Do I really have to go to the dentist every six months?
The industry standard for visits to the dentist continues to be every six months. However, how often you visit your dentist for check-ups, cleaning and dental exams depends on your oral health needs.
Your dentist may suggest that you visit more or less often depending on:
- how well you care for your teeth and gums, i.e., your oral hygiene habits;
- your dental history, including previous incidences of cavities and gum disease;
- any ongoing problems you have that may need to be regularly checked or treated,
- how fast tartar builds up on your teeth;
- your general overall health and diet;
- smoking and drinking habits;
- and so on.
All of these can affect your oral health and can help you and your dentist decide how often you need to visit for dental exams. It’s worth noting, however, that our goal is to catch small problems early to prevent them from becoming big issues and you from needing extensive repairs or even surgery. For most people, this does mean a dental exam is recommended every six months.
Finally, please remember: you should not determine your need for dental care based on what your dental plan covers. Talk to us about your financial concerns before foregoing any much needed dental care.
Do I need dental X-rays at each visit?
How often you need to have X-rays depends on your oral health. It is unlikely that a healthy adult, who has not had cavities or other problems for a couple of years, would need X-rays at every appointment. In fact, we will never take X-rays unnecessarily. However, if your dental situation is less stable and your dentist is monitoring your progress, you may require more frequent X-rays. We will also take X-rays of all new patients if they have not had X-rays done by a previous dentist within the last six months of visiting our practice for the first time.
Remember that dental X-rays deliver very little radiation, and with our new and improved tools and technologies that is becoming even less. It is also important to not that X-rays are a vital tool to help us to ensure that we discover all problems and to prevent small problems from turning into bigger ones.
Finally, if you are not sure why a particular X-ray is being taken, do not hesitate to ask us. All our dentists are fully committed to your comfort, and welcome the chance to set your mind at ease by answering any and all questions you may have.
How can I find a new dentist?
The first step in choosing a new dentist is to list your needs, which might include:
- Hours of practice
- Language(s) spoken
- Generalist or specialist practice
- Your specific dental issues and/or requirements, if any
Word of mouth also remains key to finding a dentist that you are comfortable with. Ask your family and friends if they can recommend someone. Other members of your community, such as your family doctor, may also be able to offer suggestions.
Once you have narrowed your list to two or three names, call their offices to see if they are accepting new patients. This initial call may also give you some sense of the office environment, but there’s nothing like the first visit to help you decide if it’s a good match for you.
How can I get my dental records transferred to my new dentist?
It is important to note that original dental records belong to the dentist who provided the treatment, and not to you, the patient. This is not a case of being petty or difficult, it is a provincially mandated regulation. Dentists are required to keep all of their records for a period of time, as set out by their provincial dental regulatory body. That said, if you have chosen to start seeing a new dentist, once you have moved, you can request that a copy of your records be transferred from your former dentist. It is very uncommon for your former dentist to deny such a request.
You may be required to sign a release form from your former dental office and you may also be charged an administrative fee for having your records copied and sent to another dental office.
If you have questions about the records transfer process in your province, ask your dentist or contact the provincial dental regulatory body. In Ontario, this would be the RCDSO – Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario.
Does my dentist need to wear gloves and a mask, and how do I know he or she is using clean tools?
Your health is very important to your dentist, as is the health of their own staff, and you can rest assured they are fully committed to maintaining that by preventing the spread of germs. One of the best ways to do this is to use barrier protection such as gloves and masks. You will also notice that your dentist and other dental team members frequently wash their hands.
In addition, dentists sterilize equipment used in the dental office and clean the furniture and fixtures in the examining rooms on a very frequent basis. Wherever possible and necessary, they will also use brand new tools and equipment for every patient and every procedure. You will even see them breaking the seal on packaging. This system is referred to as “standard precautions” and is universally adopted and accepted within the dental industry.
If you would like to know how this system is carried out in your dentist’s office, ask to be shown how it’s done. As dentists, we welcome the opportunity to ease our patients’ concerns in all aspects of your treatment and our work.
It is worth noting that even though standard precautions are used, it is still important to tell your dentist of changes in your health or any health issues you may have. This will help your dentist suggest the right choices of treatment for you along with the correct timeline and course of action.
When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time?
It’s important to get an early start on dental care, so that your child will not only learn that visiting the dentist is a regular part of health care, but that it need not be a ‘negative’ experience.
The first step is to choose a dentist for your child. It may be your own dentist or one who specializes in treating children (a pediatric dentist). Your chosen dentist can let you know what age he or she prefers to see child patients for the first time. The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) encourages the assessment of infants, by a dentist, within six months of the eruption of the first tooth or by one year of age.
As mentioned, it is important to make the first visit a positive experience for your child – one reason why it’s best to visit before a problem develops. If you think there is a problem, however, take your child to the dentist right away, no matter what age.
It is also crucial to get an early start on regular dental care at home. Start cleaning your child’s mouth with a soft damp cloth before teeth come in and continue with a soft toothbrush once he or she has a first tooth. It goes without saying, for both general health and oral health, that you should limit the number of sugary treats you give your child, and focus on healthy food choices from the very beginning.
Why doesn’t my dentist just accept payment from my insurance company?
Dental plans, offered by many employers, are a means to help you pay for your dental treatment. Many Canadians are fortunate to have dental plans and the insurance companies that provide them are actually benefit carriers. Carriers reimburse patients based on the level of coverage decided by the patient’s employer.
It is important to note, however, that when you visit the dentist, it is your dentist’s role to make a treatment plan based on your oral health needs, NOT on what is covered by your dental plan. Quite often the two do not match. It is your right to decide whether or not to go ahead with any treatment, but remember that a small problem now can turn into a bigger, more dire problem at a later stage requiring much more extensive, and expensive, treatment.
Many dentists are willing to contact your benefits carrier, on your behalf, to find out if a treatment is covered. As the patient you are then required to pay the portion that is not covered.
It is also worth noting that many dental offices, including The Esthene Dental Centre, have your dental health as their most important goal, and will often be willing to customize a payment plan to help you afford the dental treatment you need. Do not hesitate to ask the question.
I don’t have dental insurance and can’t afford to go to the dentist. What can I do?
If you do not have a dental plan and cannot afford to pay your entire bill at once, ask your dentist about a payment plan. If you find that you cannot afford care, even with a payment plan, don’t give up on getting the dental treatment in question. Your oral health is crucial to your overall health and should be treated accordingly. Instead, you can contact the nearest:
- Social services agency to see if you qualify for government-funded dental care; or
- Dental school where senior dental students provide treatment at a reduced cost.
Why does dentistry always seem to cost so much?
Dental services may seem expensive. In Canada, we are fortunate enough that we do not have to pay directly when we visit a doctor or hospital, so we may not realize the high cost of providing health services. Overhead costs are high for dentists. They have staff, equipment and other operating costs.
The good news is that you can avoid costly dental treatment by brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly for a dental exams. Regular dental exams cost money, but they are less expensive than fixing serious dental problems that stem from neglect.
What’s the difference between the bleaching I can do at home with a kit from the store and the teeth-whitening that my dentist does?
Bleaching, or teeth whitening, for the purposes of aesthetics, has increased in popularity in recent years. Teeth whitening may be carried out in the dental office or your dentist may provide you with an in-home whitening kit, with the tools and instructions on how to perform the process at home. There are also a wide variety of ‘teeth-whitening’ products for sale in stores, all promising miraculous, sparkling white results in just a few uses. Don’t fall prey to false advertising though: not all teeth-whitening products were created equal and not all will give you the results you are looking for (or any results at all in some cases!).
Different products, including those used by dentists, may also have different risks and side effects. Here is an overview of some of the most common teeth-whitening options you will find:
Whitening toothpaste: Generally made with abrasive ingredients, and brushed onto teeth and rinsed off, like regular toothpaste, many of the whitening toothpastes sold in stores are not really bleaching products at all, but work on surface stain only. Some whitening toothpastes do contain a chemical ‘bleaching’ ingredient that may cause a chemical reaction to lighten teeth. None of these will whiten as well as stronger products, but they have less chance of side effects.
Bleaching kits: Store-bought bleaching kits do stay on your teeth longer than toothpaste and do contain stronger bleach, with the associated ‘better’ whitening reaction, but they do not come with the added safety of having your dentist monitor any side effects. They also come with a one-size-fits-all tray to hold the whitening agent which is more likely to leak the chemical into your mouth.
Dentist tooth-whitening (in-office and in-home): While dentists may use products with stronger chemical ingredients (usually containing hydrogen peroxide), they do give patients very careful instructions to follow. They are also trained to spot and treat the side effects that patients sometimes report during bleaching. In addition, if a tray is needed to apply the whitening agent, dentists supply custom-made trays. Also, it goes without saying that because the products used by dentists are strong, they tend to produce the best results.
It is important to note that the long-term use of whitening or bleaching products may cause tooth sensitivity or tooth abrasion. It is important to consult with your dentist before using any whitening or bleaching product.
My dentist is recommending a treatment which I know nothing about. What should I do?
Ask questions. No dentist wants you to be unhappy, confused or uncomfortable. We welcome your questions and only want to do the best possible work for your ongoing oral health. This includes putting your mind at ease about the work we intend to do.
To ensure you are fully comfortable, and able to make a decision about the procedure in question, ask things like:
- If you can see any pictures of the procedure and/or what it looks like when it is done;
- How many times your dentist has done the procedure in the past;
- How much it will cost;
- How long it will take;
- How long it will last, i.e., if it will need to be redone in the future;
- If there are alternatives to the procedure and if so, what are the pros and cons of each option;
- If there are any reliable printed materials you can read in your own time to better understand the procedure. (On that note, be careful about getting information from unknown sources, including sources on the Internet. Google is not always right, and many Internet sources are not reliable.)
If you are still uncertain, you are well within your rights to get a second opinion from another dentist. Often, this will give you confidence that your dentist has planned the right treatment for you.
How do I make a formal complaints concerning the professional services received in a dental office in Canada?
Formal complaints concerning the professional services received in a dental office are handled by your provincial regulatory body. In Ontario, this would be the RCDSO – Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario.