Dental Exams & Cleanings
As children, most of us are taught that we need to visit the dentist twice a year to ensure that our teeth, gums, and mouths remain healthy and to prevent decay and other oral health problems.
Unfortunately, many adults forget this lesson and neglect making regular visits to the dental office. In too many cases, this leads to tooth loss and other serious (and often costly) dental repairs.
What Happens During a Dental Exam?
During a dental examination, your dentist will check not only your teeth, but also the health of your entire mouth. The following procedures can be combined as part of a thorough dental examination:
Your dentist or hygienist will use a small mirror and a pick to inspect every tooth. The mirror helps your examiner be sure that the teeth are inspected from every angle, while the pick may be used to test the strength of your enamel, detect cavities, or to seek out fillings that may need to be replaced.
It is a little-known fact that most American adults suffer from some degree of periodontal (gum) disease. When caught in their earliest stages, most forms of gum disease are easily treatable, but when gum disease is allowed to progress, it may lead to tooth loss or even bone loss.
Your dentist will gently examine for gum discoloration, swelling, and "pockets," areas where the gums pull away from the teeth because of bacteria.
Oral cancer screening
The American Dental Association reports that only about one-half of patients diagnosed with oral cancer survive for more than five years. Oral cancer may appear as a white or red spot in the mouth, and may be very difficult to detect with the naked eye.
Some dentists employ the ViziLite® or VELscope® Cancer Screening system to detect cancer in its earliest stages, and if you feel you may be especially susceptible to this ailment, it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a dentist who features such cutting-edge technology.
Head and neck examination
Your dentist may palpate the glands in your neck, including the salivary glands found beneath your chin and jaw, to detect any abnormalities. Inspection of the skull where the jaw bones meet is also a part of this examination, as it may help your dentist diagnose TMJ disorder or other occlusal (bite) problems you may not be aware of.