Park Cities Dental
"The Art and Science of a Healthy Smile"
How to Prepare for a New Patient Visit
What's the best way to prepare for a visit to the dentist?
First of all, make sure you're selecting a dentist that you feel you can trust. Friends can help out with recommendations, but you'll often gain more information by calling several dental offices, and discussing your needs with the office staff. Let them know that you are concerned about a visit, and ask them how their dentist handles such situations. If you make an appointment, this discussion time will give the dentist and staff some advanced notice of your concerns, and they will be able to prepare accordingly. Ask to schedule a preliminary consultation to discuss your needs and concerns before an actual treatment visit. Ask if there is any fee for a consultation - they are well worth the time that you'll spend. During the consultation, take a look at the dentist's equipment (it should be modern and in good repair), and keep an eye out for infection prevention measures: dentist and staff wearing gloves, masks, and in some cases eye shields are all signs that the practice takes protection seriously. Instruments and overhead detail lighting (the kind that a dentist or her assistant may grab by a handle to pull down closer to your mouth) should have disposable plastic covers at the point of contact. Ask also about sterilization techniques, and the use of disposable instruments.
Some other suggestions that should help your first treatment appointment go smoothly:
Take good care of yourself before your visit.
A trip to the dentist can be stressful. By preparing properly, you can help to alleviate some of your own anxiety, and pave the way for future appointments. For starters, get a good night's sleep before your appointment, and try to schedule your appointment at a point in the day where you'll be most relaxed - after work may be better for some people, and first thing in the morning may work well for others.
Arrange for a copy of any old x-rays to be sent to your new dentist prior to the appointment.
This will give your new dentist an opportunity to see the last documented state of your teeth, with any fillings, crowns and other pre-existing work. Although it might seem like a good idea to request your old records, the dentist that kept them is not legally obligated to release them since they are personal and confidential.
Bring a list of any medications that you are currently on, or allergic to.
This will keep you from having to remember them by name when you're filling out your new patient forms in the office, and will also better prepare the dentist and his staff.
If you have a condition that requires pre-medication, be sure to take your medication as directed.
Certain pre-existing conditions can make dental work an opportunity for secondary infection. If you have a mitral valve prolapse condition, for example, be sure to take the proper dosage of antibiotic before your visit to reduce the risk of contracting an infection. Ask your doctor if your condition requires premedication with antibiotics prior to dental treatment.
Eat a meal before your visit.
This is very important, particularly if you will be receiving local anesthetic during your visit. The anesthetic will be much more effective, and the effects last longer if your blood sugar is higher - as it is after a good meal. This can mean fewer injections, and that is usually a good thing for most people. If you are undergoing full sedation (having wisdom teeth removed, for example), follow your dentist's or oral surgeon's recommendations on how long to abstain from eating before your appointment.
Don't drink alcohol before your visit.
Instead of calming you, the alcohol in combination with anesthetic can produce the exact opposite reaction.
Don't do a heavy-duty brushing before your visit.
Patients who haven't visited a dentist in several years may attempt to "spring clean" before their visit, and end up irritating their gums. Years of plaque buildup on your teeth won't be taken off in this super session, and there's no need to feel guilty! You're taking a step in the right direction by scheduling an appointment now, and you should be feeling really good about yourself. Since the most common basic dental cleaning schedule would involve a visit every 6 months, you're going to have some build-up no matter how well you brush. If you haven't been to the dentist in 3 or more years, the dentist or the hygienist should schedule additional follow-up appointments to complete the cleaning process, since an overzealous appointment could make you end up with sore gums.
Use tools or techniques that help you feel more comfortable and relaxed.
If you like to listen to music, bring a Walkman, and wear it during your visit. If you practice meditation, let the dentist know if you'd like to perform some breathing exercises both before and during your procedures. Ask your dentist about pre-sedation that can be taken the night before your visit, and whether or not the use of nitrous oxide ("laughing" gas) during exams and cleanings - as well as more serious procedures like extractions - would be appropriate.
Some other things that should help calm your nerves before a dental visit:
Advancements in instrumentation and techniques have helped to reduce or remove many of the sources of pain and anxiety that people have experienced during dental appointments in the past. Anesthetic injections are now given with disposable silicon-coated needles. Several years ago hypodermic syringes and needles were sterilized and used for multiple patients. Disposables are both safer and sharper since they are only used once, resulting in a more comfortable and safer injection. Injection techniques have also changed, with dentists administering a topical anesthetic prior to an injection to help reduce the pinch of the needle. Numbing agents are then injected at room temperature, and much more slowly than in the past - a technique that can substantially reduce the shock and resulting discomfort of anesthetic entering tissues.
New techniques and products can often repair or improve your teeth and their appearance with less discomfort. Dental implants to repair damaged or missing teeth, tooth whitening can improve the brightness of your smile, and fillings that are indistinguishable from your natural teeth are just a few of the services that your dentist can provide. As with any procedure, ask your dentist to fully explain the details of the process, including the possibility of pain, any side affects, and of course, cost. Knowing this information upfront will help you make better decisions about your treatment, and should lower your anxiety and overall stress.
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