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Home Knowledge CenterWhat to Expect During a Dental Check up

What Happens During a Dental Check-Up?

Dental check-ups help ensure your teeth and gums are healthy year after year.

What’s included in a dental check-up?

When you check in, the receptionist may ask you to fill out a patient questionnaire about your oral health history.

Once you’re called to an exam room you’ll meet the hygienist and then when your cleaning is done, you’ll meet with the dentist.

A hygienist or a certified dental assistant will begin your dental check-up with a teeth cleaning that includes the following:

  • Use various tools and instruments to remove or scrape tartar and plaque from around your gum line and the surface of your teeth.
  • Polish your teeth.
  • Report their findings to the dentist.
  • Take X-rays if ordered by the dentist.

After your teeth have been cleaned, your dentist will do the following:

  • Complete a quick teeth check-up.
  • Examine your gums, soft palette, throat and neck, and check for any abnormalities.
  • Review any X-rays that may have been taken.
  • Recommend any additional dental work you might need to maintain oral health.
  • Discuss your overall oral health and habits.

What’s the difference between a dental check-up and a dental exam?

The terms are often used interchangeably. However, some people make the distinction that a hygienist handles the dental check-up, while a dentist is responsible for the dental exam. The exam is more technical and requires the expertise of a dentist.

How much does a dental check-up cost?

The cost of a dental check-up depends on your dental plan and how much work is done during your visit. A routine teeth cleaning may be covered, depending on your dental plan. Your plan may also require a copay at the time of your visit.

If a dentist recommends additional dental work, they will provide you with an estimate of the cost ahead of time. Many dental procedures are partially covered by a dental plan. To minimize your dental check-up cost, make sure you check your plan documents in advance so you know what your plan covers.

What will happen if something is wrong with my teeth?

Your dentist will tell you right away if your dental exam reveals anything unusual. They may recommend additional procedures, or refer you to a specialist. For example, if you would like your teeth straightened, a dentist may refer you to an orthodontist, who specializes in that kind of dentistry.

How often do I need a dental check-up?

Getting a dental check-up at least once a year can help maintain the overall health of your teeth and mouth, and help identify any problems early. A build-up of tartar can cause long-term issues. To avoid any dental problems that require expensive procedures, consider getting at least one dental check-up and dental exam each year.

If you have a dental plan, make sure you know what’s covered for dental care. Dental costs vary depending on what you need done and the type of dental insurance you have. You can start taking control of costs by learning ahead of time what kind of dental procedures and treatments your plan covers.


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This content is general health information and not medical advice or services. Always consult with your doctor/dentist for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and health care recommendations.

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