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How to Prepare for Dental Visits

Knowing how to prepare for dental visits will make the process easier on both you and your dentist.

It's time for your dental visit, and you're not completely sure what to expect. Whether you are a new patient or have been seeing the same dentist for years, you have no idea what's lurking under your tooth enamel. But since you realize your dental health is important, you're checking in with a professional to check out your teeth -- hopefully, you'll hear, "No cavities. See you in six months."

First of all, congratulations on making that appointment! Considering that only 50 percent of the population regularly visits the dentist you're one of the few who are taking your dental health into your own hands.

We understand that you want to stay on top of your health, so here are some suggestions to help make your dental appointment easier: 

Confirm the Appointment -- Start by verifying the appointment time 24 hours in advance. Some offices will do this for you, but it's always a good idea to avoid miscommunications by checking in.

Transfer Dental Records -- If you're a new patient, contact your old dental office and have your dental records sent to your current dentist.

Arrive Early -- Give yourself enough time to complete forms, get to know the staff and relax before your appointment. It's hard to feel comfortable in the dental chair when you're feeling rushed.

Prepare Your Information -- When filling out the new patient information page, be prepared to provide your complete medical history and form of payment. If you're a current patient, provide your dentist with any changes to your health, medications or dental insurance.

Discuss Dental Problems -- Communicating with your dentist about dental problems can help determine dental treatment. Write down any dental problems you've experienced over the past six months, even if they're dormant. That way you won't forget anything, and it may keep you from having to make an emergency appointment if they flare up again in the future. Include such details as:

- When the pain started or ended

- Which area of the mouth you feel discomfort

- The level of pain you experience, and whether it comes and goes or is constant

- Any side effects, such as bleeding gums or swelling

Answer Questions Truthfully -- Give details about your oral hygiene routine, including how often you brush and floss. Your dentist may want to know about past dental problems and the last time you visited a dentist. Be honest -- disclosing this information is not meant to embarrass you, but to improve your dental health.

Face Dental Anxiety -- Your first step in getting past dental anxiety is making the appointment. Once you've scheduled the visit, don't postpone it -- putting off your dental visit can cause dental problems to worsen. Don't be afraid to tell your dentist about your fears. Dentists now use a variety of methods to successfully treat fearful patients.

Schedule Treatments Accordingly -- Most dental procedures last longer than regular dental exams, so be sure to schedule your appointment during a time that is convenient for you. Ask your dentist how long the appointment will last and what to expect after the procedure. Following your dentist's post-operative or post-treatment guidelines will help you avoid complications and make a full recovery.

Making Payment Arrangements

You may be surprised by how easy it is to arrange payments. Dentists want you to get the help you need, and may be able to provide various treatment options or make financial arrangements that meet your budget. In the meantime, discuss your payment options prior to your appointment.

- Many offices require payment at the time of service, so ask your dentist how they work with insurance or out-of-pocket payments before you show up for your appointment.

- For larger treatment plans, some offices offer financing on approved credit. Talk to your dental office about their internal payment plans. They should be able to help you fill out the appropriate paperwork and make sure you are approved prior to receiving treatment.

Post-Appointment Preparation

Of course, preparing for the dentist should happen on a daily basis. From the time you leave the dental office, you should already be preparing for your next visit. Either schedule your next appointment with the dental assistant before you walk out the door, or ask the office to send you a reminder so that you don't forget to call.

Remember, just because you may have another six months before your next dental visit, that doesn't mean you can take a vacation from your oral hygiene routine. Continue your daily oral hygiene regimen, and follow any advice your dentist or dental hygienist has given you regarding at-home dental care.

Your Dental Checklist

- Schedule your appointment with the office staff during a time that is convenient for you.

- Transfer your dental records from your former dentist, if necessary.

- Write down any dental problems or concerns to discuss with your dentist.

- Call the office the day before to confirm the appointment time.

- Bring your insurance card. If you are paying out of pocket, discuss your payment options prior to the dental visit.

- If you're a new patient, be prepared to provide your dental health information, including your medical history.

- For current patients, it's important to inform your dentist of changes in your health, especially if you're pregnant.

- List any medications you're taking, as they may affect treatment.

If you need to cancel your appointment, give the dental office at least a 24-hour notice.