Dentistry aims at helping people achieve beautiful smiles and maintain optimal oral health. Dental exams and check-ups are essential since they help dental professionals evaluate the patient's mouth condition and treat any diseases or infections that may adversely impact their oral health.
If you have not been to the dentist for a dental exam or check-up, you should schedule an appointment as soon as possible. At The Whittier Dentist, we conduct thorough dental check-ups and exams for patients of all ages seeking these services. Our primary focus is to improve the smiles and health of our patients. Our services are quick, comfortable, and affordable, thanks to advanced dental technology. Call us now to schedule an appointment, and our dental professionals will attend to you right away.
What Does a Dental Exam Mean?
A dental examination, also known as an oral exam or dental check-up, refers to a check-up of your gums and teeth. Most adults and children should go for a dental check-up or exam twice a year. These check-ups are essential for oral health protection. Oral health-related problems may become painful and severe if not addressed soon enough.
Usually, dental examinations are conducted by a dental hygienist and a dentist. A dentist refers to a doctor who takes care of gums and teeth. On the other hand, a dental hygienist refers to a healthcare professional trained specifically to clean patients’ teeth and assist them in maintaining appropriate oral/dental health habits. Even though a dentist can treat both children and adults, children usually see pediatric dentists. A pediatric dentist is a dentist who has received further training to specialize in child dental care.
Why You Need a Dental Exam
These are some of the reasons why it is essential to go for a dental check-up:
Dental Exams Prevent Tartar, Plaque, Tooth Decay, and Cavities
Even a meticulous individual can fail to brush the difficult-to-reach areas of their mouth, for instance, the rear-end molars, which are notably difficult to clean. This is why everyone should visit a dental professional twice a year.
The professional will examine your teeth, looking for early tooth decay signs. If they find small white spots or cavities on your teeth, they can start you on fluoride treatment to eliminate the tooth decay and treat bigger cavities using dental fillings.
Afterward, the dental professional will conduct a professional teeth cleaning process to eliminate tartar or plaque from the gums and teeth. This protects the gums and teeth from attack by disease-causing bacteria that harbor in the tartar or plaque.
Dentists Use Regular Check-Ups to Examine for Oral Cancer
Apart from examining the gums and teeth, a dental professional looks for oral cancer signs when conducting a dental examination. This is good since if oral cancer remains undetected, it could develop into a life-threatening health condition.
Your dentist will use a unique light to find dead tissue resulting from tumors. The examination is known as a VELscope cancer exam, which is painless and takes just one or two minutes.
With this examination, you have a reduced chance of having late-stage oral cancer if you schedule a dental appointment twice a year.
Regular Visits to the Dentist Keep Away Gum Disease
In most cases, the initial stages of gum disease do not have symptoms, making it challenging for an individual to detect this disease. Fortunately, dentists have undergone training to detect gum disease even when hidden.
During a regular check-up, your dentist will ensure your gums are healthy and firm as they should. They will examine you to see if you have deep gum pockets and receding, swelling gums. They will start treating the underlying cause if they find these worrying signs. Often, early-stage gum disease disappears when you improve your routine oral habits, and your dentist will guide you on how to care for your gums.
If you have gingivitis (bleeding, swollen gums) or any other gum-related disease, your dental professional may need to check you more frequently. Some grown-ups with gingivitis may visit a dental professional thrice a year. Often, exams may assist in preventing a severe gum disease called periodontitis, which can cause tooth loss and infection.
Regular Check-Ups Can Reveal Systematic Health Problems
The other part of a dental check-up is the neck and head exam. The dentist checks the jaws, neck, and lymph nodes for swelling, deformities, lumps, and other signs of illness. If they find a problem, they will refer you to the right medical professional.
This is one of the reasons you should be excited about your dental check-up. You will have your thyroid checked for the low price of a dental check-up.
Note that your child should have their initial visit to the dentist within six months of growing their first milk tooth or before their first birthday. After this first visit, they should undergo a dental exam two times a year or as per their dentist’s recommendation. Additionally, your young one may have to undergo frequent dental exams if the pediatric dentist finds an issue with the development of their teeth or any other dental health problem.
Preparing for Your Dental Exam
If you have a given medical condition, including recent surgery, immune system disorders, or heart problems, you might have to take antibiotics before the exam.
If you are unsure whether you have to take antibiotics, consult with your dental professional or healthcare provider.
Additionally, some people usually feel anxious about visiting a dental professional. If you feel this way, you might have to speak with your dentist in advance. They may help you feel comfortable and more relaxed during the dental exam.
Before Your Dental Exam
Before your dentist conducts a dental exam, they must know essential information about your dental/oral health, especially if it is your first visit. This is so they can detect problems or changes more easily in future visits. However, before reviewing your oral/dental health, the professional will need to learn more about your overall health. Areas they will discuss are:
Current oral health— do not hesitate to inform your dental professional if you suspect you have sensitive teeth, developed a new tooth cavity, feel any bumps or lumps, or have other oral health concerns. By telling your dentist any signs you may have, you may help them make a diagnosis early enough.
Current medicines/medical history— your dental professional will need to know whether you have any health condition or suffer from any disease. It is essential to inform them about all your health problems, not only those related to your oral cavity. Many illnesses, for instance, diabetes, can elevate the likelihood of developing gum disease or might require the administration of different anesthesia and a different treatment or prevention approach.
Also, inform the dentist about all the medications you are presently on, plus the dosages. Some medications can lead to dry mouth, elevating the risk of cavity development. Other critical reasons why your dentist should know your medications are so they do not prescribe a drug that may interact with the ones you are currently on and to alter the kind of anesthesia administered if need be.
Dental fears— you should tell your dental professional whether you have fears about undergoing a dental exam or check-up or seeing a dentist. Dental treatment options have undergone a drastic change in the past years, so have options to manage pain. Your dental professional will discuss the various ways of easing fears, minimizing pain, and making you feel comfortable.
What to Expect During Your Dental Check-Up
A standard dental exam appointment includes various oral healthcare exercises, including a check-up of your oral cavity by your dentist, x-rays during given visits, and teeth cleaning by a dental hygienist.
Dental professionals that will attend to you— as we mentioned, two dental healthcare professionals— a dental hygienist and a dentist— will likely attend you. The dental hygienist will perform an initial gum exam (a hygienist is not permitted to diagnose gum or tooth problems, but they usually document them). A hygienist documents any change in your general health and medication use, cleans and polishes your teeth, tells you about taking care of your gums and teeth, and answers your questions concerning home care dental products. The dentist also examines your teeth and gums, asks about the changes in your general health or medication use, assesses the hygienist's cleaning, looks for any oral cancer signs or symptoms of any other illness, diagnoses oral health conditions, and makes appropriate treatment recommendations.
Professional dental cleaning— even though home-based flossing and brushing help eliminate plaque, only professional dental cleaning can clean teeth thoroughly and remove tartar. Most dental hygienists use various metal hand equipment to do the cleaning. Some use ultrasonic scalers that achieve deep cleaning below and above the gumline. The typical teeth procedure is as follows:
- The hygienist will require you to sit on a big chair, and an overhead, bright light will be shining over you. The dental hygienist will conduct the teeth cleaning exercise using small, metallic dental tools. They will first scrape the teeth to eliminate tartar and plaque. Plaque refers to a sticky coating containing bacteria that covers the tooth surface. If plaque accumulates on the tooth surface, it will turn into tartar. Tartar is a hard calcified deposit that forms on teeth and can be trapped beneath them.
- The dental hygienist then flosses your teeth.
- They will then brush their teeth with a unique electric toothbrush
- They might then smear a fluoride foam or gel on the teeth. Fluoride refers to a mineral that averts tooth decay, which can cause cavities. Usually, children undergo fluoride treatments more often compared to grownups.
- The dentist or hygienist may then give you various tips on how you should take care of your teeth. These tips include giving you the proper flossing and brushing techniques.
Polishing— after teeth cleaning, the hygienist polishes them to remove stains and plaque on their surface. The polish contains fluoride and an abrasive element, and the hygienist applies it using a small rotating rubber cup or a brush affixed to the dental handpiece.
Check-up of the mouth— during the check-up by a dentist, they will:
- Examine your x-ray images (if you have had an x-ray) for tooth cavities or any other problem
- Check your gums and teeth to see whether or not they are in good health
- Examine your bite (how your lower and upper teeth come together). The dentist may recommend seeing an orthodontist if you have a bite issue.
- Examine you for oral cancer. They will feel beneath your jaw and check the inside parts of your lips, the floor and roof of your mouth, and the second sides of your tongue.
Apart from the checks we mentioned above, a pediatric dentist might check your young one's teeth to see whether they are developing as they should.
Dental x-rays— dental x-rays refer to pictures that can indicate whether you have gum disease, cavities, bone loss, or other issues that the dentist cannot see by merely looking in the oral cavity. During a dental x-ray:
- Your hygienist or dentist will put a thick wrap on your chest, known as a lead apron. The dentist/hygienist may further cover your neck to safeguard your thyroid glands. These wrappings protect your entire body from radiation.
- They will then need you to bite down on a small plastic piece
- Then, they will put a scanner outside your mouth and take pictures while standing behind a protective shield.
- For certain x-ray types, the dental professional will require you to repeat this procedure, biting down on different places in your mouth as they will direct you.
We have different dental x-ray types. A bitewing x-ray might be done frequently to check whether you have cavities or other tooth problems. Another type known as a full-mouth series might be performed once every few years to assess your general oral health.
As implied earlier, your dentist might or might not take a dental x-ray during your check-up. The dentist considers your dental history, oral exam, and risk of developing tooth cavities to determine how frequently you need dental x-rays
Prevention— your dentist or hygienist may offer further instructions to follow at home, depending on the dental exam results. Do not hesitate to ask the hygienist or dentist for instructions concerning flossing or brushing or overall care questions concerning your gums and teeth.
Treatment suggestions— if your dentist finds oral health issues during your exam, they will recommend the ideal steps you should take. These steps may include referring you to a different oral healthcare professional, further diagnostic tests, or suggestions to schedule another appointment for dental restoration work (crowns, fillings, and more) or further oral healthcare.
Comprehensive Dental Examination
A comprehensive dental exam goes beyond an ordinary dental examination. This exam checks for gum health and tooth decay and examines your entire neck, mouth, and head area. Generally, you will undergo a comprehensive dental exam if it is your first time visiting a new dentist. However, it should also be conducted periodically by the dentist you have seen for years. A comprehensive exam is likely to include the following evaluations:
Clinical teeth examination— your dentist looks for tooth decay signs on every tooth's surface. The dentist is likely to probe the teeth using an explorer's dental equipment to check for cavities (decayed enamel feels softer when probed than healthy enamel). The dentist also checks for any issues with crowns, dentures, bridges, braces, fillings, or other restoration.
Occlusion— your dentist checks how perfectly your lower and upper teeth come together. The dentist may simply observe how your teeth meet or require you to hit into wax if a more careful examination of your bite is necessary.
Gum tissue— the dentist will examine your gums plus the supporting teeth structures for any indications of gum disease, including puffy or red gum tissues and tissues that easily bleed when probed gently. Your dentist might refer you to a dental gum professional (periodontist) if you have gum disease.
Soft tissue— your mouth's soft tissues include the inside of your cheeks and lips, the tongue, and the roof and floor of your mouth. The dentist examines these areas for any growths, swellings, cuts, lesions, or spots. These may indicate you have an oral health problem. The dentist will also inspect the tonsil area and back of your throat.
Neck and head— when examining the neck and head, the dental professional looks to see whether there are issues on your neck and head and feels for any tenderness or swelling in your salivary glands and lymph nodes in the neck area, which are symptoms of a disease or infection. The dentist also examines your temporomandibular joint to ensure it is working correctly.
X-rays— the dentist will hire a certified professional to conduct x-rays that will help check for tooth decay signs, gum disease, and other oral health issues.
Dental Exam Risks
There are minimal risks to undergoing a dental examination. The cleaning might be uncomfortable. However, it is usually not painful.
For many people, dental x-rays are safe. The radiation dose in x-rays is usually lower. However, pregnant women are advised not to undergo dental x-rays unless it is an emergency. Ensure you inform your dental professional if you are pregnant or suspect you might be pregnant.
What the Dental Exam Results Mean
Dental exam results might include these conditions (either one or several):
- Gingivitis or any other gum-related problems
- A cavity
- Tooth development issues or bone loss
If results indicate that you have a cavity, the dentist may need you to schedule another appointment for treatment. Ask the dentist if you have any questions concerning how cavity treatment is done.
And if the results show you have developed gingivitis or any other gum problem, your dentist might recommend:
- That you schedule an appointment with a professional specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease (periodontist)
- Using a medicated mouth rinse
- More frequent dental exams and dental cleanings
- Enhancing your flossing and brushing habits
If the dentist finds tooth development issues or bone loss, they may recommend additional tests and dental treatments.
More About Dental Exams
To maintain the healthiness of your mouth, you will have to care for your gums and teeth properly by practicing appropriate dental habits and having routine dental check-ups. Good oral/dental care entails the following:
- Brushing your teeth for two minutes, two times a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush
- Using fluoride-containing toothpaste. Fluoride assists in preventing cavities and tooth decay.
- Flossing once every day. Flossing eliminates plaque, which damages gums and teeth
- Replacing your brush every four or three months
- Practicing healthy eating, limiting or avoiding sugary and sweet drinks or foods. If you drink or eat sweets, ensure you brush soon after.
- Avoiding smoking. Smokers develop more oral/dental problems compared to nonsmokers.
The Difference Between a Dental Check-Up and Dental Treatment
Dental check-ups are routine dental visits consisting of cleaning and examination. Dental treatments are specialized dental visits to address issues with teeth removal, root canals, deep teeth cleanings, fillings, and more. Usually, dental treatment is scheduled on an as-required basis, whereas a dental check-up follows a routine schedule. Planning routine dental check-ups can prevent the need for dental treatments.
Find a Professional Dental Clinic or Dentist Near Me
If you undergo regular dental check-ups, your teeth and gums will more likely be strong and healthy, meaning they may serve you for your entire lifetime. On the other hand, not undergoing a dental check-up can place you at risk for various health problems. At The Whittier Dentist, we encourage you to spare an hour of your day and go for a dental check-up/exam as it will benefit your health and future quality of life. If you are looking to obtain these services in Whittier, CA, we are readily available to help. All you have to do is contact us at 562-632-1223 to set up an appointment, and our friendly professionals will be happy to help you.