In 2019, 64.9 percent of American adults reported paying their dentist a visit within the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On one hand, that means that more than half of Americans had a chance to enjoy the many advantages that a regular dental exam can bring. Unfortunately, that means that roughly 35 percent missed out. If you haven’t visited your dentist in a while, you may be curious about what happens during a dental exam.
What Happens During a Dental Exam?
People are typically advised to see their dentist twice a year for checkups. In a busy world, it’s easy to put off those appointments, especially if you aren’t fond of spending time in the dentist’s chair. However, knowing what happens during a dental exam and why it benefits your health and your wallet can make it easier to keep those appointments a priority.
What to Expect During a Dental Exam
Dental appointments can be unsettling. After all, it’s hard to communicate eloquently when you’re sprawled in a chair under bright lights with a dental professional prodding at your teeth or gums with unfamiliar tools. Remember that your dentist and dental hygienist want you to feel comfortable and informed. Most will invite you to ask questions at multiple points during the visit. Knowing what to expect may make it easier for you to think ahead about what you’d like to talk about. The Mayo Clinic reports that a dental exam will often include the following:
- Health History: If you’re a new patient, the dentist or hygienist will take a basic health history. Returning patients will be asked about recent events and any new medications.
- Assessment of Oral Health: The dentist will evaluate your overall oral health and the status of your oral hygiene. They’ll consider the state of your teeth and gums and your risk of decay or disease. They’ll also examine the interior of your mouth for signs of oral cancer.
- Bite Evaluation: The dentist will check your bite for any signs of wear or misalignment. They’ll look for indications of jaw trouble and signs that a tooth might need restoration or replacement. If you have existing restorations or prosthetics, they’ll check that everything is in good condition.
- X-rays: On some visits, your dentist will take X-rays. These images can reveal problems that may be invisible to the naked eye.
- Cleaning: Part of a dental exam involves cleaning away stains, plaque, tartar, and other buildup from the surface of the teeth.
- Fluoride Assessment: A mineral naturally found in teeth, fluoride strengthens your teeth by helping rebuild the enamel, the tooth’s tough outer layer. It’s often added to toothpastes, mouthwashes, and other oral care products. If your teeth need an extra boost, dentists can provide fluoride treatments.
- Discussion of Oral Hygiene Routines: Oral hygiene is a daily challenge that requires good techniques and the right tools. Your dentist may review proper techniques with you and discuss what tools are appropriate for your needs.
- Results: After examining your teeth and gums, your dentist will go over their findings and what they mean. This should include a discussion of how healthy your teeth and gums are, any potential problems on the horizon, and what options you have to prevent or treat them. You should also be clear on how effective your current oral hygiene routine is and what changes you might want to make to improve it.
Benefits of Regular Dental Exams
Why should you make it a point to visit your dentist for regular checkups? According to the American Dental Association, regular checkups are vital because they provide a chance to spot potential problems early. Catching dental dilemmas in their early stages matters because they’re generally easier and more affordable to treat at that point. Regular checkups also offer opportunities for preventative care and education that may stop potential issues before they have a chance to cause problems for your teeth. It’s worth noting that the protective benefits of regular dental exams aren’t limited to your oral health. Red flags for diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other systemic diseases can be seen in the mouth as well, so your dentist may give you a welcome warning regarding another health issue.
Has it been a little while since your last dental appointment? At Wilkinson Dental, we delight in making our patients smile. That’s why we strive to provide the personalized treatment that you deserve. Discover the Wilkinson Dental difference. Contact us today to schedule your dental exam.