Everything You Need to Know About a Dental Exam

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Why do you need a dental exam?

Since almost all dental problems are preventable and best treated if caught early, it is crucial to see a dentist every six months for routine dental check-ups. Regular dental visits allow a dentist to take a look at your mouth and inspect your teeth and gums for any signs of disease. They ensure that not even the slightest of anomalies go unnoticed.

A regular dental check-up may be more beneficial to you than you might think. In addition to screening for oral health problems like cavities, infections, and oral cancer, it is an effective tool to detect certain systemic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and diabetes that can show initial signs and symptoms in the mouth. It makes it easier to intervene earlier and treat the condition effectively while still in its early stages. Timely detection and treatment invariably are key to a good treatment prognosis.

What is a dental exam?

A dental exam consists of a basic check-up of your gums and teeth by a dentist or a dental hygienist. Your oral cavity is examined for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, bone loss, oral cancer, or other oral health issues. Your dentist may inquire about any underlying health conditions and medications and discuss how they may affect your oral health. If you have diabetes, for instance, you may be at increased risk for gum disease. Some medications, such as those that can cause dry mouth, may make your teeth more prone to decay.

If your dentist or physician observes any indication of disease, they will then refer you to a doctor for proper treatment. These exams also give your dentist and hygienist the chance to educate you on the best ways to care for your oral health. They may include changes in dietary habits, tobacco use, brushing and flossing techniques, and other lifestyle changes that may affect oral health.

Some anomalies may not be visible to the naked eye and only be apparent in a dental x-ray. Your dentist may thus choose to take an x-ray to be confident before making a diagnosis. Dental x-rays are routinely taken as part of a dental exam.

Here’s a list of many of the things your dentist or hygienist will check in a dental exam:

  • Your overall health
  • Your oral hygiene
  • Your risk of tooth or root decay
  • Your susceptibility to develop gum or bone disease

In addition to these, your dentist or hygienist will:

  • Remove any stains or deposits on your teeth
  • Probe around your gums and check for pockets to check for signs of gum disease, like gum recession, etc.
  • Perform an oral cancer exam
  • Check your normal bite and assess for jaw problems
  • Give a demonstration on how to clean your teeth or dentures properly
  • If there is a need, they may take dental x-rays or do other diagnostic procedures.

Doctors Heller, Beckman, Thousand, and Hyer are equipped with the skills required to detect disease at the earliest possible and begin treatment promptly. Call at (303)-755-4500 (Aurora) or (303)-795-5700 (Littleton) to schedule an appointment and let us take care of the rest!

How long does a dental exam take?

These exams usually take 20-40 minutes to perform, but the time may vary depending on your oral health condition. For children, these exams tend to be shorter.

After careful evaluation of your oral health condition, your dentists Drs. Heller, Beckman, Thousand, or Hyer will discuss all the problems and their possible preventive measures with you in detail. Common problems include tooth decay, gum problems like recession, and bone loss. If treatment is needed to address any of these concerns, a follow-up consultation visit is scheduled to discuss various treatment options with the patient.

Depending on your risk for tooth or gum disease, your dentist or hygienist will recommend how often a dental visit is required and when to return for a follow-up visit. People at high risk of tooth or gum disease need to be recalled frequently for follow-up visits more often than people at low or moderate risk levels.

Why is a regular dental check-up so important?

Early cavity detection:  As they say, prevention is always better than cure. Leave it to your dentist or hygienist to save you the trouble, pain, and money for extensive treatments by detecting dental issues before they can advance to grave extents. Nearly all oral diseases cause no pain until quite advanced. It means that even if you have no pain in your mouth or notable symptoms, it is still important to see your dentist so they can rule out any signs of infection, oral cancer, or other oral health problems.  Late diagnosis can mean huge treatment costs, painful and lengthy procedures, and sometimes a poor prognosis even after treatment.

X-ray evaluation: A dental x-ray helps the dentist diagnose problems not visible during a dental exam by allowing them to see detailed images of specific sections of your mouth. It gives the dentist the chance to look at the complete picture by providing the opportunity to examine underneath your gum tissue, inside and between your teeth, and even the roots of teeth.

You may be wondering if there is a risk associated with exposure to x-rays. Let me assure you that the radiation exposure from dental x-rays is minimal and harmless. If you’re still concerned, you can always talk to your dentist.

Oral cancer screening:   During a routine dental exam, your dentist or hygienist will first visually inspect your face, neck, and oral cavity for any asymmetries, bumps, color changes, or swellings.   They will then palpate the area on the sides of your neck, under your jaw, and the insides of your lips and cheeks, and feel for any lumps or swellings. They will also inspect the sides of your tongue and the roof and floor of your mouth for any signs of disease.

This simple screening allows for early detection of any problems so further investigations can begin as soon as possible and thus make the treatment more likely to be successful.

Detection of disease elsewhere in the body: In addition to being an indicator for oral disease, symptoms in the mouth can also indicate disease elsewhere in the body, such as leukemia and diabetes. For example, if someone has swollen gums and eroded teeth, it could be due to reflux. So dental exams can help identify early signs of disease even before you begin to notice symptoms.

Professional cleaning of teeth: Dental check-ups also provide the opportunity to get your teeth professionally cleaned every few months. If you’re wondering why that’s important, let me explain why. It’s practically impossible to clean efficiently between your teeth and in some areas of the mouth with a toothbrush. Those areas are prone to accumulating food debris and bacteria. Consequently, your gums begin to detach from your teeth and form pockets. If left untreated, these pockets become infected and cause infection, leading to bone loss.

The importance of a dental exam cannot be emphasized enough. It is the first step to your journey towards healthy teeth and a beautiful smile. Next time you want to ditch your regular dental appointment, think twice!

Doctors Heller, Beckman, Thousand, and Hyer look forward to assisting you. Visit https://www.periodontalhealth.com/ or call (303)-755-4500 (Aurora) or (303)-795-5700 (Littleton) to book your appointment today!