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The goal of a dental exam is to catch problems early, so how often you go may depend on your oral health needs, but for most people this means making an appointment every six months.

Depending on your oral health and how well you care for your teeth and gums, your dentist may recommend that you visit more or less often.

The questions below are all factors that affect your oral health. They will help you and your dentist decide how often you need to visit for dental exams.

  1. Do I floss every day?
  2. Do I brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and follow my dentist’s instructions on how to brush properly?
  3. Do I eat a well-balanced diet, including food from all food groups, and limit sweets and sticky foods?
  4. Do I smoke?
  5. Do I have a history of cavities or gum disease?
  6. Is my overall health good?

It is also important to note that you should not determine your dental care need based on what your dental plan covers.

Do I need x-rays at each visit?

A healthy adult who has not had cavities or other problems for a couple of years probably won’t need x-rays at every appointment. If your dental situation is less stable and your dentist is monitoring your progress, you may require more frequent x-rays.

If you are not sure why a particular x-ray is being taken, ask your dentist. Remember that dental x-rays deliver very little radiation; they are a vital tool for your dentist to ensure that small problems don’t develop into bigger ones.

Once you have selected a new dentist, you can request that a copy of your records be transferred from your former dentist.

Original dental records belong to the dentist who provided the treatment, and not the patient, because dentists have to keep all of their records for a period of time, as set out by their provincial dental regulatory body. You may be required to sign a release form from your former dental office, granting permission for the transfer of your records.

Your health is very important to your dentist. One of the best ways to help you stay healthy and to prevent the spread of germs is to use barrier protection such as gloves and masks.

Your dentist and other dental team members also wash their hands regularly. In addition, they sterilize equipment used in the dental office and clean the furniture and fixtures in the examining rooms between each patient.

If you would like to know how this system is carried out in your dentist’s office, ask to be shown how it’s done. Dentists welcome the opportunity to ease their patients’ concerns, rather than have them leave the office with unanswered questions. Once you see the work that goes into making the dental office a clean and safe environment, you will feel reassured.

It is worth noting that even though standard precautions are used, it is still important to tell your dentist of changes in your health. This will help your dentist suggest the right choices of treatment for you.

It is important to get an early start on dental care. Start by cleaning your child’s mouth with a soft damp cloth before teeth come in and continue with a soft toothbrush once he or she has a first tooth. Limit the number of sugary treats you give your child, and focus on healthy food choices from the very beginning.

The CDA recommends that children should visit the dentist within 6 months of when their first tooth erupts, or by their first birthday at the latest.

It’s important to make the first visit a positive experience for your child, so it is important to visit before a problem arises. If you think there is a problem, however, take your child to the dentist right away, no matter what age.

Most Canadians have dental plans and the insurance companies that provide them are actually benefit carriers. Carriers reimburse patients based on the level of coverage decided upon by the patient’s employer.

When you visit the dentist, it is the dentist’s job to make a treatment plan that best fits your oral needs. These needs may be different from what is covered by your dental plan, but it is your right to decide whether or not to go ahead with any treatment.

If you are not sure if your treatment will be covered by your dental plan, most dentists are willing to contact your benefits carrier on your behalf to find out if the treatment is covered.

I don’t have dental insurance and can’t afford to go to the dentist. What can I do and why does dentistry cost so much anyway?

If you do not have a dental plan and cannot afford to pay your entire bill at once, some dentists will offer a payment plan that can help you pay for the treatment. If you cannot afford care, even with a payment plan, contact the nearest:

  1. Social services agency to see if you qualify for government-funded dental care
  2. Dental school where senior dental students provide treatment at a reduced cost

Whitening toothpastes with abrasive ingredients are not really bleaching products, but work on surface stains only. These are the products sold in stores. Some whitening toothpastes do contain a chemical ingredient (“bleach”) that causes a chemical reaction to lighten teeth. Generally, though, they have the lowest amount of bleach. They may not whiten as well as stronger products, but they have less chance of side effects.

The bleaching kits you buy in stores stay on your teeth longer than the whitening toothpastes and contain stronger bleach. These products are stronger, but you do not have the added benefit of having your dentist monitor any side effects. These kits also include a one-size-fits-all tray that holds the bleach, which is more likely to leak the chemical into your mouth, which can be dangerous.

When you get professional whitening from your dentist, they use products with a stronger bleach, but they are trained to spot and treat side effects and give patients careful instructions to follow. The results of a professional treatment are generally the best and longest lasting whitening treatment.

If there is a treatment you are unsure about, or do not understand, do not be afraid to ask questions. Your dentist wants you to feel comfortable throughout the entire procedure, and they will be happy to answer your questions.

If you ask questions, you will feel better about the treatment and be able to make a better decision about whether the treatment is right for you.

If you have already left the dental office and still have questions, call back. Be careful about finding information online, as it may not always be accurate. Your dentist knows your situation and is a professional, so they will know how to answer your questions the best.

CDA does is not responsible for handling complaints since we have no mandate to regulate dentists. Formal complaints concerning the professional services received in a dental office are handled by your provincial regulatory body.