What to expect on your first dental appointment

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An upcoming visit to the dentist can make you anxious. Some anticipate pain, others feel helpless or embarrassed about having someone looking into their mouth. Others don’t look forward to the clinical smell or the scary instruments near the dental chair. If it’s your first time to go to a dentist in Manitoba, an added stressor could be the prospect of explaining your concerns in English.

Whatever it is that is making you scared, the fact remains that dental visits are necessary to our overall health. To get over this fear, know what to expect and prepare for them to ensure that your dental appointment goes smoothly as possible.

If you need help calling for an appointment, read and listen to this dialogue for pointers: Making a dentist appointment. If you don’t have medical insurance, ask about their fees before you commit. Read Need good care for your teeth? Where to go for dental care in MB to know what questions to ask when you’re looking for a dentist.

Preparing for a dental appointment

  1. Confirm the appointment

    Clinics usually call to confirm a day or two before your scheduled appointment. You can also call them yourself. If you need to re-schedule, call them right away. Some clinics require at least a 24-hour notice if you need to re-schedule or cancel. Otherwise, you may be charged a fee.

  2. Write down questions and concerns

    Nerves can get in the way of remembering your dental concerns. Write down all your questions in a piece of paper or on your phone so you’ll remember. You can even show the list to the dentist. If you think you won’t be able to explain everything in English, ask a friend to accompany you.

  3. Gather dental information

    New patients need to provide their dental history. Expect to share your personal and contact information as well as medical history. This includes medical conditions, medications and other health concerns. You should also provide insurance information if you have dental insurance.

    Speaking English – Going to the dentist, Learn English with Ronnie (engVid)

What to expect on your first visit:

  1. Fill out paperwork

    It is a good idea to arrive a little early for your first appointment. You’ll need to fill out forms before the dentist sees you. Make sure to provide complete information about your health especially if you have certain conditions or ailments. It will be helpful to have a list of your medications (including doses). Remember that oral health is connected with your overall health. Sharing complete medical information will help your dentist address your needs without potential complications.

  2. Dental x-ray

    You will need to get an X-ray for a thorough exam. This gives the dentist a complete picture of your oral health, including the inside of your teeth, gums and supporting bone structures. It will also help them find problems that are just starting or are hard to see. An x-ray is usually done every year.

  3. Cleaning and treatment

    The receptionist or assistant will lead you to the dentist’s office and ask you to be seated. The dentist may do a short interview as they check the forms you’ve filled out. You can tell the dentist right away if you have urgent concerns, like extreme pain, so that they can address it immediately. You can also tell them if you’re scared or anxious. The dentist may suggest a sedative, playing soothing music, and other calming strategies.

    If your first visit is just a regular check-up (no immediate issues), the dentist or a hygienist will deep clean your teeth and gums. A check-up follows and notes will be recorded on your chart. The dentist will talk to you about these findings afterwards and recommend what needs to be done moving forward. They will encourage you to ask questions or share your concerns. Being open and honest will help you get the best out of the appointment.

Before you leave

Schedule your next appointment for treatment or cleaning. It is recommended that you visit your dentist every six months for good oral health.
Sources: Manitoba Dentist.ca; and What to expect at the dentist, Alfred D. Wyatt Jr., DMD. Accessed March 15, 2021.

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