What To Expect During a Dental Checkup

If you’ve never had a dental checkup before, or if it’s been a while, you might not know what to expect. A routine dental checkup consists of three basic parts: imaging, examination, and cleaning. The goal of the routine dental checkup is to prevent conditions like tooth decay from happening in the first place or, if it is too late for that, find and correct them before they cause bigger problems.


Some experts regard imaging as an optional step, but most patients can expect to have x-rays during their dental checkups. This is especially true if it has been a while since your last appointment. Some dental x-rays are still taken on film, but it is increasingly common for dentists to perform digital x-rays, a process that is slightly more comfortable and exposes you to less radiation.

Depending on the issues you are experiencing, multiple views may be required. A panoramic x-ray uses a camera that travels in a circle around your head to take a complete picture of both your jaws. A cephalometric projection takes a picture of not only your teeth and jaws but the entire side of your skull.


The dentist will use an instrument such as a probe to check your teeth and gums for any signs of disease. He or she will be looking for any mouth abnormalities that could indicate a problem, including but not limited to the following:

  • Mouth cancer lesions
  • Signs of gum infection (swelling, bleeding, etc.)
  • Cavities
  • Abscesses

A dentist will also check for signs of disease at the roots of the teeth. X-rays allow the dentist to exam parts of the teeth that he or she cannot see with the naked eye and check for disease or other issues (i.e., an impacted tooth) lurking beneath the gumline.


In the interest of preventing dental problems from forming between checkups, you will usually receive a thorough cleaning from either your dentist or a hygienist. This may involve polishing with a special dental tool with a round spinning head. It may also involve removing tartar buildup by scraping below the gumline with a special scraping tool. During and after each of these cleaning processes, you will likely receive a thorough rinse.


Once the checkup is complete, your dentist will probably have a talk with you about what the examination revealed and what you should do next. If you need a filling, your dentist will let you know. If you need an extraction or root canal, your dentist will likely refer you to a specialist in those types of procedures. If there are no problems, your dentist will let you know when you should have your next checkup, usually in about six months.

Knowing what to expect can make the appointment go more smoothly. Contact a dentist, like a Family Dentist in Apex, NC, for more information.

Thank you to the experts at Alliance Dentistry for their input into pediatric and family dentists.