If you’ve never been to the dentist, your upcoming visit can seem a little daunting. After all, you’re doing something entirely new and unknown, and you probably aren’t familiar with what happens once you’re in the dentist’s chair.

What exams will the dentist perform? Do any of the procedures hurt or have side effects? What will the dentist look for, and how will he or she treat the condition? You likely have dozens of questions running through your mind before you even schedule your appointment.

Rather than feel worried and apprehensive when you do visit the dentist, use the information below to educate yourself on what happens during a dental checkup. Additionally, if you’re taking a child or loved one to the dentist for the first time, you can use this information to inform him or her of the procedures so he or she can sit through the appointment with confidence.

1. You Will Fill Out New Patient Information Forms

Before your dentist can examine your mouth, you usually must fill out new patient information forms. The staff at your dentist’s office will then use the information on those forms to add you into their database. The information you provide will likely include:

  • Your basic information (name, birthday, contact information)
  • Your medical history
  • Your dental history
  • Your spouse’s or parent’s information
  • Your emergency contact information
  • Your insurance information

Additionally, you’ll fill out a consent form that allows your dentist to use your dental and medical histories and to treat you accordingly. If you ever want to revoke your consent, the dental staff can provide you with this form. You simply need to sign it, date it, and turn it into the employees at your dentist’s office.

As you meet with your dentist, he or she will introduce himself or herself to you. You’ll then talk about why you chose to visit the dentist and what your expectations of the visit are. He or she will also tell you what will happen and what he or she hopes to achieve during that appointment.

2. Your Dentist or Dental Hygienist Will Clean Your Teeth

Once you and your dentist have been introduced, your dentist or your dental hygienist will clean your teeth. Your teeth need to be clean before your dentist can properly examine your mouth. For example, plaque buildup or food stuck in your teeth could prevent your dentist from correctly identifying dental issues.

Typically, your dentist or hygienist will use a scaler to scrape plaque and tartar off of your teeth. You’ll then rinse your mouth. He or she will also apply an abrasive paste to polish your teeth, and then floss them to clear food particles and plaque from in between each individual tooth. If necessary, your dentist will apply a fluoride treatment to strengthen your teeth.

3. Your Dentist Will Visually Examine Your Teeth, Mouth, Tongue, and Gums

After the cleaning, you will lay you back in your chair so your dentist can visually examine your mouth, including your gums, tongue, and teeth. He or she will look for any obvious signs of decay or other dental issues, such as gum disease or cavities.

4. Your Dentist Will Take X-Rays of Your Mouth and Jaws

To get a better view of your teeth, jaws, and mouth, your dentist will then send you to a different room and take X-rays. You’ll take four different kinds of X-rays:

  • Bite-wing
  • Occlusal
  • Periapical
  • Panoramic

For children, dentists will only take X-rays if the child is at high risk for tooth decay or has had several cavities and fillings.

5. Your Dentist Will Further Inspect Your Mouth for Issues

Your dentist will then use the X-rays to further inspect your teeth for dental issues. If the images indicate that a more serious dental issue is present, your dentist will then discuss the situation with you and tell you what steps to take next.

6. Your Dentist Will Recommend Treatment for Dental Issues

Depending on the dental issue you have, your dentist will recommend simple or more in-depth treatment. For example, a minor case of gingivitis may require a little extra care when brushing and flossing. However, tooth decay may require a root canal.

7. Your Dentist Will Provide You With Oral Care Tips

Once your teeth have been properly cleaned, examined, and treated, your dentist will give you several oral care tips so your teeth stay healthy in between visits. These tips may include:

  • How to correctly brush your teeth and how often to brush them
  • How to floss your teeth and when the best time to floss is
  • What toothpastes and mouthwashes work best for your teeth What foods you can eat to promote good oral health

He or she may also schedule a follow-up appointment if you need additional treatment or examinations before your next appointment.

Rather than go to your first dental checkup unawares, use the information above to inform yourself before the appointment. If you have any other questions or concerns about a dental checkup, talk to your dentist. He or she can clearly address your concerns and help you better understand the role that dental care plays in your overall health.