Most people are familiar with the typical dental checkup visit. The dentist will check your teeth for signs of decay, check your gums for changes, and check for signs of oral cancer or other diseases.

At each visit your dentist will do a thorough exam. This is called a comprehensive examination. It includes a thorough look at your entire mouth, head and neck area. The dentist also will ask about your medical history, and you will get X-rays if indicated.

A comprehensive examination will be done the first time you visit a dental practice. Even if you have had regular care under another dentist, your new dentist will want to become familiar with your health. This will allow him or her to notice changes or problems more easily during future visits.

An important part of every visit is updating your medical history. Your dentist will want to know if you’ve had any changes in your health or your medicines since your last visit.

Mention everything about your health, even if you don’t think it relates to your mouth.

Bring a list of all medicines you take, with dosages. Your dentist also will want to check that any drug he or she prescribes doesn’t interact with drugs you are already taking.

Your dentist needs to know everything that may help him or her diagnose problems or treat you appropriately. Tell your dentist:

Your fears — Many people have a fear of dentists that goes back to childhood. The things you fear most may not exist any longer, or there may be new and improved ways of dealing with them. If you fear you have a particular disease or condition, let your dentist know. He or she can look for signs and either diagnose the problem or set your mind at ease. Often, just talking about your fears will take some of the edge off.

Your overall health — Tell your dentist if you’ve been diagnosed with any diseases or are taking any new medicines. It is important to tell your dentist about all medicines you take. This includes prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines. Even diseases that seem to be unrelated to the mouth may require a different approach to dental treatments or prevention.

Your dental health — Before the examination starts, tell your dentist if: