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Understanding the Dental Exam

Part of your routine dental care, along with having your teeth cleaned by the dental hygienist, includes having a complete dental exam performed by your dentist. It is important to be checked regularly by your dentist (at least every 06 months or whatever is recommended based on the health of your mouth).
The Periodic Oral Exam
At each dental visit, the dental assistant or hygienist will review your medical history to see if there are any changes that need to be updated. It is important to let the technician know if you are on any new medications or if you were diagnosed with any medical conditions since your last dental visit.
Once you've discussed any medical changes you may have, the dentist will perform a visual exam of your mouth, which includes your teeth and surrounding soft tissue. He/she will check each individual tooth with an instrument called the explorer. This instrument helps the dentist detect any areas of concern on each tooth. The dentist checks for decay, stain, areas around the gum line (to check for gum recession), and the margins around any existing fillings or crowns.
Use of Dental X-rays
In order to help find problems in the mouth, your dentist may request to have dental x-rays taken. These pictures of your mouth and teeth will help your dentist diagnose any potential or existing conditions that require attention.
Diagnosing Problems
Your dentist uses a variety of methods to help diagnose any problems you may have. This may include:
• A visual oral exam
• Dental x-rays
• Intra-oral pictures
• Oral cancer screenings
• Discussions with you about any changes you have noticed since your last visit
Discussing Concerns With Your Dentist
One way to help your dentist uncover any potential issues with your dental health is to discuss any concerns you may have or problems you have experienced since your last dental visit. Believe it or not, your symptoms alone can help the dentist tremendously in diagnosing a dental condition. Just remember, there is no concern too small to discuss.
Cancer Screening Exam
Dentists conduct an oral cancer screening exam. This may include a simple visual exam of the soft tissue to check for any apparent lesions, lumps, discolorations or other areas of concerns. An oral exam alone cannot conclude whether any area is cancerous or not. If your dentist finds an unusual spot that he/she wishes to investigate further, they may refer you to an oral surgeon for a second opinion or obtain a biopsy of the area to send off to a lab for further review.

Source: dentistry.about.com
Revised by: Dr. Arthur LaBelle
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