Paying a regular visit to your dentist may be part of good oral hygiene, but do you actually know what goes on during a dental exam? In this article, we share a few tips on what to expect during your routine dental exam.
The regular exam. It’s important that you get a regular oral exam at least once a year. In fact, depending on your overall oral health, you may need to get checked even more often.
Before the actual exam, a dental assistant or technician should study your medical records to see if anything needs to be updated. At this stage, you should let him know if you’re on new medication or if you’ve been diagnosed with new medical conditions.
Once the exam begins, your dentist should start to visually examine your entire mouth, including your teeth and gums. Using a tool known as the explorer, he will check each and every tooth and other areas of concern. In particular, he will keep an eye out for signs of tooth decay, stains, gum recession, as well as filling and crown issues.
Dental x-rays. If your dentist wants to get a closer look at your mouth, he will probably request dental x-rays. These images should help your dentist evaluate the presence of tooth decay, bone loss, impacted teeth, severe gum disease, and other issues.
Oral cancer screenings. Nowadays, most dentists automatically conduct a basic oral cancer screenings during every visit. This screening may come in many forms, including a visual examination for lesions, discolorations, and lumps. If the area of concern requires further inspection, your dentist may also request a second opinion from a specialist or oral surgeon. In this event, the surgeon may even need to conduct a biopsy for more conclusive results.
Several factors need to be considered when determining a patient’s likelihood for contracting oral cancer. Moreover, if a patient suffers from an increased risk of contracting oral cancer, specialized exams like oral cancer screenings will still be required to confirm the fact. Nevertheless, most experts agree that the following factors will have a significant impact on a patient’s propensity for the disease:
- Habitual use of tobacco in any shape and form, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco
- Habitual alcohol consumption
- Prior history of cancer
Other methods of diagnosis. Aside from the methods discussed above, professionals also make use of a various other diagnostic techniques, such as:
- Visual exams
- Dentist-patient discussions
- Intra-oral pictures