Regular dental checkups are an essential part of a good oral hygiene routine and should be done on a regular basis. If this is your first dental checkup, you may have some apprehension and want to better understand what you should expect when you go through the door of a dental office. Here we offer a window into your dental checkup in the hopes of easing any concerns you may have.
While each dental checkup may be different based on your oral health and what needs to be evaluated, we will walk you through each step and what to expect.
- Regular dental checkups are crucial for maintaining oral health and preventing dental problems, involving a comprehensive examination of your teeth, gums, and oral cavity.
- Components of a dental checkup may include reviewing your dental and medical history, oral examination, X-rays, teeth cleaning, gum health assessment, bite evaluation, and oral cancer screening.
- To prepare for a dental checkup, review your history, list of concerns, practice good oral hygiene, and bring insurance and identification information.
- The initial assessment gathers information about your oral health, while professional cleaning removes plaque and tartar. Oral cancer screening detects early signs of oral cancer.
What is a dental exam?
A dental exam is a comprehensive evaluation of a person’s oral health conducted by a dentist or dental professional. It typically involves a series of procedures and assessments aimed at assessing the condition of the teeth, gums, and overall oral cavity.
Why would I need a dental checkup?
Regular dental checkups are essential for maintaining oral health, preventing dental problems, and identifying any concerns that may require further treatment. It is recommended to have regular dental exams every six months, although the frequency may vary based on individual needs and oral health status.
What is included in a dental checkup?
While every dental checkup may be slightly different, these components are likely to be included at one checkup or another.
- Review of dental and medical history: The dental team will inquire about your previous dental treatments, any current oral health concerns, and your overall medical history. This information helps them understand your specific needs and potential risk factors.
- Comprehensive oral examination: The dentist will perform a thorough examination of your teeth, gums, and oral structures. They will visually inspect the mouth, looking for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, oral infections, and abnormalities such as oral lesions or signs of oral cancer.
- Dental X-rays: X-rays may be taken to get a closer look at the teeth and underlying structures. These X-rays help identify any hidden dental issues, such as cavities between teeth, impacted teeth, or bone loss.
- Professional teeth cleaning: A dental hygienist will conduct a professional cleaning, which involves removing plaque, tartar (hardened plaque), and surface stains from the teeth. They will use special tools to scrape off these deposits and then polish the teeth for a smoother, cleaner surface.
- Assessment of gum health: The dentist or hygienist will evaluate the health of your gums by measuring the depth of gum pockets around each tooth. This helps detect any signs of gum disease or inflammation.
- Bite and jaw joint evaluation: The dentist will check your bite alignment and examine the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) to ensure it is functioning properly and identify any issues like TMJ disorders or teeth grinding.
- Oral cancer screening: The dentist may perform an oral cancer screening, checking for any signs or symptoms of oral cancer. This typically involves examining the oral tissues, tongue, and throat for abnormalities.
- Oral hygiene instructions: The dental team will provide guidance on proper oral hygiene practices, including brushing and flossing techniques tailored to your specific needs. They may also recommend additional oral care products or techniques for maintaining good oral health.
- Treatment recommendations: Based on the examination findings, the dentist will discuss any necessary treatments or procedures required to address dental issues or maintain oral health. This may include recommendations for fillings, crowns, orthodontics, or other dental treatments.
Preparing for a dental checkup
To prepare for a dental checkup and make the most out of your visit, here are some helpful tips:
- Review your dental and medical history: Take a moment to gather any relevant dental records and review your medical history, including any medications you are taking. This will help you provide accurate information to the dental team.
- Make a list of concerns or questions: If you have any specific concerns or questions about your oral health, write them down before the appointment. This will ensure that you don’t forget to address them during your visit.
- Practice good oral hygiene: Maintain a regular oral hygiene routine leading up to your dental checkup. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. This helps keep your teeth and gums healthy and reduces the buildup of plaque.
- Be prepared to discuss your oral hygiene habits: Be ready to share information about your current oral hygiene practices, such as the type of toothbrush and toothpaste you use, as well as your flossing technique. This will allow the dental team to provide tailored advice and recommendations.
- Note any changes or symptoms: Pay attention to any changes or symptoms you may have experienced since your last visit. For example, if you have noticed increased tooth sensitivity, bleeding gums, or persistent bad breath, make a note of it so you can discuss it with the dentist.
- Bring insurance and identification information: If you have dental insurance, make sure to bring your insurance card or information with you. Additionally, have your identification documents ready for verification purposes.
Arrive early and relaxed: Aim to arrive a few minutes early for your appointment to complete any necessary paperwork. Try to relax before the visit, as anxiety or stress can make the experience more challenging. Listening to calming music or practicing deep breathing exercises may help.
- Bring a list of medications: If you are taking any medications, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements, make a list to share with your dentist. Some medications can affect your oral health or interact with dental treatments.
During an initial assessment, several important steps are typically taken to gather information about your oral health. This will include your dental and medical history, baseline X-rays, and a thorough visual examination that can also include a periodontal assessment, oral cancer screenings, and a bite evaluation. If, during this initial assessment, the dentist finds any potential concerns, they will often recommend treatment options.
Some dental checkups will include a professional dental cleaning. During the cleaning, the dental professional uses specialized tools to carefully scrape off plaque and tartar that have accumulated on the teeth and along the gumline. They may also use a vibrating device called an ultrasonic scaler to break up stubborn deposits. Afterward, the teeth are polished using a gritty paste to remove surface stains and create a smooth, clean surface.
Oral cancer screening
An oral cancer screening is a preventive examination performed by a dentist or oral health professional to detect any signs or symptoms of oral cancer at an early stage. During the screening, the dentist examines the oral cavity, including the lips, gums, tongue, cheeks, roof and floor of the mouth, and throat. They look for any abnormalities, such as red or white patches, sores, lumps, or rough areas that may indicate the presence of oral cancer or pre-cancerous conditions. In some cases, additional diagnostic tests or imaging techniques may be used to further evaluate suspicious areas.
After your checkup is complete, the dentist will discuss their findings with you. They will explain any dental issues or concerns they have identified and recommend appropriate treatments or procedures to address them during follow-up appointments. This may include fillings, cleanings, periodontal therapy, orthodontic treatment, or referrals to specialists if necessary.
The importance of regular dental checkups
Regular dental checkups are of utmost importance for maintaining good oral health and overall well-being. These checkups allow dentists to detect and address dental issues in their early stages, preventing them from worsening and causing more significant problems. Regular checkups help in the early detection of tooth decay, gum disease, oral infections, and oral cancer and should be a regular part of your overall oral hygiene routine.
Helping you promote a healthy smile
At New Leaf Rohnert Park, our goal is to help you maintain and beautiful, healthy smile and this begins with a quality oral hygiene routine that includes regular dental checkups. If it has been a while since you have seen a dentist, our team is here to provide a comfortable dental checkup experience and get you on the right track to better oral health. Call (707) 586-1549 today to schedule your initial dental checkup and let us join your oral healthcare team.