How much time does your dentist spend with you?

During your dental appointments, I mean. I’m not so interested in how much you hang out together at your mutual gamer’s guild/swingers club/heavy drinking sessions at the bar/etc.

I’ve been at the same dental practice since I moved to this city after college 24 years ago. At some point years ago, my original dentist retired and a new dentist took over the practice. He’s very friendly and seems perfectly competent, but over the past few years I’ve noticed that he’s spent less and less time with me. For a long time it seemed that after the hygienist was done with all the cleaning, he’d be called in and would poke at my molars with a sharp thing, measure recession along my gum lines, feel my gums with his fingers, etc. Just generally a lot of looking and poking around. Mostly I got the OK, other than advice to floss more often, although there were a couple of times when he found a small cavity that needed a filling.

The prior past few times, he came in, took a quick look, and sent me on my way. I noticed it, but didn’t think that much of it- I figured that if there had been anything obviously wrong he or the hygienist would have noticed and investigated it further. Maybe my dental health was stable enough over the years that I didn’t need as thorough an examination as I used to get, or something. Maybe or maybe not coincidentally, after I’d had the same hygienist every time for many years (and only one, albeit a different one, for all the years before that), I’ve had a different hygienist for each of the past two visits. The last one, six months ago, mentioned that she wasn’t actually an employee of the practice- she worked on a roving, contract basis.

Well, this week I went in for my biannual checkup. I was ushered in by yet another new hygienist, sat down, and got the standard cleaning, polishing, and flossing. When that was over she said, “All finished!”, to which I said “Great, thanks!” at which point she started raising the chair back up and said “I’ll walk you to the door.” So, apparently, when she said “All finished,” she meant it literally. I’d sort of figured that she meant HER part was done, and that the dentist would be in shortly, but no, no dentist at all this time.

So, has anyone else had a similar experience? Are hygienist-only appointments the new thing in dentistry? Not that dental hygienists don’t know what they’re doing or aren’t capable of spotting problems or whatever, but it just seems to me that when you go to see the dentist, you should, you know, see the dentist. At this point I’m (somewhat regretfully) willing to change practices if I thought I’d get more or better attention, but if it’s likely to just be the same kind of thing I’d rather stay at the place I’ve been for 24 years.

After my semi-annual cleaning by my hygienist (same one for the last 15 years) my dentist will come in and look at x-rays (every other time) poke at the molars and check gum line. Normally I will spend about a minute or two with him.

If my hygienist left, I would probably follow her to her next office. Although she’s probably close to retiring soon. Not sure what I’ll do then.

I quit my last dentist for this reason. Twice in a row I made appointments, showed up on time and only found out there was no dentist in the house when the hygienist was done. I would gladly go to a dental hygienist only service for regular cleanings and such, if such a service existed, but when I’m making the dentist’s yacht payments I expect him to have the courtesy to at least show up and go through the motions.

My new dentist is trying to push the idea that checkups are necessary every 3 months.

My dentist comes in, puts on gloves, peeks and pokes with one of the pointy implements, says “It all looks good” then heads out again. We’ve made chit-chat on occasion, since he and I went to the same college (altho 20+ years apart) but by the time the hygienist is done cleaning my teeth, I’m ready to go home.

I’ve seen several different hygienists at the office, and I don’t know one from another, nor do I care. They all seem competent enough, altho I got ticked off at the one who left me waiting for 20 minutes without an apology or explanation for the delay. I just want to get in and out every 6 months.

I’m in Canada, so YMMV south of the border. MOST of my appointments in the dental clinic (every 4 months; I’m the first to admit given how I take care of my teeth I need them more often than twice a year) are hygienist only. If she see’s something she’ll tell the dentist. Approximately once a year the hygienist does her thing and then the dentist comes over and does a more detailed exam, with X-Rays, checking if any previously suspicious sites need intervention yet, etc.

PS UHC up here does not cover dental work and I have no dental insurance, but I do get a detailed bill. The hygienist work and the dentist work are most definitely itemized separately.

I’ve had good experiences at my dentist. In general, if I’m there for a scheduled check-up (six monthly, which still feels awfully overkill-y to me) I mostly deal with the hygienist. I have the same one each time, and she’s very nice, remembers our prior conversations, etc. I wish I could remember her name, it’s a bit awkward!

This last time I went, she had a new system for recording the gum pocket depth numbers( sorry, I don’t know the technical term) - she explained it to me, then used a voice-recognition tool on the computer to record each number as she poked. In the past, the recording has been the hygienist’s job, while the dentist did the poking. I did wonder how much training she’d had in order to take on this new duty.

And, yes, the dentist came in very briefly at the end, poked a bit, looked a bit, and said something like, “things look OK, cavity-wise.” I think it might have been his very subtle way of opening a conversation about tooth bleaching or straightening or something, things I am not interested in. I didn’t reply, so he sat me up and sent me on my way. Dentist time - 3 minutes?

I spend less than two minutes with my dentist, including friendly neighborhood chitchat. But once he actually found something in a cursory poke that the hygienist had done awry. So I guess he’s good for something.

/good dentist office
//didn’t lecture me when I showed up with 10 years of neglect to scrape off

As long as he’s doing what needs to be done, what’s the difference? According to my dentist, me teeth are “like rocks”. It takes very little time to look at x-rays and check for problems, and he has other patients who have been numbed up and who are awaiting the drill. I’d rather be the guy who doesn’t need that sort of attention. When I’ve had to have something more serious, like a crown, he spends the amount of time that is necessary to get the job done and moves on. I don’t need another friend, just a competent dentist.

I’ve gone to the same dental practice ever since I had teeth (first father, who is now retired, then son). The dentist always sees me once the hygienist is done, tells me that my teeth have continued to be nice and boring, asks me if I have any concerns, we might swap a travel story or two or a rant about the American health care system, and then he sends me on my way. I’m fine with that. But if I actually had dental issues, I might not be.

Same as most people - 2 or 3 minutes at most. The Dentist asks about gum health, pokes around a bit. Says things are OK.

This is often when the hygienist is done, but sometimes after the scraping but before the polishing.


My mother sometimes has hygienist only appointments-- including one in December where her regular hygienist was out with back pain and someone else was filling in.

She has cleanings more often than every six months.

I’ve also had the situation where a new (to me) dentist came in, greeted me, peeked at my teeth and decided that since I hadn’t had x-rays done, he couldn’t tell anything for sure, but there was an old cavity or two worth keeping an eye on for next time.

(I strongly suspect that the old cavity had already been replaced, but not until after it started staining my teeth, but I can’t prove it).

The part that bugs me is the feeling that X-rays are becoming a much larger part of determining what’s going on with the teeth than they used to be.

I’m not sure why I’d rather have my teeth poked than have an x-ray used to see what’s up with them, but it seems like I only occasionally had x-rays in childhood, and now I have some sort almost every appointment.

Very little. He comes in, says “you need to stop this. You have no teeth.” Then he walks out.

1-5 minutes, I expect, most visits?

Hygienist does her thing, sometimes says “make sure you floss around that tooth” (though last time she said I was doing fantastic all around), lets the dentist know she’s done. I wait ~5 minutes for him to come in. He looks in my mouth, checks my bite? (or something. It involves me biting down and him with a finger on each side of my teeth), tells me I’m doing great and I’m done.
Every once in a while he actually does my cleaning - no idea why this happens, but it does.

That may be happening because X-ray technology has improved. All the dental (and other) x-rays I’ve had done in recent years were completely electronic and computerized. I’ve been told that this technology uses a much lower exposure. So it may be safer to do this more often. The person doing the x-rays doesn’t duck out to stand behind a leaden window for each shot. And I don’t recall if they even draped that heavy lead-lined blanket over me anymore.

I only see the dentist every other visit. Then I usually see him roaming around the neighbourhood with nothing to do. Looks like the hygienists do all the work. I was ok with it because I have better than average teeth but when he told my kids he only needs to see them every two years, I decided it was time to look for another dentist.

Plus many UK dentists think all North Americans are stupidly obsessed over their teeth and their attitude shows in the treatment they give.

During my normal six-monthly visit he spends about 25-30 minutes with me: checking my teeth, scaling and polishing them etc. His assistant (I’ve never heard the term ‘hygienist’ used) hands the instruments to him and the rinsing cup/tissues to me, but doesn’t do anything to my teeth.

My dentist is old school- he does all the cleaning and scraping himself. The assistant will take the x rays and hand him intruments and handle the spit sucker, but other than that it’s all done by the dentist himself.

Which further supports the stereotype of brits having horrible teeth.