may include the following:
  • medical history, update medical history
  • determination of chief complaint, if any
  • examination of the teeth
  • examination of the gums
  • examination of the oral mucosa and tongue
  • follow-up on concerns from previous visits
  • dental prophylaxis (cleaning) 
  • radiographs, if indicated
  • oral hygiene instruction
  • review of findings, including intraoral pictures if appropriate
  • schedule for treatment and/or follow-up, if indicated
Obviously, there is quite a bit to do even at a "regular/routine" dental appointment.
Each individual mouth is unique, so the exact treatment at each dental visit can vary based upon your oral health and your needs.

A dentist will begin by visually examining your mouth, gums, tongue and teeth.

Dental cleanings will help clean the teeth and the dentist can offer educational tips for better flossing and brushing if needed.

Sometimes a visit can include an X-ray. How often these are needed or taken depends upon each individual's need and health history. Varnishes or fluoride treatments may also occur.

Discuss with your dentist any questions you have about what treatments you may need.
If you approach every dental appointment with dread, or haven't been to a dentist in years, it's important to push past your fear. Your dentist is your ally, and she or he wants to check for tooth problems like decay and fix them before they can affect your appearance or your ability to eat properly.

During each checkup, a dental hygienist will clean your teeth by removing the plaque that's stuck to your teeth with special instruments. The hygienist will then use professional-strength polish to further remove plaque and stains, leaving teeth clean and shiny. Your hygienist will also discuss any issues you may be having with your teeth or gums.

You may have x-rays taken of your teeth, which will show whether you have any hidden decay or gum disease. Then, your dentist will examine your teeth and gums. If there are any cavities or other problems, you may need to make another appointment with your dentist for a filling or other procedure.

Continue Learning about Common Dental Procedures

How long does dental bonding take?
American Dental AssociationAmerican Dental Association
Dental bonding can usually be completed in one visit and involves preparing the tooth surface with a...
More Answers
What do dental terms that use numbers and letters mean?
When dentists and dental hygienists talk about numbers and letters as they peer into your mouth,...
More Answers
What is the purpose of dental rubber tips?
Rubber tips (also called interdental tips) are flexible pieces of pointed rubber that you can use to...
More Answers
Is Teeth Whitening Safe?
Is Teeth Whitening Safe?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.