Dental Examination: What to Expect

A dental exam begins with a medical history intake, during which a dental hygienist will ask you for information that will help your dentist determine the best treatment plan for you, and also what precautions your dentist should take during your treatment. This information can include:

  • Allergies
  • Smoking and alcohol use
  • Medications, vitamins and holistic medicine/treatments you’re taking
  • Past surgeries or hospitalizations
  • Current medical conditions
  • Experience with anesthesia
  • Previous adverse reactions to anesthesia
  • Family members’ reactions to anesthesia

Next, the dental hygienist will begin the physical examination of your mouth, teeth and gums. He or she will check all the surfaces of your teeth, using special dental tools to probe for cavities and inspect the strength and quality of your existing fillings. Your hygienist will also look for calculus deposits (tartar formed from hardened dental plaque.) If necessary, you may have x-rays of your teeth taken, which will allow your dentist to see problems the exam alone can’t discover.

Your hygienist will conduct periodontal probing, which is the insertion of a calibrated probe between each tooth and the adjacent gums. This allows your hygienist to calculate how closely your gums adhere to your teeth, test the strength of the supporting bone structure of each tooth, and measure each tooth’s circumference. Based on these results, your hygienist and dentist can assess whether or not you have periodontal disease or bone loss, and begin treatment accordingly.

Finally, your hygienist will clean your teeth. He or she will use scraping tools to remove plaque, calculus and staining from the surfaces of your teeth. The hygienist also cleans between your teeth and below the gum line. Next, he or she will polish your teeth, using an abrasive polishing compound to smooth the surface of your teeth and make it harder for plaque to accumulate on it. Your hygienist may also give you a fluoride rinse to swish in your mouth.

Your visit will conclude with a chat with your dentist about any problems or concerns he or she has regarding your oral health, the best treatment plan for you, and a referral to a specialist if needed. You should plan to see your dentist for another oral exam in six months, or possibly sooner if you are at risk for periodontal disease.

Source: Dental Articles

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