Dental Exam

1 What is a Dental Exam?

Regular dental exams are an important aspect of preventive health care. During a dental exam, the dentist or hygienist will clean your teeth and check for cavities and gum disease.

He or she will also make an evaluation of your risk of developing other oral health problems, as well as check your face, neck and mouth for any abnormality.


A dental exam might also include dental X-rays (radiographs) or other diagnostic procedures.

During a dental exam, the dentist or hygienist will likely discuss your diet and oral hygiene habits and might demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques.

Other topics for discussion might include lifestyle factors that affect oral health and possible cosmetic improvements to your teeth.

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2 Reasons for Procedure

Here are the most common reasons to undergo dental exams.

Regular dental exams can be very helpful in the maintenance of a good oral health and general well-being.

A dental exam gives your dentist an opportunity to provide helpful tips on caring for your teeth and to detect any problems early when they are most treatable.

When to have a dental exam. The American Dental Association recommends that adults schedule regular dental exams at intervals determined by a dentist.

Even if you no longer have your natural teeth, it is important to first consult your dentist for regular dental exams to maintain your oral health and the usefulness of your replacement teeth.

3 Preparing for your Procedure

If you are preparing for your first adult dental exam or you are looking for a new dentist, you can ask friends, loved ones, neighbors, co-workers or your doctor for a recommendation.

You must make a consideration whether the dentist has a convenient location and whether he or she participates in your health plan.

Make sure you understand the fees and payment options before you can receive treatment.

If you have anxiety about having a dental exam, be sure to share your concerns with your dentist or hygienist.

He or she might be able to make adjustments to your treatment to help you feel more comfortable.

4 What to Expect

Read on to learn more about what to expect before, during, and after your dental exam.

During a dental exam, the dentist or hygienist will do the following:

  • Make and evaluation of your overall health and oral hygiene.
  • Make an evaluation of your risk of tooth decay, root decay and gum or bone disease.
  • Make an evaluation of your need for tooth restoration or tooth replacement.
  • Check your bite and jaw for problems.
  • Remove any stains or deposits on your teeth.
  • Demonstrate proper cleaning techniques for your teeth or dentures.
  • Assess your need for fluoride.
  • Take X-rays or, if necessary, do other diagnostic procedures.

During a dental exam, your dentist or hygienist will likely ask you about any health problems you have or medications you are taking and discuss any impact they might be having on your oral health.

If you are diabetic for instance, your risk of gum disease is quite high. Any medication that might increase dry mouth can also increase your risk of tooth decay.

If arthritis interferes with your capability of effectively brushing your teeth, our dentist or hygienist might show you how to insert the handle of your toothbrush into a rubber ball for easier use, or he or she might recommend a powered or electric toothbrush.

If you have prosthetic replacements, such as dentures or bridges, your dentist or hygienist will examine how well they fit and discuss the need for adjustments.

Another part of dental exams might be counseling about diet, use of tobacco products and other lifestyle factors that can affect oral health.

Dental X-rays. A dental X-ray will permit the dentist to see detailed images of your mouth.

Several types of dental X-ray are available, including:

Bitewing. This type of X-ray makes it possible for the dentist to see the crowns of the upper and lower teeth. During bitewing X-ray, you will bite down on the X-ray film holder while the X-ray images are being taken.

Periapical. In this type of X-ray, the dentist is able to see the entire tooth and the surrounding bone.

Occlusal. In this type of X-ray, the dentist is able to see the way the upper teeth fit together when the jaw is not open.

Panoramic. This type of X-ray gives the dentist a broad view of the entire mouth.

Cone beam computerized tomography. A 3-D view is produced in this type of X-ray so that the dentist can better gauge the spacing of the teeth and adjacent structures.

X-rays are not a necessity at the ever visit. Radiation exposure from dental X-rays is low but talk to your dentist if you have concerns about the exposure to the radiation.

Oral cancer exam. Your dentist or hygienist will also look for signs of oral cancer during your dental exam. He or she will feel the area under your jaw, the sides of your neck and the insides of your lips and cheeks, as well examine the sides of your tongue and the roof and floor of your mouth.

Dental impression. In certain cases, the dentist might recommend making a dental impression of one or both jaws in order to create a replica of your teeth and oral tissue.

This can help your dentist or hygienist make an evaluation of your bite or make a mouth guard or bleaching trays.

The dentist or hygienist will proceed to fill horseshoe-shaped trays with a soft, gelatin-like material and place them over your upper or lower teeth.

After a few minutes, the trays are removed and used to create a dental cast of your mouth. The dentist might also have you bite down on a soft material to record and evaluate your bite.

5 Procedure Results

If you do not understand your dental exam results, consult with your doctor.

After your dental exam, your dentist or hygienist will discuss your oral health including your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and any other possible oral health problems, and preventive measure which when implemented, will improve and protect your oral hygiene.

The dentist or hygienist will also recommend the best time to return for a follow-up visit.

If you are at a high risk of tooth decay or gum disease or have other oral health problems, the dentist or hygienist might recommend more regular checkups.