Haven’t Been to the Dentists in Years? Here’s What to Expect

Gentle Dental

Man in dental chair smiling next to dentist

When modern life gets hectic, many people put off important issues that can come back to haunt them down the road. If you haven’t had a dental exam or cleaning in years, it’s a great time to rededicate yourself to maintaining your oral health, so you can prevent tooth loss and other serious oral issues. Here’s what to expect when you schedule your first dental visit in years.

What Should I Expect if I Haven’t Been To The Dentist in Years?

There are a lot of reasons why someone might be going to the dentist for the first time in years. Maybe you have a painful problem or an emergency issue. Maybe you’ve just decided to prioritize your dental health to improve your smile. 

Whatever the case, it’s never too late. Whether you haven’t been to the dentist in 5 years or never been to the dentist at all, it’s a great time to make that appointment. With that said, if you haven’t been to the dentist in 2 years or more, there are a few things you should expect. These include: 

Gum Bleeding

If you haven’t been to a dentist in years, your gums are likely to be sensitive. Because of this, when the dental hygienist begins flossing your teeth, you may experience some mild bleeding. While this may be a bit unnerving, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem. Many times, gums bleed when they are not used to the pressure of floss, as it moves between teeth. You can reduce the chances of bleeding by regularly flossing your own teeth at home. 

Sometimes, gum bleeding can be a sign of periodontal disease, according to the American Dental Association. This is why it’s so important to visit your dentist regularly to prevent potential long-term problems.

Extended Cleaning

If you haven’t been to the dentist for some time, you will probably have a significant amount of plaque on the surfaces of your teeth. For this reason, it may take some time for the hygienist to professionally clean each tooth. This is especially likely if you’ve never had teeth cleaned by a professional. You can reduce your time in the dentist’s chair by brushing twice daily, flossing at least once every day, and visiting your dentist more frequently. If excessive plaque causes you to feel too embarrassed to go to the dentist, there’s no need to worry; experienced dentists and hygienists treat every patient in a compassionate and non-judgmental way. 

Dental X-rays

Commonly known as X-rays, radiographs are a very important tool that helps your dentist diagnose your oral health needs. Your dentist will need to take a series of X-rays to make sure there aren’t any underlying problems hidden out of sight. Hopefully, you will have old X-rays on file, which can help provide a comparison. If not, your dentist can use your new X-rays to create an oral health history to provide guidance for future appointments.

Comprehensive Oral Examination

After the hygienist has thoroughly cleaned your teeth, your dentist will carefully inspect for cavities or signs of periodontal disease. He or she may also look for signs of oral cancer. If you haven’t been to the dentist in several years, there’s a good chance you may have one or two cavities that require attention. If you are visiting the dentist due to severe pain, you may need root canal therapy to address an infection that has entered the underlying pulp.

What’s Next?

Once your dentist has fully examined your teeth and gums, he or she will talk to you about the next steps. In some cases, this conversation may be limited to recommendations for maintaining good oral health. On the other hand, your dentist may need to recommend that you make a follow-up appointment for a filling or more complex procedure.

Before leaving the office, you should schedule a follow-up appointment in six months, even if you have no cavities. By getting bi-annual cleanings, you can reduce the risk of tooth loss and oral health problems, which can seriously impact your quality of life down the road.

What’s the Average Cost of a Dental Visit?

A standard dental visit will normally consist of a comprehensive exam, professional cleaning, X-rays and screening for oral cancer. Normally, a complete exam and dental cleaning will cost from $150 to $350. If you require a restorative treatment, your costs will be greater. If you have insurance, you can significantly reduce your out-of-pocket costs. 

How Much Is a Dental Cleaning?

For a single professional dental cleaning, you can expect to pay from $70 to $200 depending on the provider and your local area. That said, your costs will be greater if the cleaning involves scaling and root planning or some other treatment to address gingivitis or gum disease.

How Long Does a Dentist Appointment Last?

Dental appointment times can vary based on a variety of factors. Cleanings can take longer if you haven’t been to the dentist in years. You may also require x-rays and comprehensive exams. So, how long does a dentist appointment take? It really just depends on your needs and existing oral health. That said, if you’re in a hurry, you can ask your dentist if it’s possible to streamline your appointment as much as possible to ensure that you are able to stay on schedule.

Tips for Dental Appointment Anxiety

It’s quite common for people to experience anxiety about visiting the dentist. You can reduce your anxiety by taking a few proactive steps before and during your appointment.

How to prepare for dentist cleaning and exam:

  • Avoid caffeine before your treatment
  • Share your fears with the dental staff
  • Ask your dentist if you can use earbuds to listen to music
  • Try to choose a less busy, low-stress appointment time
  • Focus on keeping your breathing slow and relaxed during your procedure
  • Don’t be afraid to use hand signals to alert the dentist of pain

Can You Go to the Dentist without an Appointment?

Almost every dentist’s office requires an appointment. That said, Gentle Dental is usually able to accommodate every patient’s schedule. We also offer timely emergency treatments for painful problems that just can’t wait.

With several convenient neighborhood locations throughout America, Gentle Dental offers a full array of expert dental services for patients of every age. Visit us for an exam, cleaning or expert treatment and experience skilled dental care from a friendly team of knowledgeable professionals.

Get you closer to your perfect smile. Book your next appointment at a Gentle Dental location near you.