When should I visit the dentist?
For most people, the recommended frequency for dental check-ups is twice a year and generally this frequency works well. But for some people with gum disease, any genetic predisposition for cavities, and people with weakened immune system, may need to visit the dentist more frequently. Illness and stress may also cause changes in the mouth and may develop infection and will require more frequent visits to the dentist.
The dental exam will enable the dentist to check for problems that you may not be aware of and may not feel. Also dentist would be able to identify early signs of decay. You may not feel anything wrong in your mouth during the early stages of tooth decay. By detecting and taking appropriate actions early, oral health could be managed more effectively.
What should I do before and during the visit?
If you are visiting the dentist first time, be prepared to share information on your current medical health and any current medications taken. Your dentist will need to know and familiarize with your general health and your current state of oral health. This will help the dentist to make proper recommendations during the visit and identify changes during any future visits.
Your dentist will need to know if you have been diagnosed with any diseases. Some disease like diabetes will enhance the chances of periodontal disease and others may warrant the use of specific anesthetic depending on your current health and medications taken. Be sure to take list of all medications you are taking now with the dosage. If required take all the medications with you to properly identify your current medications.
Do not hesitate to let your dentist know of any potential oral health issues you may have like any lumps or swelling or pain or discomfort or any other concerns. This will enable dentist to do more focused exam and may help identify any issues early.
Also let your dentist know if you are afraid of dental visits, fear of pain during any dental treatments. With appropriate pain management, dentist will be able to reduce your anxiety and fear about dental treatment and answer any concerns you may have before starting any dental treatment.
What happens during a typical dental exam?
If you are visiting the dentist first time or after prolonged time period, dentist will do a comprehensive exam. A Comprehensive exam will include taking all necessary intraoral X-rays, a panoramic X-ray, check current state of gum and soft tissues, bone level, document any current medical condition and /or changes in you medical health, level of gum disease by measuring pocket depths in your gum, identify existing decays, any early signs of decays etc.
Your dentist will do an oral exam for signs of infection and oral cancer, answer any concerns or questions you may have. A comprehensive exam by the dentist will include soft tissue exam (like your tongue, lips, cheek, upper and lower floors in your mouth, tonsil area) for any swelling, spots or lesions or cuts, gum tissue and supporting structure for your teeth, how your upper and lower teeth meet together and bite ( Occlusion ), clinical exam of your teeth for decays both visual and by looking at the X-rays taken.
The dentist will also recommend the appropriate treatment required based on the exam results and observations.
Appropriate cleaning and polishing, oral health instructions on how to brush and floss and preventive measures to keep your oral health in good shape may also be completed during the initial visit.
If any oral health problems are identified during your examination, your dentist will make recommendations for the best next steps. These might include referral to another oral health care specialist, additional diagnostic tests, or advice to return for restoration work or additional oral health care.