Dental check-ups are routine examinations performed by a dentist at regular intervals, aimed at ensuring your teeth and gums are healthy. Even if you brush and floss diligently you should see a dentist regularly to spot any problems early, such as dental decay, gum disease or oral cancer. During the visit your dentist will talk through your dental health and examine your teeth. A check-up is currently £18.50 for NHS patients in England and from £40-£50 for private patients although this can vary. You may require X-rays to check for potential hidden problems, which often comes at an additional small cost. Your dentist will advise how often you should have a dental check-up based on your dental health risk.
Why have a dental check-up?
While not an experience that many will readily admit to enjoying, regular visits to your dentist are crucial to maintaining good dental hygiene. Even the most diligent brusher will not be able to keep their mouth completely free of plaque and only a professional dental health examination can accurately recognise the early signs of gum disease. Regular teeth check-ups will help allow you to keep your teeth for life by preventing problems from developing into something more serious.
What happens during a dental check-up?
In most cases, your visit to the dentist will be for a routine check-up. Most will start by asking you a few general health questions and enquire whether you have experienced any dental problems or pains. Your dentist should then carry out a full dental examination of the soft tissue lining of your mouth, teeth and gums.
If there are any signs that you have indulged in habits that could be detrimental to your dental health, your dentist will offer advice about any changes to lifestyle (such as stopping smoking or changing your diet), as well as oral care tips.
If these habits could lead to problems in the future, he or she will explain what you might be at risk of, as well as the associated treatments and costs that might be needed.
If you have tartar build up, you will be referred to the hygienist. Usually, this will take the form of a scale and polish to remove built-up plaque and tartar below the gum line. The hygienist will use several special instruments, which could include a combination of an ultrasonic device to loosen tartar or a special scraper instrument.
If your dentist finds further problems, they will recommend the next steps you will need to take. This could be the need for repairs to damaged or decayed teeth, treatment for gum disease or further tests to aid diagnosis. This usually comes in the form of a written treatment plan, which you sign before commencing any treatment. If this is not offered, please feel free to ask for one.
Will I need to have X-rays?
During your check-up, there may or may not be a need for an X-ray. An X-ray can diagnose a number of problems that might not have physical signs, such as dental decay between the teeth, impacted teeth, damage to the jawbone, as well as any abscesses, cysts or tumours. For children, an X-ray will also establish where the second teeth will come through.
There are various types of X-rays that you might need to have. Some machines are very small, which will show a few teeth at a time. Larger X-rays, called panoramic X-rays, will show the whole mouth, including the bone structure around it.
How much does a check-up cost?
If you are an NHS patient in England, your dental costs will be set and categorised in three bands. As of April 2014, band one (which includes basic examination, diagnosis and advice) costs £18.50.
If you are a private patient, costs can vary depending on the practice and where in the country you are. Your dental practice should clearly display the dental charges. Average fees range from £50-£70 but the dental practice will advise on exact costs.
I'm anxious about going to the dentist. What can I do?
Dental anxiety can be very common but there are several methods you can use to help you overcome them. Discussing your fears with a dentist should be your first step but there are a number of psychological techniques you could use, as well as options for conscious sedation.
How often should I go for a check-up?
Assuming your teeth and gums are healthy, you should not need to have a check-up more often than every six months. Your dentist will likely recommend how often you need to visit based on your current dental health. If you need to return to the dentist for further treatment, you should make this appointment before leaving the practice.
I have a sensitive gag reflex. Is there anything I can do?
Some people have a very sensitive gag reflex, which can make a visit to the dentist difficult. If you suffer from this, inform your dentist before the check-up. They should be able to avoid sensitive areas that can trigger a gag reflex.
Occasionally, patients can inadvertently make the situation worse by drawing back their tongue and gagging themselves, or by tensing up and becoming even more sensitive to gagging. If you think this might be the case, ask if you can bring a distraction (such as a portable music device) to keep your mind off the procedure.
Are dental X-rays dangerous?
Modern X-ray machines emit no more radiation than you would experience from a day in the sun or a commercial airline flight. Your dentist will take care to only use X-rays when necessary.
The exception would be if you are pregnant, in which case your dentist should only perform an X-ray in an emergency situation.
This article was provided by Toothpick, the leading provider of online dentist appointments in the UK.
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Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.