Patient in ental chair with dentist


First Visit to Dentist: What to Expect

Written By : Generations of Smiles Writers

Reviewed By : Charles Rodgers, DDS

Published: Jul 25, 2023

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

In This Article
Being a new patient at a dentist’s office can feel uncomfortable while you learn what to expect from your visit and from the dentist, dental hygienist, and office team. Every dental office has slightly different protocols for checking in and for submitting your dental history and insurance forms. Learning what questions to ask and what typically occurs at a dental appointment will give you a better idea of what to expect. 

What to Expect from a First Visit to a New Dentist?

When you call to make an appointment, ask the receptionist questions about what to expect. This will eliminate any initial anxiety you may be feeling about your first visit to a new dentist. The receptionist can answer the following questions:
  • How do I check in?
  • What typically happens during a dental exam?
  • How long do dentist appointments take at this particular office?
Keep in mind that it may be a new experience for you, but having new patients won’t be new to any of the dental professionals at the office. They have answered many questions and concerns from new patients like you, so don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t know how something works. 
The first thing you can expect to do when you arrive at your dental appointment is to begin filling out any forms you are given. 

Checking In and Completing Paperwork

You can head straight to the counter to check in with the receptionist when you first walk in. Always arrive at your first appointment about 15 minutes early so you can complete any necessary forms. 

Good news, modern dental offices are providing more convenient ways to check in for appointments. At Smile Generation-trusted offices, you can experience a seamless e-check-in through the Smile Generation MyChart. This platform allows you to effortlessly manage and track your health information through a secured patient portal. The best part? You can book and check into your appointment even before setting foot into the dentist's office.

After you are checked in, your new dentist will greet you and ask if you are experiencing any sensitivity or pain with your teeth or gums. After this discussion, your dentist will prescribe the necessary X-rays and introduce you to the dental assistant, who will do your X-rays.

X-rays and Other Diagnostic Tests

Your new dentist will want to look at recent X-rays of your teeth.  If you haven’t had X-rays taken of your mouth in the last year or two, an experienced and thorough dental assistants will take a set of full-mouth x-rays.  Your new dentist will want to get a good idea of any possible cavities and other dental conditions that could be in between your teeth or in hard-to-see places in your mouth. 

Dentist reviewing x-rays with a patient

A Comprehensive Dental Exam

Once they have reviewed your X-rays, your new dentist will begin your dental exam.  They use a special dental instrument called an explorer to go over every tooth in your mouth.  They are looking for tooth decay, signs of gum disease, and other potential problem areas in your mouth that could become cavities without proper attention. Your dentist will also give you an oral cancer screening. 

Dental Health History and Concerns

Be proactive in informing your new dentist about your dental and medical health histories. This information is important because what happens in your mouth can affect many different health functions. Certain conditions, or even the medication you take, can have an effect on your teeth. If your dentist knows these conditions, they will know to look for related issues in your mouth. 

Development of a Personalized Dental Care Plan

The goal of your first visit to a new dentist's office is to give the dentist a window into your oral health so they can tailor-make a dental care plan just for you. When it comes to dentistry, dental care plans are not one size fits all. Communicating your concerns, habits, and what you hope to achieve for your oral health will give your dentist the best idea of how to help you.  

If you have any concerns regarding financing your dental work, there are many programs available that may help you to afford the dentistry you require.

what to expect infographic

After you have discussed your treatment options with your dentist, one of our knowledgeable healthcare coordinators will assist you with maximizing your insurance benefits to minimize your out-of-pocket costs.  As a Smile Generation-trusted office, we pride ourselves in our ability to help ensure that the dental treatment you want and need fits within your budget and lifestyle.

Common Dental Procedures on Your First Dentist Appointment

After your dental exam, your dentist may recommend a few other dental procedures during your first appointment. If your dentist has another appointment directly after yours, they may have a dental hygienist complete some of these procedures. 

Dental Cleaning

After the exam, your dentist will likely recommend a dental cleaning. If your teeth need more attention due to poor oral hygiene with tooth decay or gum disease, your new dentist may want to schedule a deep cleaning that could take more than one appointment to complete. 


If you have tooth decay, also known as a cavity, your dentist will want to stop the hole in your tooth from getting bigger. A filling will be used to fill the hole, sealing it off from bacteria and food. Your dentist can fill the tooth with materials like:

Questions to Ask Your New Dentist

After your exam, your dentist can answer any questions about their practice and how often you can expect to come in for an appointment. You may ask questions like:

How Often Do I Need to Come for Check-ups?

Asking a dentist how often they recommend seeing you can help you gauge how much attention your mouth needs. If your dentist recommends coming in once a year, you can ask if this is a standard recommendation for all patients. 
If your dentist suggests appointments in intervals smaller than six months, there is no harm in asking why to better understand what is happening in your mouth. 

What's the Best Time for a Dentist Appointment?

Dental offices get swamped with patients in mid to late summer and at the end and beginning of the year. During these busy periods, it can be difficult to book an appointment. Reasons for these spikes in dental appointments include:

  • Families often try to get dental appointments booked before school starts in mid-August.  
  • Patients who want to use the remaining insurance benefits make dental appointments in December. 
  • As the new year rolls in, January and February get quickly booked with patients wanting to use new insurance benefits. 
The good news is that you can schedule your dental appointments throughout the year. Remember, your well-being is always a top priority, and making regular visits will keep your smile shining bright all year round.

How Do I Prepare Myself for a Dentist Appointment?

Before going to a dentist appointment, brush your teeth thoroughly and floss before you head out the door. If this is your first appointment with this dentist, be sure to bring a few things along, such as:
  • Insurance information
  • Medical records
  • Dental records

Any oral appliances you may use, like a mouth guard, sleep apnea mouthpiece, or retainer.

Your new dentist needs a clear idea of everything related to your mouth and your health so you can get the best service possible.
Essential items checklist infographic

Will a Dentist Fill a Cavity on the First Visit?

Depending on the dentist and what their schedule looks like for the rest of the day, it is possible that you can have a cavity filled in the same appointment as your cleaning. 
If you suspect that you have a cavity when you make your initial call to set up an appointment, you can tell the receptionist so the dentist can know what to expect. Many dentists will want to get a full mouth of X-rays and have a thorough exam before putting in a filling. 
Other Things You Should Know
Always communicate any concerns you have with your dentist. Dentists provide more
personalized dental care that can greatly benefit your oral health, depending on how much information you give them. You do not want to drive away from your dentist appointment thinking of everything you wished you had asked.

Finding A New Dentist

If you are looking for a new dentist in your community, use Smile Generation's Find a Dentist tool to find the perfect local dentist for you and your family. 


Find your trusted, local dentist today!



  • Sales seasonality in dentistry." ADA, 12 July 2016,

Smile Generation blog articles are reviewed by a licensed dental professional before publishing. However, we present this information for educational purposes only with the intent to promote readers’ understanding of oral health and oral healthcare treatment options and technology. We do not intend for our blog content to substitute for professional dental care and clinical advice, diagnosis, or treatment planning provided by a licensed dental professional. Smile Generation always recommends seeking the advice of a dentist, physician, or other licensed healthcare professional for a dental or medical condition or treatment. 

The good news is that the positive effects of proper oral care can extend far beyond your smile. The bad news is that the painful effects of not taking proper care of your teeth can impact the rest of
What Does a Pediatric Dentist Do? There are several reasons why your child needs to see a pediatric dentist at least twice a year. First, tooth decay is a real risk because of sugary diets and inconsi
Are you a parent with a special needs child on the autism spectrum? Did you know a visit to the dentist can be an excellent experience? Learn more from The Smile Generation®-trusted dentist, Dr. Jacob