When you have good oral health you speak clearly, taste, chew and swallow delicious food and you express your feelings with a smile. You enjoy life more. To have good oral health you need to have good oral hygiene which includes brushing and flossing your teeth. While it is important to take care of your teeth and gums, you also need regular professional dental care.
Regular dental examinations help you protect yourself from tooth decay, loss, and gum disease. A comprehensive dental exam will include a series of evaluative procedures as well as a thorough dental cleaning – an essential part of preventive health care.
If you are a new patient, before your examination, your dentist will take a full medical and dental history, including any illnesses, tooth loss, previous dental procedures, head or dental trauma, and medications you are taking. All of this may affect your dental health. If you are an existing patient, you should let your dentist know if you have any updates to your medical history. All of this is important because chronic illnesses may affect your dental health and increase your risk of tooth decay.
During your examination, your dentist will determine your dental health by examining you for any of the following:
- Root decay
- Gum or bone disease
- Bite or jaw issues
- Mouth or neck abnormalities
- The fit of your bridge or dentures
- Tooth grinding
- Oral cancer
During your dental cleaning, the dentist or hygienist will remove tartar and plaque from the surface of your teeth. After this procedure, your teeth will be carefully polished. This cleaning is more thorough than what you do at home and your dentist or hygienist may discuss ways of improving your at-home oral hygiene regimen.
Depending on your appointment, you may also have X-rays taken so that your dentist can evaluate your dental condition. The X-rays will indicate if there have been any changes to your bone density and also show if there are cavities. X-rays are not necessary at every visit, especially if you have routine check-ups.
Oral Cancer Screening
As part of your dental examination, your dentist will screen you for oral cancer. If there are any abnormal lesions, lumps, or changes to the texture of your mouth they may be the first signs of malignancy.
What your dentist will look for when screening you for signs of oral cancer may include:
- Red or white patches in your mouth
- Sores that are not healing or may be bleeding
- A thickening of skin or mucosa
- Any swelling under your jaw or on your neck
Your screening also includes a close examination of your tongue, lips, inner cheeks, upper and lower palates, as well as your outer cheeks, jaw, and neck.
Maintaining Good Oral Health
After your dental exam, your dentist or hygienist will talk to you about the status of your oral health. This typically includes tooth decay, preventing gum disease, other oral health problems you may have and measures you can take to improve your oral health.
The frequency of your dental exams will be determined after your exam. Usually you will see your dentist every six months but, if you are at risk for tooth decay, gum disease, or another oral health condition, it might be recommended that you have more frequent checkups.