Visit our foundation to give a gift.
View Locations Near Me
Main Campus – Hartford
Connecticut Children’s – Waterbury
Urgent Care – Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Danbury
Connecticut Children’s Surgery Center at Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Fairfield
Search All Locations
Find a doctor
Find A Doctor
Request an Appointment
Amenities and Services
Who’s Who on Care Team
Getting Ready for Surgery
What to Expect—Picture Stories
Pay a Bill
Understanding the Different Fees
Pricing Transparency and Estimates
Raytheon Technologies Family Resource Center
Family Advisory Council
Legal Advocacy: Benefits, Education, Housing
Electronic Health Records
Share Your Story
Pay a Bill
Login to MyChart
Clinical Support Services Referrals
About the Network
Join the Network
Graduate Medical Education
Continuing Medical Education
MOC/Practice Quality Improvement
Educating Practices in the Community (EPIC)
Learning & Performance
Meet our Physician Relations Team
Request Medical Records
Join our Referring Provider Advisory Board
View our Physician Callback Standards
Read & Subscribe to Medical News
Register for Email Updates
Update Your Practice Information
Refer a Patient
Find and Print Health Info
Health Information For Kids
Q: What part of your body helps you to digest your favorite foods, say “cheese,” and look great in pictures? A: Your teeth!
It’s true. Your teeth are an important part of your smile, and they also help you chew foods like crunchy apples or yummy pizza.
Brushing and flossing are important, but you also need to visit your dentist regularly to keep your teeth strong and healthy. Let’s learn more about what happens at the dentist’s office.
The dentist is a doctor who is specially trained to care for teeth. When you visit for a checkup, your dentist will look at your teeth and gums to check for any problems. The dentist also wants to make sure your teeth are developing properly as you grow.
It’s important to visit your dentist every 6 months to make sure you’re taking good care of your teeth and that your teeth and gums are healthy.
After your name is called in the waiting room, you’ll go into an exam room and sit down in a big, comfortable chair that is like a huge recliner. The chair will have a place to rest your head and lots of room for you to stretch out your legs. Next to the chair may be a little sink with a cup that you can use to rinse out your mouth as your teeth are being cleaned.
During the exam, your teeth will be cleaned, flossed, and checked for cavities.
One of the first people you’ll meet at the dentist’s office is the dental hygienist (say: hi-JEH-nist). A dental hygienist is a person who knows all about keeping teeth and gums clean and healthy.
The dental hygienist will look inside your mouth to make sure your teeth are growing properly and your gums are healthy. A bright, overhead light will shine down into your mouth like a giant flashlight so the dental hygienist can get a good look inside your mouth.
The dental hygienist will clean and polish your teeth, using tiny dental tools like a tooth scraper, mirror, and special toothbrush. The tooth scraper removes plaque (say: plak) from your teeth. Plaque is a thin, sticky layer that coats your teeth and contains bacteria (say: bak-TEER-ee-uh) that grow on your teeth over time. Plaque that isn’t removed from your teeth can cause decay, or a cavity (say: KAH-vuh-tee).
Next comes brushing and flossing. The dental hygienist will brush your teeth with a special toothbrush and toothpaste. The toothbrush has a small, round tip that moves around and around to clean your teeth. The toothpaste might taste like your own toothpaste at home, but it will feel a little grittier — almost like sand.
Then the dental hygienist will floss your teeth and show you the proper way to brush and floss your teeth at home. Flossing involves using a piece of waxy string called dental floss to get in between your teeth and remove food particles that your brush can’t reach.
During your visit, the dental hygienist will take X-rays, or pictures, of your teeth. X-rays are like superhuman vision. They can show cavities hiding between your teeth and problems beneath your gums. A cavity is a decayed, or rotted, part of a tooth.
It does not hurt to get an X-ray and it takes only a few seconds. The dental hygienist will place a thick blanket over your chest (to protect your body from the high-energy waves) and put a piece of plastic (that holds the X-ray film) into your mouth. As you gently bite down on the plastic, you’ll have to be very still for a few seconds while the dental hygienist snaps the picture.
Next it’s time for your fluoride (say: FLOOR-ide) treatment. Fluoride is a natural mineral that makes your teeth strong and helps prevent cavities. At the dentist’s office, a fluoride gel or foam will be applied to your teeth. Most dental offices offer fluoride treatments with flavoring, like bubble gum or grape.
The fluoride treatment will take about 1 to 4 minutes. The dental hygienist will probably tell you not to eat or drink anything (including water) for 30 minutes after the fluoride treatment.
The dentist will look at all of your teeth and check your gums to make sure they’re strong and healthy. The dentist will also check the way your top and bottom teeth work together. This is called your bite. If there might be a problem with your bite, you may be referred to an orthodontist (say: or-tho-DON-tist). This is a doctor who specializes in correcting the shape or positions of all your teeth through orthodontia, or braces.
The dentist will study your X-rays (looking for cavities or other problems) and ask if you have any questions about your teeth. Your dentist may also prescribe fluoride drops or tablets for you to take every day at home.
When your checkup is over, the dentist usually will have a present for you! The gift is often a free toothbrush or dental floss to use at home or some sugar-free gum.
If you have a cavity, you’ll probably have to come back to the dentist’s office for another visit. At that time, the dentist will remove the decayed part from your tooth with special dental tools. Then the decayed area will be filled with materials that will keep your tooth strong and healthy, like tooth-colored or silver fillings.
As soon as you sit down in the dental chair, the dentist will give you a tiny shot of an anesthetic (say: ah-nus-THEH-tik), a medicine that numbs the area around the tooth.
Your mouth may be numb for a little while after you leave the dentist’s office, but the anesthetic will soon wear off and you’ll be left with a beautiful smile!
Some words used at the dentist’s office might be new to you. Here are a few and what they mean:
Chloe and the Nurb sing about teeth and all they do for you – talking and eating, just to name a few!
Retainers are really common. In fact, most kids have to wear a retainer for at least a little while after getting their braces taken off. Find out more.
An orthodontist prevents and treats mouth, teeth, and jaw problems using braces, retainers, and other devices.
The healthier your teeth are, the happier you look. That’s why it’s important to take great care of your teeth by brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist. Learn more.
Braces are a fact of life for many kids. Find out how they work and how to take care of them.
Cavities are small holes in your teeth that need to be filled. Find out what causes tooth decay and how dentists handle it.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.