Regular dental exams and professional cleaning are one of the most effective ways to protect your teeth and maintain your oral health. Routinely brushing and flossing your teeth at home is essential to keep them in good condition, but professional oral examinations can highlight potential issues before they arise, thus avoiding the need for more invasive treatment further down the line.
Why Are Oral Exams Important?
When you visit us for an oral exam, your dentist will assess your teeth in a variety of ways. When you have a professional oral examination, there are numerous issues your dentist will take into account, such as:
- Tooth Decay
- Diagnostic Testing
- Maintaining Existing Restorations
- Gum Disease
- Oral Cancers
- Cosmetic Procedures
As well as examining the surface of each tooth for any signs of damage or decay, your dentist may order x-rays or other diagnostic tests. These allow your dentist to determine whether there is any decay present which isn’t visible on the outside of the tooth. In addition to this, x-rays and diagnostic tests can show whether cysts or tumors are present and whether you’re experiencing any bone loss.
In addition to assessing the condition of your natural teeth, your dentist will check any existing restorations when you have your oral exam. If you have any fillings, crowns or implants, for example, your dentist will check that they are being well-maintained and that no additional work is needed.
Occlusion is concerned with your bite and any problems it may be causing you. An improper or misaligned bite can lead to a number of health problems and is a leading cause of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). By analyzing your bite, your dentist can determine if there are any issues which may be the root cause of other health problems you’re experiencing and provide advice or treatment.
Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss in the US, and over half of Americans are estimated to experience some level of gum recession. During your routine dental exam, your dentist will examine your gums, as well as your teeth, and identify whether gum disease is present. If gingival disease has already been diagnosed, your dentist will assess whether the condition has worsened or improved since your last visit.
In addition to this, your oral exam includes a screening for oral cancers. Often, patients with oral cancers are unaware of the presence of growths or tumors until they visit the dentist. As these can be difficult to see or feel, it’s vital your dentist is able to screen you for oral cancers on a routine basis.
As well as checking your oral health, your dentist will take any cosmetic concerns into account during your oral exam as well. Many patients are keen to find out what cosmetic treatments are available to them and which treatments are most suitable. If you want to whiten your teeth, realign them with braces or replace damaged teeth with implants, the suitability and efficacy of these treatments can be discussed at your routine dental exam.
How Often Should I Have An Oral Exam?
Patients are usually advised to have a professional oral exam at least once every six to twelve months. This ensures your dentist can monitor any changes to your teeth and gums, as well as identifying any issues as quickly as possible.
Early intervention is key to resolving dental issues with minimal treatment. In some cases, early signs of decay can even be reversed, rather than treated. By having a regular oral exam, you can avoid the need for further treatment and certainly minimize the amount of treatment needed in the future.
Although it may be tempting to put off seeing your dentist until you’re in pain or experiencing discomfort, this can be counter-productive in the long-run. Whilst we always try and see patients with dental emergencies on the same day, if you’re experiencing pain it’s likely that a tooth has already been damaged in some way.
A decayed tooth may lead to an abscess, for example, which can be painful and usually requires antibiotics. In addition to this, restorative work will typically need to be carried out so that the decay is removed and the tooth repaired. With regular dental exams, however, this decay could have identified and treated when it first became apparent, thus minimizing the risk of further complications and more comprehensive restorative treatment.
Furthermore, without routine oral exams, your dentist will be unable to carry out regular oral cancer and gum disease screenings. If left untreated, these conditions can worsen over time so it’s essential you have regular screenings to rule them out.
Understandably, patients can be a feel nervous when visiting the dentist and this can sometimes lead to them postponing oral exams. However, routine oral exams are the best way to avoid the need for more invasive treatments, so it’s always advisable to attend routine dental examinations.
Should Children Have A Professional Oral Exam?
Absolutely. Oral health is important at any age and establishing an effective oral hygiene routine at a young age will help your child to maintain their teeth and gums in later life. Babies should usually have their first dental appointment by the age of two years old, although parents are encouraged to bring their children to dental appointments even earlier than this.
By taking your child for regular oral exams, you can help them to become familiar with the dentist and lose any fear or apprehension they may have.
Furthermore, routine oral exams throughout childhood can help to identify any potential issues which may occur in later life. Children are usually advised to have their first orthodontic exam by the age of seven years, for example, as this can determine whether the placement of their adult teeth will need adjustment.
Booking Your Oral Exam
For all patients, routine dental exams are the most efficient way of identifying oral health issues and resolving them. As well as assessing your teeth and gums during your exam, your dentist will provide advice and guidance regarding your at-home oral hygiene routine. With both regular at-home care and routine oral exams, you can keep your teeth and gums in great condition, and minimize the need for any further dental treatment in the future.