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Oral Exam 101

While most people equate their semi-annual trips to the dentist’s office with teeth cleaning, that’s only one part of the visit. During your time at the dentist, you’ll receive a complete oral exam to check the entire mouth for potential issues. Let’s dig deeper into what exactly happens during the oral exam and what it can tell you about the health of your mouth.

Medical History
The first part of the oral exam occurs before you even head back to the dentist’s chair. Pre-appointment paperwork will ask you about any medical conditions you may have, medications you are taking, and any dental issues you may be experiencing. Knowing this information ahead of time allows the dentist to keep an eye out for certain problems. For example, the dentist will pay particular attention to the gums in diabetic patients, as they are more prone to gum disease. If a medication needs to be prescribed, the dentist can make sure that it doesn’t conflict with other medications you may be taking.

Initial Exam
Once you head back to the treatment area, the dentist or dental hygienist will begin the exam with an overview of the teeth. He or she will check the gums for recession, make note of any plaque build-up, and look for signs of cavities. This is also an opportunity for the patient to share any concerns they might have about their teeth.

Dentists use x-rays to get a look at what’s going on inside of the teeth. This can help them identify problems that may not be able to be seen with the naked eye and plan treatments (such as braces or invisible aligners). Insurance typically covers the cost of x-rays, although how often x-rays can be taken varies from plan to plan.

Teeth Cleaning
If there are no immediate issues, the dentist or dental hygienist will proceed with cleaning the teeth, gums, and mouth. First plaque and tartar build-up are removed, then a gritty toothpaste is used to clean the teeth. Next the dentist flosses the teeth and applies a fluoride treatment. This thorough cleaning helps to prepare the mouth for the more in-depth dental exam.

Final Exam
Once the teeth are clean, the dentist performs a more in-depth examination of the mouth. Special attention is paid to fillings, bridges, and other dental work, as well as the gums, enamel, and alignment of the teeth. The dentist will inspect the tongue, soft tissue, and the throat for any signs of oral cancer.

You should visit the dentist every six months for an oral exam, as identifying issues early can help prevent problems in the future. To schedule an appointment with Vacendak Dentistry, call us at (757) 609-3510 or request an appointment online.