As a first-line family health practitioner, dentists can provide better care when they establish long-term alliances with their patients. The intimidation factor triggered by the big chairs and unfamiliar environments is then compensated by a familiar smile and deep-seated trust.
On your first visit to a new dental clinic, many patients report that they miss these comforts. Building a brand new rapport will take time, but it will be up to you to take the first steps to cross this bridge.
Make sure you invest this time and effort wisely with a competent and trustworthy dentist. How? You can start by asking these five questions during your first appointment.
1. How Is My Oral Health Doing?
It’s important to remember that, on a first visit, both the dentist and the patient are still getting to know each other. This is why the first appointment is always scheduled to last a bit longer than a standard checkup.
Part of this extra time is often devoted to getting your full medical and dental history. This should also be an opportunity for you to gain deeper knowledge about your dental health. Ask your dentist about any glaring issues that may be affecting your oral health, as well as any indication of future problems.
Most first time visits usually include a set of X-rays, so this is also a good time to identify any odd bumps or lesions. For older adults, it may also be useful to ask about your jawbone density: this is often one of the first indicators f developing osteoporosis.
2. How Long Have You Worked Here? How Did You Train?
One of the most established mottos in the healthcare industry is “practice makes the practitioner.” Under the guise of small talk, or even of healthy curiosity, lies the opportunity to gain a clear picture of your new dentist’s professional standing.
If your new dentist is the head of his own dental clinic, make sure to ask him how long he or she has had their own practice. If you are seeing a relatively young dentist who is still working under someone else, you should ask instead about their training or any mentorship relationships they may have. Even if you have never heard of their favorite professor, the way they speak about them will tell you a lot about their ability to establish and maintain long-term partnerships.
3. What Will You Do To Improve My Oral Health? What Should I Do?
Although these are technically two different questions, they must always go together, as they reveal a fundamental aspect of the dentist-patient relationship. Never forget that this is meant to be an alliance, and not a simple service you hired.
Family dentistry often pays huge attention to preventive practices. Many of these (such as deep cleanings) will require you to rely on your dentist or your mental hygienist. However, they will only be truly effective if they are supported by proactive hygiene at home. Combined, they provide the most effective strategy to prevent future tooth loss, cavities, and serious periodontitis.
By asking your dentist about your role and theirs, you will show them that you understand the importance of this alliance. Most good dentists can point out a way in which you can improve your hygiene routine at home. Great dentists, on the other hand, will also be able to show you what they can do to make it easier.
4. Should I Bring or Take Anything to My Primary Care Doctor?
Dentists are specialists in everything related to oral health, especially inside your mouth. However, your mouth is just a part of your overall digestive system. Meanwhile, gum health and teeth strength will also be affected by your immunity, nutrition, and even cardiovascular health.
It’s important to remember that each part of the body is part of a holistic machine that frequently affects each other.
If you suffer from diabetes, heart disease, Lupus, or other chronic conditions, your dentist may need to see a letter or report from your primary care doctor. Conversely, your dentist may have detected something in your mouth that may originate on a different body system. In this case, they should tell you who to talk to or how to continue investigating.
5. Can I Get All That In Writing?
At the end of a visit, most dentists are quick to issue a string of recommendations and instructions – or at least, that is how it feels like for many patients.
If you have known your dentist for years, chances are that these recommendations are often repeated or are easier to memorize. If this is your first visit at a new dental clinic, you may be confronted with new methods and new priorities. Skip the uncertainty and ask your dentist to give you everything in writing. This will prevent misunderstandings and should not constitute a bother to them – in fact, they may love you for it.
There are many details to pay attention during an initial visit with any health practitioner. Make sure to cover all the essential points by asking the questions above.