The dental exam is critical to your ongoing oral health and only your dentist can perform this. The dental exam can catch problems early before you see or feel them when they are much easier and less expensive to treat. The dentist looks in your mouth for things that can affect your oral and your overall health. Many of these are things you can’t see on your own, but a dentist is trained to detect. Here is some of what your dentist is looking for during a dental exam:
- Damaged, missing or decayed teeth
- Early signs of cavities
- Condition of your gums, such as periodontal pockets, inflammation or other signs of gum disease
- Previous dental work such as root canals, fillings and crowns are holding up
- Early signs of mouth or throat cancer, such as white lesions or blocked salivary glands
- Other suspicious growths or cysts
- Position of your teeth
- Signs that you clench or grind your teeth
- Signs of bleeding or inflammation on your tongue and on the roof or floor of your mouth
- Overall health and function of your temporo-mandibular joint (which joins the jaw to skull), checking for signs of disorders that can cause pain or tenderness
- General condition of the bones in your face, jaw and around your mouth
Plaque is a naturally occurring substance that exists on the surfaces of the teeth. The bacteria will make the plaque adhere to the teeth and the food particles will cause it to harden and form tartar. Once formed, plaque and tartar irritate the gums causing them to become inflamed, irritated, and infected with gingivitis.
Regular brushing and flossing can remove plaque from which tartar forms. However, once formed, it is too hard and firmly attached to be removed with a toothbrush or floss. A professional tooth cleaning, known as prophylaxis, is a procedure for the removal of tartar and is a preventative treatment of disease. Professional cleaning includes tooth scaling and tooth polishing. This involves the use of various instruments or devices to loosen and remove deposits from the teeth.