The dental examination explores not just your current tooth condition, but your entire oral cavity. A complete dental examination includes your:
- Teeth, gums, cheeks, tongue, and palate
- Head and neck, TMJ, skin, glands, lips
- Bite and smile
Regular dental exams are critical to the prevention of tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental disorders that can lead to serious oral problems. Once tooth decay or gum disease begins, it will continue to spread to other areas in the mouth. Quite often, a person won’t even realize that he or she has a problem until a painful symptom is present.
Prevention of many common dental disorders is easy as long as you have a good oral regimen and visit your dentist every six months for professional cleanings and evaluations.
If you are a first-time patient or haven’t been to the dentist in a while, here is what you can expect when you visit the dentist for an examination.
Medical and dental history
Before your dental exam begins the dentist will need to know your medical and dental history. This is usually accomplished by filling out a questionnaire. Once the dentist is familiar with any special conditions or allergic reactions that may affect your exam, he can then proceed.
Using special instruments, the dentist will look for any evidence of tooth decay. The dentist will also check for any abnormalities in your bite (the way the teeth come together when your mouth is fully closed). An irregular bite can lead to uneven or excessive wear on the affected teeth and may lead to other dental problems in the future.
The dentist will examine the condition of the gums to make sure they aren’t inflamed or soft. The tool used for this is called a “periodontal probe.” This probe measures the depth of the sulcus (the area where the gum and tooth meet). Large pockets in the sulcus are signs of early gum disease.
Other tissues inside the mouth
The dentist will look for any irregularities on the tongue, cheeks, and lips. Many times, a dentist is the first to diagnose certain types of oral cancer. Many types of oral cancer that are caught in the early stages can be treated and eventually eradicated.
X-rays help the dentist observe any abnormalities in the mouth that cannot be seen with the naked eye. The dentist is able to see the extent of any tooth decay or minute fractures in the teeth.