At Gladstone Family Dentistry, we’re proud to say that our first patient dental exams last about 90 minutes. Why? Because we take the time to look thoroughly at your teeth and your overall health. When you come to see us, you’re making an investment in a healthy future, and we want you to get the highest return possible.

From a patient’s first appointment through years of continuing care, we use a full range of tools and techniques to build a comprehensive care plan for each patient. With x-ray and photo imaging, periodontal charting, oral cancer and cavity screening, we gather every bit of information that we can, share it with you, and talk with you to decide the best course of treatment.

This is what a new patient can expect from Gladstone Family Dentistry on his or her first appointment:

Your appointment will start with the front office staff who will ask you about your insurance provider if you have one, basic information about you, and your health history. Then you’ll spend an hour with one of our hygienists and about 30 minutes with Doctor Krause or Doctor Kato.

Discussion of health history

Your hygienist will get acquainted with the health information that you provided for us, then will ask questions and give you the opportunity to ask questions. We want to know about your past experiences with dentists, about any health issues that you have, and if you have any specific concerns about your teeth. The most important thing we achieve at this stage is to help you understand what we’ll do and why, so you’ll feel comfortable at every step in the process.

Comprehensive X-Ray and Photo Imaging

We’ll take a comprehensive set of high-resolution digital photographs of your teeth, and x-rays of your teeth and jaws. (See this post to learn about the technology we use at GFD!) We’ll use these images to spot any problems that aren’t visible to the naked eye. Most importantly, we’ll use these images to compare against x-rays that we take in the future so we can see how your teeth and jaw have changed.

Periodontal charting

Periodontal charting is an assessment of the health of your gums for diseases like periodontitis and gingivitis. The doctor and hygienist will call out numbers as they use a tool to gently probe the space between your teeth and gums. We’re looking for bleeding or receding gums, signs of bone loss or inflammation. Many dentists perform this screening only once every three years, but we perform this screening annually, or more if the patient is at elevated risk for any type of gum disease. The gums and jaw are literally the foundation of good dental health, so the extra time is important.

Carie, or cavity, screening

With the help of the images we’ve just taken, we examine every surface of your teeth, looking for cavities, or caries. We hope you won’t have any, but if you do, this is how we’ll find out! And since caries are caused by bacteria, we include a test of your saliva to tell us the amount of bacteria present in your mouth. If we find problematic levels of bacteria, we may recommend a product to address the issue.

Doctor’s exam and discussion of treatment plan

While the hygienist examines your teeth, Dr. Kato or Dr. Krause will be looking at the images of your teeth, looking for any signs of problems that might need to be addressed. Then, the doctor will join you and the hygienist for about 30 minutes. The doctor will take a few minutes to introduce him or herself, then to take a closer look at trouble spots and answer any questions you might have about what we’ve found.

The treatment plan can be a mix of surgical procedures, home care, ongoing visits to the clinic, and products that are suited uniquely to you. The plan could be simple—we say “everything looks great! We’ll see you in six months!”—or it could be more complex. Either way, we’ll answer any questions you may have so that you won’t leave the office feeling confused or overwhelmed.

What you can expect at your next appointment

Every appointment you have after your first one will generally be shorter, about one hour. The structure of the repeat appointment is similar to the first appointment, but we’ll repeat imaging and periodontal screening only as needed—just a few x-rays and digital images at each appointment, and the periodontal screening typically once per year.

Just like in your first appointment, the doctor will review your images and treatment plan while  our hygienist works with you. The doctor will join you for the last five to ten minutes of your appointment to discuss any changes in your dental health, look at any problem spots in your mouth, and to ask questions. It will feel very similar, but since we’ve already seen you once, it goes a bit faster! Sometimes it seems as if the doctor rushes in and out of your appointment without actually paying much attention to you, but in reality, the doctor has been looking closely at your images and charts since you sat in the chair! We like to say that the doctor has done his or her “homework” while the hygienist was with you.

What else is happening during my appointment?

The doctor’s aren’t the only ones working behind the scenes. We’re proud to say that our front office staff has many years of experience dealing with insurance companies. By the time you leave our office, you’ll have an accurate estimate of exactly what you’ll pay for your treatment. We understand how important this information is, and that’s why we do what it takes to make sure you have it.