Get the most out of every visit to the dentist.

Roughly 75% of Americans feel some sort of anxiety or fear when visiting the dentist, which often leads to a “get in and get out” mentality during appointments. This rush and lack of communication with your dentist can actually be detrimental to your long-term oral health.

You may not realize it, but your dentist would love for you to ask more questions, whether it relates to a specific treatment or is just a general curiosity regarding oral care. Asking questions and speaking frankly with your dentist can not only ease your own anxiety but also catch potential issues before they become serious problems.

Here are 10 common questions you should think about asking your dentist during your next appointment.

1. Why do I have tooth pain?

If you ever experience tooth pain, even if it’s minor and seemingly random, it’s important to ask about it rather than assume it will simply go away. Tooth pain can be a simple sensitivity issue or a symptom of a severe cavity you’re not aware of. Your dentist can also help you figure out where the pain is coming from. For example, you might believe pain is coming from a tooth when it’s really coming from your gums.

2. What are my options for whitening my teeth?

Having a healthy smile is important, but many patients also want whiter teeth. There is a lot of misinformation out there about teeth whitening and plenty of horror stories about permanently damaged enamel or chronic sensitivity. Rather than trying to figure this out on your own, just ask the dentist instead. He / She will be happy to guide you toward safe and effective options that won’t harm your teeth.

3. How can cosmetic dentistry help me?

Cosmetic dentistry is a huge industry, but many adults still feel self-conscious about asking about treatment options for something once considered a luxury or even vain. If there are aspects of your smile that make you feel less confident, such as a small chip or a crooked tooth, your dentist would love to know, so they can assist in finding a solution.

4. What causes tooth decay?

Patients with cavities might be confused as to why they’re experiencing tooth decay when they don’t eat a lot of sugar. In fact, you could seemingly be doing everything right yet still have chronic tooth decay issues found during your six-month checkups. Asking the dentist about the causes of tooth decay can help you better understand why you’re having this issue, as well as how you can get it under control.

5. How can I stop grinding my teeth?

Sometimes dentists can immediately tell if a patient is grinding their teeth due to unusual wear and tear, but this isn’t always the case. If you’ve discovered that you’re grinding your teeth while sleeping or even during the day, bring this up to the dentist, as well as your general physician. Your dentist will be able to take a proactive approach to address the teeth grinding issue and protect your smile before damage occurs by offering a mouth guard or suggesting certain therapeutic exercises.

6. Should I worry about bleeding gums?

You might notice that your gums bleed after you brush and/or floss. Although it isn’t uncommon, it still needs to be addressed. If this happens during your normal routine, you really should bring it up on your next dental appointment. Bleeding gums, even if it’s very minor, can be an early symptom of gingivitis or even periodontitis. Your dentist will be able to help you figure out if there is an underlying issue or if your current brushing and flossing routine is to blame.

7. How can I help my tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is another common problem that has seemingly been normalized, even though it should always be brought up to the dentist. If you experience sensitivity, you should not only inform the dentist but also inquire as to how you might be able to get it under control. He / She will be able to suggest certain products, such as a new toothpaste for sensitive teeth, that can help you feel much more comfortable.

8. Which toothbrush should I use?

Visit a store to buy a new toothbrush and you’ll be confronted with a huge variety of different options, like regular toothbrushes and expensive electric toothbrushes with various brush head sizes and bristle types. To add to the confusion, almost every major brand seems to say it’s dentist- and ADA-recommended. Instead of guessing as to what you should get, ask the dentist what they recommend for you to use.

9. Do I need this treatment now, or can I wait?

Dentistry can be expensive, and dentists are well-aware that many patients can’t easily pay for very expensive treatments right off the bat. If the dentist is suggesting a specific treatment plan, ask for an estimate to see how much it will cost. If it’s out of your budget, ask if you really need this treatment right now, or if there is another option that can be pursued to buy you some time to save money. Your dentist would much rather work with you to find a temporary solution rather than have you avoid treatment completely.

10. What lifestyle changes will help my teeth?

Many patients will ask their general physician about lifestyle changes to improve health, yet fail to ask their dentists the same question. Remember that your oral health is directly linked to your overall health. The healthier your mouth is, the healthier you will be as a whole. Ask about the general health of your mouth and mention your current habits, including your oral care and normal diet. The more the dentist knows, the better they can help you prevent future problems.

Your dentist is here to help!

Remember, your dentist’s job isn’t just to fix issues with your teeth but also to help educate you on preventative care and general oral health. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for clarification when your dentist mentions something you aren’t familiar with. If you have multiple questions but are concerned about taking up too much time during a checkup, consider setting up a consultation appointment instead, so you don’t feel pressured.