Experts recommend that the average person visit the dentist every six months for a checkup and professional cleaning. However, many people skip these appointments, either in an attempt to save money or because they simply don't like going to the dentist. If you haven't been to the dentist lately, you may not know what to expect. Knowing what will happen in advance can help you feel more at ease. Here are four things that will happen at your next dentist appointment.

1. Your teeth will be scaled.

Plaque is a soft, sticky substance that forms on your teeth when bacteria comes into contact with sugar and saliva. If plaque isn't cleaned away in a timely manner, it calcifies and becomes a hard, white substance called tartar. Tartar is harder to clean away, and you won't be able to do it at home. A dental hygienist will scale your teeth, which means they will use a metal tool to gently scrape away tartar. This process doesn't ordinarily hurt, but you may experience minor bleeding from your gums.

2. Your teeth will be cleaned and polished.

After your teeth have been scaled, your dental hygienist will floss them. They will also polish your teeth using a device that's similar to an electric toothbrush. The toothpaste used in professional cleaning is a little different from the toothpaste you use at home. It's more abrasive, and it doesn't foam. This paste allows your dental hygienist to polish your teeth and get them very clean.

3. Your teeth may be photographed using an x-ray machine.

Patients are asked to visit the dentist's office twice a year, but x-rays are only taken annually. During every other dental appointment, a dental assistant will use an x-ray machine to photograph your teeth. This allows your dentist to get a complete view of your teeth both inside and out. Cavities and other decay issues are easily visible on x-ray pictures.

4. You will be asked about any problems.

Finally, the dentist will come to examine your teeth. If you had x-rays taken, they will also look at your x-rays in order to spot problems that aren't visible to the naked eye. If your dentist finds any cavities, you will be asked to schedule another appointment so they can be taken care of. Speak up and let your dentist know if you're experiencing any pain or other symptoms so they can adequately address your concerns.