What Exactly Is Your Dentist Looking For?
Routine dental visits aid in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of tooth decay, oral soft tissue disease, and periodontal diseases. A complete dental exam should include the following.
A soft tissue examination. The purpose of the soft tissue examination is to spot precancerous and cancerous changes in the oral tissues. If detected at an early stage, oral cancer can be successfully treated. A thorough soft tissue examination should include a visual inspection and finger exploration of the tongue, floor of the mouth, palate, salivary glands, insides of the cheek, and back of the throat. The tongue should be moved to allow for the inspection of its sides and base. The face, head, and neck should also be examined, and any enlarged lymph nodes identified.
A screening and examination for periodontal (gum) diseases. Using a periodontal probe, your dentist or hygienist will measure the band of gum tissue that surrounds the tooth. Gum disease is easiest to treat when detected during the early stages.
A detailed charting of cavities, existing restorations (fillings and crowns), and other tooth conditions. Every tooth surface is inspected for new decay and the status of existing restorations. Dental radiographs (X-rays) may be part of your routine dental visit and will assist the dentist in locating disease that cannot be seen by the eye, such as cavities between the teeth or bone loss beneath the gums.
Although annual (or more frequent) dental examinations are often recommended, there is little scientific evidence that this frequency is necessary for the maintenance of oral health in healthy children or adults. How often you visit the dentist should be based on your individual need.