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Preparation makes all the difference with your first dental visit

Going to the dentist should be as comfortable for you as going to the mall. But unlike a spontaneous shopping spree, if you are visiting your dentist, especially a new dentist, it is best to prepare for the visit before you go.

How to prepare

It is helpful if you have information at hand when you visit your dentist, and if you have questions, it’s useful to write these down in advance. Information that dentists need include a list of current medications and where you get your medications filled. This ensures that any future prescriptions the dentist may prescribe can be checked for drug interactions. A list of allergies is also important so that these can be put in your patient chart.

Your dentist will also appreciate receiving any previous dental records and x-rays. “This is helpful especially if the past work was complicated,” says Dr. Margot Hiltz, a dentist in St. John’s, NL. “The records alert us to any areas that should be monitored or have the potential for complications.”

A contact list of other medical and health professionals with whom you work, such as physiotherapists and medical specialists, is also beneficial. This will help the dentist to better understand your overall health. Care provider information should also be provided, for those who require assistance in maintaining their overall health.

In an emergency

If your dental visit is an emergency visit, your dentist will want to know the following:

  • Is there pain?
  • When did the pain start?
  • What type of pain is being experienced? Is it a dull ache? Sharp pain? Throbbing?
  • Is there swelling? If so, when did the swelling start?
  • Have any medications been prescribed by another health professional?

All this information is important for your dentist—and for your optimal oral health. Once you begin your discussion with your dentist, your dentist will also want to know more than your physical history and health status. “It is helpful to know about the patient’s goals, their overall attitude toward dental care and treatment, and their level of comfort in receiving dental care,” says Dr. Hiltz.

Strategies for success

Be sure to take any medications as usual, unless otherwise specified, before your dental treatment. A good night’s sleep before a dental visit and eating well are also things you can do to prepare for your appointment, especially if you are a little nervous. Dr. Hiltz also recommends using the first visit to determine your comfort level with the dentist. “The dentist/patient relationship is a personal one,” she notes. “We are often dealing with people when they feel vulnerable. Developing a trusting relationship with your dentist can help with reducing dental anxiety.”

Many adults are nervous about going to the dentist. Sharing this concern with your dentist can help to make you more comfortable so you can work together to alleviate your concerns. For instance, a distraction is often helpful if you find the noises during treatment unpleasant; you can bring your iPod with you and listen to some of your favourite music. Simple things like wearing comfortable clothing can also help make the experience a bit more enjoyable.

It’s important to remember that despite your nervousness, you do have a lot of control during your dental visit. You can raise your hand if you want the dentist to stop for a moment or are experiencing any pain. “As well,” says Dr. Hiltz, “it is important to keep your dentist informed about the progress of the visit and if changes need to be made to make you more comfortable. For example, would you like suction more frequently or do you want a few minutes to rest after the filling has been completed.”

Of course, she adds, medications and other forms of sedation such as intravenous and general anesthetic are also available for those patients with whom other strategies are not effective.

The time of your appointment is also an important consideration. “Early morning time slots are often best for nervous patients,” says Dr. Hiltz. “First thing in the morning, there is less opportunity for the dentist to be running behind, and you are left with less time in the day to worry about the upcoming appointment.”

For patients with aggressive gag reflexes, however, an afternoon appointment may be better. Dr. Hiltz often finds that the gag reflex is often less aggressive later in the day than first thing in the morning.

Beginning your relationship with your dentist at an early age is also an important way to reduce dental anxiety. The Canadian Dental Association recommends bringing your children to the dentist by age one or when the first teeth begin to erupt. This allows the trust relationship to being at an early age, which is beneficial if or when dental treatment becomes necessary.

A little advance preparation can go a long way to having a productive and comfortable visit with the dentist.

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