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Dental exams are crucial for maintaining optimal oral hygiene and health. A dental exam is performed by a professional dentist or dental hygienist. We offer dental exams at Jefferson Call, DMD as part of our dental services. Much is involved in regular dental exams and not just inspecting the mouth.
Frequency for Dental Exams
Both adults and children should have dental exams at least once every six months but more frequently is better if you are prone to dental issues, for instance gum disease or cavities. Parents should take their infants for dental exams within six months of getting their first teeth or when they are a year old, whichever comes first depending on the dentist’s advice.
Dental exams are a great preventive measure that will prevent serious dental diseases from developing. It will also ensure you stay on top of your dental care routine to achieve optimal oral health.
The first thing a dentist or dental hygienist will do when you have a dental exam is to perform a visual inspection of your oral cavity. The dental specialist will shine a bright light to carefully examine your entire mouth including your teeth, tongue, gums, jawbone, and more.
The visual inspection is the cursory test to determine whether any further tests are necessary. A dentist can conclude much from a visual inspection but not everything. Therefore, if the dentist sees wounds, swelling, bleeding, or other signs of an underlying issue, further tests will be conducted.
Oral Cancer Screenings
Another critical aspect of a dental exam is an oral cancer screening. Oral cancer is becoming more prevalent, hence the importance of checking for cancer during a dental exam. Oral cancer can be treated successfully if discovered during the early stages. Most other medical professionals will likely not test for oral cancer which is why dental exams are so vital.
Oral cancer can affect the mouth and the throat so the dentist or dental hygienist will open your mouth and carefully inspect it for signs like ulcers, sores, or lesions which are indicative of cancer. Inexplicable bleeding and swollen or blocked salivary glands are also potential signs of oral cancer.
Your oral cavity is an unusually vital indicator of diabetes; a dental exam will include a diabetes screening. Bad breath, or halitosis, is the first sign the dentist or dental hygienist will look for as it can indicate diabetes. It will be a foul odor that is quite different from bad breath due to poor oral hygiene. Diabetic ketoacidosis, which happens because of insufficient insulin, causes breath to have a weird, sweet, fruity odor.
Gum disorders are another sign that you may have diabetes. People with diabetes are susceptible to gum diseases and infections because they have reduced immunity and cannot prevent bacterial infections in gums like people that do not have diabetes. Loss of jawbone thickness is another indicator of diabetes to check for during dental exams.
Whether the dentist or dental hygienist finds symptoms of a more severe underlying issue or not, they will take x-rays during dental exams. X-rays allow them to examine your oral cavity more conclusively and find issues that the visual inspection will miss. There may be signs below teeth and gums that the naked eye cannot see but are serious.
Many people worry about radiation from x-rays but dental x-rays are safer than ever. Digital x-rays produce up to 90 percent less radiation than traditional film x-ray equipment. The dentist will also place a lead apron or heavy protective sheet on your chest to protect it from radiation. It will also cover your throat to protect your thyroid glands.
X-rays are crucial for determining oral health issues like jawbone and tooth root issues as well as gum disorders. The earlier the above issues are discovered, the better and easier to treat them.
Your bite is essential to cutting food and chewing which are in turn vital to digestion. Therefore, a bite inspection is an important part of a dental exam. A bite inspection will also reveal how your jaw and teeth align as well as if corrective action is necessary. Misalignment of teeth can lead to severe dental health issues. X-rays are crucial for testing bite issues as they are hard to establish. The dentist or dental hygienist can use the x-rays to make an impression of your mouth for a more conclusive inspection.
Professional Cleaning and Polishing
Dental cleanings are a vital element of dental exams. A dental hygienist or dentist will perform a thorough professional cleaning which will largely include scraping plaque and tartar from your mouth and gums.
Due to food and drink, bacteria accumulate in the mouth despite consistent brushing and flossing. The bacteria accumulation is called plaque and forms a film on teeth and gums. With time, it becomes a solid deposit called tartar which can have severe repercussions if it spreads.
The dentist will use small metal tools to scrape the plaque and tartar from your mouth. He or she will then floss your teeth to remove any substance from between your teeth. They will then brush your teeth using an electric brush.
The final stage of the cleaning involves polishing your teeth using a spinning polisher. Because of its abrasive head, it will give you a shiny and attractive finish. The polish also makes it difficult for plaque to accumulate on teeth and gums.
Oral Health Education
A dentist or dental hygienist can only do so much. The majority of the oral hygiene responsibility falls on you. Therefore, a dental exam includes education on how to improve your oral health. If there are any issues detected from the dental exam, the dentist will provide recommendations on the next step to take. In urgent cases, the dentist might perform a dental procedure after the exam.
A dental exam goes a long way in ensuring your oral hygiene so ensure you get one at least every six months. Dental cleanings during dental exams are extremely comprehensive.
Contact Jefferson Call, DMD to find out more about dental exams. Reach us at (971) 708-1608 to book a dental exam appointment.