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How to make the most out of a visit to the dentist

With advances in dentistry (and soothing music piped in over the intercom), a trip to the dentist these days is pretty routine. But seeing the dentist still makes some people anxious – so much so that they don't go as often as they should and end up with costly complications from tooth decay or gum disease.

With dental care, prevention is often the best medicine – starting with regular checkups and dental cleanings. Here are some tips for taking the pain out of a visit to the dentist:

Schedule regular dentist visits. By seeing your dentist at least twice a year, you can help prevent any dental health problems before they cause discomfort or require more comprehensive or expensive treatment. Regular visits allow your dentist to monitor your oral health and recommend a dental health regimen to address areas of concern.

Ask for advice. Take advantage of your visit with a dental hygienist or dentist and find out if you are using proper dental hygiene techniques and tools – for example, if you are brushing and flossing correctly and choosing the most appropriate products for your situation. Consider jotting down a list of items to review with your dentist, including such information as mouth pain or sensitivity, medications you're taking and any medical conditions you have, even if you don't think they would affect your dental health.

Know what to expect. Sometimes the greatest fear is of the unknown. During a routine checkup, you should expect your dentist to screen for oral cancer, check for tooth and gum disease and inspect your fillings, crowns or dentures. Dental x-rays will help the dentist detect problems that may not be caught during other examinations. Your dentist is your ally in dental health – always feel free to ask questions or express your concerns. Chances are your dentist has dealt with the issue before and can offer reassurance.