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How Much Time Do You Need For a Dental Appointment?

The average dentist appointment should take 45 minutes if you are coming in for a routine check up and teeth cleaning. That is the average amount of time because the appointment can take longer or it could even be shorter. There are certain factors which affect the appointment time such as paperwork, the type of appointment, and any complications which may arise during the treatment.


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Table of Contents:



Why do dentist appointments take that much time?

On average, if you are going in for a routine dental visit you should be in and out of the office within 45 minutes total. That amount of time encompasses more than just the dental cleaning because it also involves the check-in, x-rays, exam, and check-out. All of those added together will bring you to about 45 minutes for the appointment.

  • Check-in. The first step of any dental appointment is to check in with the front desk. They need to verify your personal information as well as your dental insurance if you're going to be using one.

  • Dental x-rays. No check up is complete with a set of x-rays because your dentist can't see in between your teeth. They may be able to see cavities on the top and sides of your teeth but not in between. The x-rays will capture decay in between, which we normally can't see. It'll also show any abscesses that may be in the bone.

  • Exam. The exam will come next, where your dentist will go over all of the x-rays and look at every nook and cranny of each tooth. Then they'll give you a consultation regarding any treatment that you may need.

  • Teeth cleaning. The part that everyone looks forward to is the cleaning because all of that tartar and plaque that you were not able to remove at home, will be completed today. The procedure starts with an ultrasonic scaler and then moves on to hand scaling for refinement. At the very end, your teeth will get polished with a prophy paste.

  • Check-out. The last step of the appointment is to check out. You may have a copay or an annual deductible that needs to be met before insurance benefits disburse. After you take care of the payment, you can leave with your goodie bag which usually contains a toothbrush, floss, and a travel sized toothpaste.

The dentist appointment takes that long because it is more than just the treatment, it also involves a lot of logistics and taking care of finances.




Factors that make the dental appointment take longer

A routine dentist appointment should proceed smoothly but unfortunately there are always issues or hiccups that we run into during it. These extraneous factors always add time to the appointment and will keep you at the dentist longer. Some of these are out of control while others can be avoided with preparation ahead of time.


Below are a couple of issues that may arise during your visit.


Paperwork

If you are a new patient at the office and going there for the first time, you can expect to have a lot of paperwork to fill out. Your dentist will need all of your personal information as well as your insurance information.


Filling out all of the paperwork can take time and so does verifying the insurance. It is usually easier to check your insurance eligibility if the insurance is under you and you're the main subscriber. If it is your spouse or your parents, it may be more difficult to verify you because sometimes we need information about them. If you don't know their date of birth or their social security number, you could be waiting for awhile until they get back to you.


Appointment type

Routine dental appointments such as for a check up and cleaning will take about 45 minutes but if you need a more complex procedure such as having your wisdom teeth taken out or doing a mouth full of veneers, you should expect to stay much longer.


Therefore, it really depends on what you're at the dentist for. Do you need a complicated procedure done or is it for some simple fillings and a cleaning? You could always ask your dentist how long the appointment would take so you know how much time to set aside for it.


Complications

Complications could arise during the middle of treatment such as someone fainting from low blood sugar because they're diabetic. Health conditions can certain add unexpected time to the dental visit.


Here is a lost of possible health complications:

  • Fainting from low blood sugar.

  • Seizures in the chair.

  • Anxiety and panic attacks.

  • Heart attack or stroke.

Although even if you don't have a health condition interfere with the visit, sometimes complications related to the dental procedure can happen. These will often make your dentist irritated or start sweating because it is making their procedure more difficult.


Here are some possible dental complications:

  • Wisdom tooth breaks in half while trying to remove it.

  • The tooth that needs a root canal has an extra nerve in it.

  • That small cavity ends up not being so small.



What makes dentist appointments take less time

The only time your dental appointment would take less time is if you were returning for your 6 month check up and none of your personal information has changed. This means that you are coming back in at 6 months on the dot.

  • You also have not moved and changed your address.

  • Your dental insurance is the same because you did not change your job.

  • You're not having any pain or sensitivity with your teeth.

If all of those conditions are the same, you may be able to get in and out of your appointment in about 30 minutes instead of the 45 minutes. The check-in process is truncated since there isn't much to update. If you also had a cleaning 6 months ago, you shouldn't have too much tartar and plaque build up. That would make the appointment a breeze and super pleasant!



Takeaway

Most routine dental appointments for a check up and cleaning should only take about 45 minutes. If it takes longer then that, it usually means that there is a complication or there is an issue with the check-in process. Some of these you can minimize by being prepared prior to arriving at your appointment while others are out of your control.


It still doesn't hurt to have all of your insurance information ready and maybe some of the health forms filled out ahead of time. You can save yourself some time because most people don't want to spend all day at the dentist!



Author: This article was written by Dr David Chen, a general dentist in long island city.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!