More than a few people let a dental appointment stress them out. Some have a genuine fear of dentists and others have anxiety issues. People can also have an array of mental, personality, and cognitive issues that make going to the dentist an extra burden. This can affect how early or late someone shows up. That one factor can ruin the entire experience for you
The standard is to arrive 15 minutes early for a dental appointment. That is especially important if you are a new patient as you will need to fill out paperwork and insurance information.
What to Expect When You Arrive
Giving yourself and the dental office that 15 minutes before an appointment can make a world of difference in how well the appointment goes. The receptionist or appointment scheduler will have you sign in and ask if you are a new or existing patient.
New patients could have a good bit of paperwork but you should be able to finish it in 15 minutes. Those who know they have trouble with paperwork, such as older people who may have writing issues or those with special needs, should probably arrive even earlier to give themselves enough time.
You can also bring someone to help you fill out the paperwork.
Existing patients may still have some paperwork to fill out like filing for different insurance or changing their email or street address. Even though this is a shorter form than what new patients fill out, you should still allow at least 15 minutes to get it done so you can meet with your dentist at your scheduled appointment time.
Anxiety or Special Needs Patients
Those patients who have specific mobility or other issues should probably allow more time before an appointment to get into the office and get settled in before an appointment. Moving around with walkers, wheelchairs, and other medical equipment can take more time so allow for that once you get to the office.
Anxiety patients have different issues. They have trouble sitting for any length of time before an appointment. Waiting raises their anxiety level and, for them, sitting in the lobby for even 15 minutes is torture.
Those who have anxiety should still come 15 minutes early but inform the receptionist of their anxiety issues. Most dentist offices offer sedation therapy and make accommodations for those with anxiety waiting on their appointment.
The dentist needs to know in advance that sedation therapy may be needed so you should bring it up when you make the appointment and remind the receptionist or scheduler when you arrive. That will ensure everything is ready on time.
Leaving Too Little Time
Dental patients may think it’s acceptable to get to an appointment in less than 15 minutes as long as you’re in the office and checked in before your appointment. While that doesn’t violate office rules regarding the timeliness, it does pose problems for staff and other patients. It could pose problems for you in seeing your dentist too.
Arriving “right on time” means you are going to be late in actually seeing the dentist. That’s because you will probably have to fill out some type of paperwork to state the reason for your visit or to verify your insurance. That is going to take a minimum of five minutes.
The receptionist then has to take your paperwork and input the information before you see the dentist. Insurance is always verified. This will mean you are late for your appointment.
One patient being late for an appointment has ramifications on other waiting patients. It means they may also be seen later than expected. What many doctors and dentists do in this situation is see those patients already ready and waiting on time and fit you in as they can. That means you can be waiting a while.
Make the Effort
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to arrive at your dentist’s office 15 minutes early. Just allow for some extra drive time in case there is traffic. After all, you make other appointments on time, right?
Those who find themselves running late because of something unexpected like a traffic accident on their route should call the dentist’s office and tell the scheduler. Most offices will hold your appointment for 15 minutes before you declared a no-show or need to reschedule.
It’s best to reschedule if you think you may go beyond that 15-minute window but some offices will make you pay for rescheduling at the last minute. Others may offer you a one-time courtesy if it’s an unavoidable situation.
The only way to know what to do is to call the dentist’s office.