Regular check-ups are the best way, when paired with a good oral hygiene routine at home, to keep your smile looking its best.

How often should I have a regular dental check-up?

We like to see our healthy patients once every six months for a regular check up and cleaning. This allows us to get ahead of any problems that may be developing and gives you the best chance to keep a beautiful smile.

I don’t have any problems with my teeth. Do I still need a regular check-up twice a year?

Yes! In fact, the best time to see a dentist is when you don’t have a problem with your teeth. Then, in most cases, your check-up with be quick and easy. Once you’ve noticed that a problem has developed, it will take more work to get your smile back to being its best. One thing we can say for sure: dentistry is all about preventative medicine – probably more so that most other medical fields. When people put off regular dentist appointments, they are only setting the stage for bigger problems down the road.

Regular cleanings are important, even if you don’t notice any issues with your teeth, because plaque and tartar can build up without you noticing. Once plaque and tartar build reaches a critical stage, problems like bleeding gums, painful gums, and gum tissue loss are not far behind. So even if you don’t think you have a “reason” to see the dentist, your reason is that you want to get rid of the plaque and tartar before it causes a problem.

What happens at your average regular check-up?

Firstly, when your regular cleaning begins, you should let Dr. Sheehan or the dental hygienist know if there have been any changes to your overall health since your last regular check-up. This includes, but is not limited to, a new pregnancy, any surgeries, any major illnesses, substantial weight changes, and any new medications you are on. This helps gives Dr. Sheehan a context for your oral health and will help him determine what you need to do after your cleaning, if it’s anything other than the typical instructions to maintain a good home oral care routine.


The first step of most regular check-ups is a thorough, professional cleaning of your teeth. The dental hygienist will scrape off any tartar build up on your teeth. This is not painful, so no need to worry. They will usually rinse your mouth periodically during this process with a stream of water. Once the tartar has been removed, the hygienist will use a tool that works very much like an electric toothbrush, along with some extra-abrasive toothpaste, to polish your teeth. Then will then finish up with a quick floss.

Tooth and Gum Exam

Next, we will examine your teeth. We are looking for signs of decay – cavities. We do this by using a metal instrument that we can press lightly into any suspected areas. Healthy teeth are hard but if the tool sticks, it may mean there is decay present. This process is not painful (although some patients find awaiting the final verdict to be a bit nerve-wracking!) The dentist of hygienist will also visually examine your gums for any swelling or inflammation, and they may use an instrument to see if any pockets have developed beneath the gum line. Swelling, inflammation, and the existence of pockets are signs that gum disease has started to develop. Occasionally this process may involve slight discomfort, but it is minor and over quickly. If at anytime during a check-up you feel pain, you should alert Dr. Sheehan or the dental hygienist immediately.

Exam of Associated Tissues

Especially if you are over 35, the dentist will also do a quick check of your neck, glands, cheeks, and other areas inside your mouth for any signs of oral cancer. As with any type of cancer, early detection is the key to successful recovery. This is a completely pain-free part of the examination.


Most patients will also have x-rays taken of their mouth, jaw, and teeth during a regular check-up. This allows Dr. Sheehan to see what’s going on inside your teeth and below the gum line. Cavities often present as dark spots on x-rays and damage to the bone that holds your teeth in place can also be spotted easily with x-rays. X-rays do not hurt, but sometimes the tabs placed in your mouth to guide the x-rays can be a bit uncomfortable. But, it only takes a few seconds to take the x-ray.

Need to schedule your regular check-up?

We’re waiting for you! Call (708) 671-1510 or you can schedule online.