Are you planning your first visit to Raleigh Dental Arts? It’s normal to feel a little anxious about visiting a new dentist for the first time. Our Raleigh dentists want your experience to be one that’s relaxing and comprehensive. If you’re a new patient, here’s what you can generally expect at your initial appointment:
What to Bring With You
We value your time. In order for us to keep your time spent waiting to a minimum, we ask that you be sure to bring a copy of your ID, insurance card (if applicable), and any required new patient paperwork. In most cases we can arrange to have you complete your forms online or download them to print and fill out at home. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let us know.
In some cases, you may want to arrange to have your paperwork sent over from your last dental provider. Depending on who your past dentist was, they may need you to sign a release or provide the information to you in person; if so, just bring it with you to your appointment.
Before you leave home, be sure to copy down the names of any medications that you’re currently taking, even if it’s on an as-needed basis. This includes over-the-counter products and homeopathic supplements.
Will I Need Dental X-rays?
Most of our new patient appointments will need to include a series of baseline radiographs. Fortunately, we use low-radiation digital X-rays that reduce radiation exposure by as much as 90% when compared to traditional X-rays used in the past.
Digital X-rays make it possible for our Raleigh dentists to evaluate areas between teeth and under the gums. These spaces are not visible to the naked eye, which can make infections or decay easy to overlook. Plus, they serve as a baseline for us to compare future images against, so that it’s possible to identify changes in existing conditions.
The type of X-rays we take can vary, depending on what your primary concerns are, age, and any records that were sent over from your last dental provider. In most cases we’ll usually take a “full mouth series” (FMX) and/or a panoramic film in addition to a set of bitewing X-rays. For general yearly checkups, bitewings and the occasional single-tooth X-ray allow us to check for new advancements in-between your back teeth or specific problem areas.
A picture is worth 1,000 words. Yes, even when it comes to your smile. Our Raleigh dentists use digital imaging technology makes it easier to monitor your dental health changes between appointments. Especially when it comes to comparing conditions from one visit to the next.
Some of the types of digital imaging that we incorporate into our appointments include magnified intraoral photography as well as 3D scanning. When we’re able to share enlarged photographs of specific teeth on a monitor in the exam room, you can easily see the same things that we do. Together we can take that information and co-plan your care, rather than you risk taking our word for it. And with 3D scanning we can record digital molds of your teeth or even evaluate CT scans of your skeletal structures.
Oral Cancer Screenings
We include a complimentary oral cancer screening as part of your new patient exam. Since oral cancer can affect almost anyone and be extremely difficult to discover on your own, regular professional exams could save your life.
Even if you don’t smoke, use tobacco products, or drink alcohol, there is still a risk of developing oral cancer. Today we know that risk factors such as sun exposure and specific strains of viruses (including HPV) can contribute to the development of oral cancer. When pre-cancerous tissues are spotted earlier, it allows for less invasive and more proactive treatment planning.
Oral cancer isn’t something that usually hurts or causes obvious large growths. Rather it tends to start out small, presenting itself as sores that do not heal, lumps that interfere with swallowing, or tissue appearances that differ from the skin around them.
If suspicious tissues are noted, our Raleigh dentists will re-evaluate them again in a couple of weeks or go ahead and order a biopsy for further evaluation. Any biopsies are analyzed by a pathologist or oral surgeon under a lab microscope to rule out pathology. Depending on the type of biopsy that you need, we can use a small brush or physically remove a tiny area of tissue.
The health and integrity of your gingiva (gum) tissue play a direct role in how long your teeth stay intact. When issues like gingivitis evolve into gum (periodontal) disease, your tissues gradually start to pull back from the tooth. As a result, the supporting bone underneath your gums will start to shrink back.
With periodontal disease, early intervention is essential. That’s why we incorporate a periodontal exam into your new patient appointment and on an annual basis. During the screening we will measure six key points around each tooth using an extremely small measuring tool. When gums detach from the tooth, they create a “pocket” between the tissue and the root. A small probe allows us to gently measure the depth of your gum pockets to determine the extent of any disease or detachment.
In the meantime, let us know if you’re experiencing any day-to-day signs of gum disease. Some of the most common warning signs include bleeding when you brush and floss, bad breath, sore teeth, and swollen gum tissues. Take note: if you smoke, you’re unlikely to experience symptoms of bleeding or swelling, making it harder to screen for the disease on your own.
Preventative Cleaning (if Applicable)
As long as your gums and bone are relatively healthy and there is only mild to moderate buildup on your teeth, one of our hygienists will complete a preventative cleaning. In instances where periodontal infections are present, a series of deep cleanings may need to be scheduled at a later date.
Our hygienists use special instruments to carefully and thoroughly remove buildup from each tooth surface. They will also polish away superficial stains, such as those from coffee or tea.
In some cases, we may also offer adjunctive hygiene services, such as fluoride or tooth desensitizing treatments. Fluoride is effective in reversing early signs of enamel demineralization, before cavities can rupture through the outer layer of your tooth structure.
Oral Hygiene Education
Everyone’s oral anatomy is different. Some of us have misaligned teeth, while others may have a fixed restoration that’s challenging to keep clean. Even the amount of tartar and plaque buildup that we have is unique to our mouths and hygiene techniques.
As part of your new patient appointment, we’ll discuss specific areas of your mouth that may need a bit of extra attention. If modifying your brushing or flossing techniques isn’t enough, we can share information related to specific oral hygiene aids that may make your home routine more effective. For instance, incorporating a water flosser instead of conventional floss can reach deeper gum pockets or around your implant-supported bridge. Get one-on-one advice with our hygienists to find what works best.
Now comes the most critical part of your visit: the exam. One of our Raleigh dentists will sit down to visit with you and address any concerns or questions you may have. Then they’ll look over the hygienist’s notes and complete a comprehensive exam. Some of the areas they’ll be assessing are your existing dental work, wear patterns, bite alignment, TMJ, soft tissues, and X-rays. If any suspicious areas are noted, we will want to carefully monitor them and watch for changes from one visit to the next. It’s typically best to treat issues like decay and gum disease as early as possible, before it progresses into a more severe condition.
Planning Any Required Treatment
Not everyone needs dental treatment after their checkup, but what if you do? If our Raleigh dentists spot areas that require intervention, we’ll bring those to your attention. Depending on the severity of the issue at hand — such as a small cavity or aggressive gum disease — we’ll review all of the applicable treatment options with you. You will play an active role in co-planning your care. Discussing the advantages of each service will give you the resources necessary to make an educated decision about your oral health.
From there, our treatment coordinators will input the preferred treatment(s) into a printed care plan. This sheet will outline applicable fees, your estimated insurance coverage amounts, and any remaining out of pocket obligations. It’s also a time to ask about flexible financing options (0% and low-interest payments are available.)
Has it Been Longer Than 6 Months Since Your Last Checkup?
To keep your smile as healthy as possible — and limit your risk of unwanted dental disease — plan to schedule your preventative care appointment every six months. In most cases, people who carry dental insurance can take advantage of two included cleanings per year at no additional fee.
Looking for a quality cosmetic dentistry team in Raleigh? Contact Raleigh Dental Arts today to reserve your new patient appointment.