Valparaiso (219) 531-8914
951 Southpoint Dr.
Valparaiso, IN 46385
Chesterton (219) 926-5445
1830 South 11th Street
Chesterton, IN 46304

An Excellent New Patient Experience

Question: “Dr. Arnold, I’m looking for a new dentist, and I’m not sure what questions to ask. What should my first appointment be like?”

Answer: I feel that the new patient examination is an extremely important dental appointment that you will ever have. It helps to establish your relationship, allows the dental team to gather all necessary information, and sets the tone for future appointments.

The dental team should spend some time asking you questions and listening carefully to your answers. Discussing past dental experiences, current concerns, and your goals for your oral health is essential. This allows us to find out what kind of care you want or need.

After we get to know you, we will discuss your dental and medical histories, and let you know what to expect from us during your visits. Then dental x-rays and digital photos are likely to be taken. Some dentists will even make models of your teeth for further evaluation.

A thorough examination will include an oral cancer screening, periodontal and TMJ evaluations, and a close inspection of all of your teeth. Throughout this process, the dentist, hygienist, or assistant will carefully explain what they see and spend time educating you as to how to better care for your teeth and gums.

After the periodontal (gums and the bone that support your teeth) examination, a determination will be made as to what type of “cleaning” you will need. If the gums are fairly healthy, the teeth are often cleaned at this first visit. Some patients will require much more time than has been allotted, and will need to schedule another appointment or appointments.

If it has been quite a while since your last thorough examination and cleaning, you are more likely to have some level of periodontal disease. Depending upon the severity of the disease, patients may need multiple appointments and anesthetic to get the job done properly. Some patients may even require a referral to a specialist called a periodontist.

The most important thing is that your new patient examination is very thorough and that the dental team takes the time necessary to establish a positive relationship. Any attempt to rush through the new patient experience is detrimental to everyone. While “shopping for dentists”, I would ask about the new patient process. This will often tell you a lot about the practice and your level of comfort with it.

Dr. Jim Arnold is a practicing dentist in Valparaiso and Chesterton. Additionally, he serves on the Advisory Board for the Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics and is involved with many other local, state, national, and international dental organizations. Questions for Dr. Arnold can be emailed to: or sent to: 1830 South 11th St., Chesterton, IN, 46304. More information on this and a variety of other dental topics can be found at: