Explaining the Dental Exam

The initial dental exam is of utmost importance, as this is technically the beginning of your dental journey with the dentist you have chosen. At my practice, a comprehensive exam will be performed at the initial dental visit. I personally like to take my time and truly understand what my patient needs. I like to ascertain what the patient’s individual expectations are and set a clear path of our goals in their oral healthcare. Generally, a thorough initial exam should include the following:

• Examination of diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): This is essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
• Oral cancer screening: We check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer. At my office, we also offer Vizilite, a light which detects oral cancer of soft tissue and other malformations which cannot be seen by the naked eye.
• Gum disease evaluation: We check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease. If there is any bleeding upon probing, or visible inflammation, we will conduct a thorough periodontal charting to document each single tooth’s condition.
• Examination of tooth decay: We check all tooth surfaces for decay.
• Examination of existing restorations: We check current fillings, crowns, etc.

Professional Dental Cleanings

Professional dental cleanings (dental prophylaxis) are usually performed by Registered Dental Hygienists. Depending on the individual patient’s needs, hygiene visits will include the following:

• Removal of calculus (tartar): Calculus is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line, and can only be removed with an ultrasonic scaler and other hand instruments.
• Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease! Plaque is also removed by using an ultrasonic scaler and other hand instruments.
• Teeth polishing: A flavored dental cleaning polish adds the final touch by removing stains and plaque that are not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and the prior steps of the cleaning.

Bio: Dev Randhawa is a medschool student who is practicing to become a pediatric doctor. He blogs online for fun and inspiration.