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Dental Exam

More than just a “checkup”

As you sit in the dentist’s chair looking up at the posters on the ceiling, do you ever wonder what the dentist is doing? Do you actually know what are they looking for? It turns out most of us do not.

The dental examination begins with the collection of your complete medical history. Understanding your medical history can provide the dentist with vital information on any health condition you may have which can ultimately impact the success of any dental treatments.

Radiographs (x-rays) are also taken and studied so that the dentist can see things not seen by the naked eye. Having the visual of the inside of your teeth, the condition of your roots and areas between your teeth, help the dentist determine bone loss, root health and the indication of any cysts or growths than may affect your overall oral health.

Next a full visual scan of the teeth is done, comparing what is seen with what appears on the x-rays. The dentist checks not only the teeth and gums, but also other soft tissues. Knowing the condition of the gums and seeing any signs of as periodontal disease, provides information on the overall health of the supporting structure (gums) that can lead to loosening of the teeth and potential bone and/or tooth loss.

The exam continues by checking other areas such as the tongue, roof of the mouth (palate) and floor of the mouth for any visible signs of inflammation or bleeding. Looking for signs of white lesions or oral cancer and/or suspicious growths or blocked salivary glands, are an essential part of this dental exam. Your dentist will also check the general condition of the bones in the face, jaws and around the mouth. In doing so, the dentist has a clear picture of the overall function of your temporomandibular joint (joint that joins your jaw to the skull) and other areas such as the overall health of your sinus cavity.

Dentists will also examine your neck area, feeling the glands and lymph nodes for possible signs of inflammation which could be an indicator of other general health conditions. The glands in the neck area are prominent gateways to the rest of your general overall health.

The dentist is also looking for many other things such as, cavities, damaged or missing teeth, restorations in the mouth such as root canals or crowns and the positioning of the teeth.

Dentists have the opportunity explain what they are doing during the examination and provide you with a summary of their findings when they are finished. If the examination reveals a problem that requires treatment, there should be a two-way discussion on the options available. If your dentist identifies a problem that is complex or requires specialized treatment; the dentist may refer you to a dental specialist. Patients, as an active part of your oral health team, are encouraged to ask questions.

Your Dental Exam Checklist

Here are some important things your dentist is checking during an exam:

  • Medical history outlining any health conditions that may affect future dental treatment
  • X-rays: details snap shot of the inside of your teeth and overall root health
  • Gum condition: for signs of infection
  • Early signs or oral cancer or other suspicious growths or cysts
  • The overall health and function of your temporomandibular joint (joint that joins your jaw to the skull)
  • Condition of current restorations: root canals and crowns
  • Position of the teeth: spacing and your bite
  • The presence of damaged, missing or decayed teeth
  • Proper growth and development in children
  • General condition of the bones in the face, jaw and around the mouth 

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