The American Dental Association (ADA) suggest that you visit your dentist every six months for an exam and cleaning. It’s always helpful to know what it going to happen during a dental visit. Understanding what to expect from a dental exam can also significantly reduce anxiety.
Meeting with the Dental Hygienist
Your dental hygienist will take x-rays so that the dentist has a clear picture of your teeth and bone levels. X-rays help the dentist identify problem areas between your teeth that are not visible to the naked eye. If it is your first visit you will have a complete set of x-rays taken. During subsequent visits you will only need x-rays taken of suspicious areas.
Cleaning and Polishing
The hygienist will check your gums for signs of gum disease. Then he or she will remove plaque and tartar from your teeth by doing a thorough cleaning. If you have significant calculus on your teeth then you may require a deeper cleaning called root planing and scaling to prevent gum disease. After your teeth are cleaned the hygienist will polish your teeth.
During the cleaning process the hygienist will go over proper brushing and flossing techniques and alert you to areas of your mouth that need special attention. This is a good time to ask any questions you may have about how to best take care of your teeth.
Meeting with the Dentist
The dentist will review your x-rays and then do a complete exam. During the exam your dentist will be looking for:
The dentist will also check for signs of gum disease, taking into account what the dental hygienist found during your cleaning.
The dentist will probe your mouth, looking for visible signs of tooth decay and signs of future problems.
Dental Restoration Issues
Your dental restorations will be checked for cracks or damage that signal the need for replacement.
Oral Cancer Signs
An oral cancer screening includes checking the soft tissues of the mouth such as your tongue and cheeks for abnormalities. If necessary a biopsy will be scheduled.
The dentist will look for misalignment of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and ask whether you have had any discomfort in the area.
Once your dentist has completed the exam, he or she will make treatment recommendations and help you explore your options. Depending on the issue, you may be referred to a specialist. If everything looks good then your dentist will have you return in 6 months for your next cleaning. In the meantime it is up to you to take care of your teeth by brushing and flossing regularly.
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