Regular dental exams are an important part of preventive health care.
During a dental exam, the dentist or hygienist will clean your teeth and check for cavities and gum disease. The dentist or hygienist will also evaluate your risk of developing other oral health problems, as well as check your face, neck and mouth for abnormalities. 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 can affect oral health and possible cosmetic improvements to your teeth.
Why it’s done
Regular dental exams help protect your oral health and general well-being. A dental exam gives your dentist a chance to provide tips on caring for your teeth and to detect any problems early — when they’re 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’s important to consult your dentist for regular dental exams to maintain your oral health and the usefulness of your replacement teeth.
How you prepare
If you’re scheduling your first adult dental exam or you’re looking for a new dentist, ask friends, loved ones, neighbors, co-workers or your doctor for a recommendation. Consider whether the dentist has a convenient location and whether he or she participates in your health plan. Before you’re treated, make sure you understand the fees and payment options.
If you’re anxious about having a dental exam, share your concerns with your dentist or hygienist. He or she might be able to adjust your treatment to help you feel more comfortable.
What you can expect
During a dental exam, the dentist or hygienist will:
Evaluate your overall health and oral hygiene
Evaluate your risk of tooth decay, root decay, and gum or bone disease
Evaluate 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 dental X-rays or, if necessary, do other diagnostic procedures
During a dental exam, your dentist or hygienist will also ask about any health problems you have or medications you’re taking and discuss how they might affect your oral health. If you have diabetes, for example, you’re at increased risk of gum disease. Any medication that contributes to dry mouth can increase your risk of tooth decay. If arthritis interferes with your ability to effectively brush your teeth, your dentist or hygienist might show you how to insert the handle of your toothbrush into a rubber ball for easier use — or 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.
Dental exams might also include counseling about diet, use of tobacco products and other lifestyle factors that can affect oral health.