Exams & X-Rays at Our Pendleton Dental Office
Having an exam done every so often is just as important as maintaining a healthy mouth with a strict oral cleaning regimen. Brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash or water unfortunately does not get rid of some of the stubborn bacteria, plaque, and tartar in the hard-to-reach areas. That is why a dentist needs to examine your teeth about every six months to ensure that no problems are occurring. Remember, the main job of a dentist is not to fix whatever problems people have with their teeth and gums, while it is a large part of it, the most important job is to ‘prevent’ problems from happening in the first place. That has why exams are not just for looking for existing problems, but also about gathering data about your teeth, what their status is over time, your hygienic habits, and other problems that may be occurring that could be prevented. Having these exams done saves people billions of dollars every year on expensive dental bills because the problems were prevented. For more serious problems like gum disease, periodontitis, and even oral cancer, having exams twice a year gives the dental professionals a way to catch the problems early, so a treatment can be administered at the earliest stage upon detection, and the patient has a much better chance of medicine and other treatments working rather than catching the problems later on.
How a Dental Exam is Performed
Every dental office is going to perform exams slightly different than other dentists you may have been to. Do not worry, their methods may be slightly different, but the goals stay the same, and they are looking for the same things, maybe just not in the same order.
When your exam begins, your dentist will likely have a dialogue with you about any problems you have been experiencing, like sensitivity, or known problems like chipped or missing teeth. This is your time to ask any and all questions you may have about your oral health and any problems and concerns you may have going forward. You can also ask them about cosmetic procedures and other services they may offer. Once they complete their exam, the dentist will then finish the conversation with you once they know exactly what is going on in your mouth and will prioritize work based on necessity. For example: if you have cavities or missing teeth, getting your teeth whitened or having veneers put on some of your teeth are not going to be done before the cavities and missing teeth are taken care of with fillings and possibly bridges.
Once you and your dentist are on the same page, they will dive into the world of your mouth and begin exploring with their dental tools to determine the status of each and every tooth and the gums surrounding them. They will poke and prod a bit, but it is virtually painless, and you can always let your dentist know that you are sensitive, so they need to take it easy on you. You will hear your dentist saying odd words and phrases while they go from tooth to tooth. Do not worry, it is just dentist language. Each tooth has a specific name based on what quadrant the tooth resides on the lower or upper jaw. They call out the tooth name, along with some numbers and letters to let their dental assistant know what the status of the tooth is. The dental assistant then charts the picture of all the teeth in your file.
What the Dentist Looks for
Your dentist will be vigilant in looking for anything out of the ordinary, including
· Cracked or chipped teeth
· Thin enamel
· Missing teeth
· Browned or blackened teeth
· Enamel strength
· Loose teeth
· Tooth structure
· How the teeth are sorted in the mouth
· Swelling and redness
· Gum disease and periodontitis
· White pockets
· Plaque and tartar
· Previous dental work
Your dentist will look for many things, but they will mainly focus on what you have to tell them about your previous dental work, how your mouth feels at the time, and what they can see. It is also not uncommon for dentists to go ahead and set aside a few minutes to look around the rest of your mouth for telltale signs of oral cancer, especially if you complain about regular symptoms of oral cancer. The dentist will then check your face, lips, tongue, gums, neck, and your lips to try and find any swelling, bleeding, growth pockets, or any other sign of problems.
An exam may also consist of having new x-rays done if the dentist feels that it is necessary to update them or if you are a new patient of theirs.