Like some patients, you may wonder why an oral examination is necessary when you visit the dentist. You may also wonder what the dentist is looking for or what an exam entails. Your dentist performs a dental exam to gather information about your oral health. The extent of the exam you receive depends on a number of factors:
- whether you are a new or returning patient
- the length of time since your last dental visit
- whether you are returning to have a specific dental condition checked
The dentist checks your teeth for signs of decay which can occur at any stage of life and can appear on many surfaces of a tooth. Decay frequently occurs around the edges or margins of fillings. Your dentist will determine if fillings or crowns have weakened or fractured over time. Tooth roots that have become exposed due to gum recession are also susceptible to decay. Detecting tooth decay early can save time, money and your teeth!
Oral health is integrally connected with your general health. Regular check-ups are important because some diseases or medical conditions have signs that can appear in the mouth. Diabetes, nutritional and vitamin deficiencies and hormonal irregularities are some examples. Recent research suggests that there may be a link between periodontal (gum) disease and other health problems including cardiovascular problems, heart disease and stroke.
Periodontal disease affects three out of four adults at some time in their lives. It doesn’t necessarily hurt and you may not even be aware that you have it until an advanced stage. Tell your dentist if you have noticed any changes in the appearance or feel of the soft tissues of your mouth or the way your teeth fit together when you bite. Regular dental visits are essential for detecting periodontal disease at any early stage, when it can often be reversed, before the gums and the supporting bone are irreversibly damaged.
Be sure to let your dentist know if you have any illnesses or medical conditions and if your health status has changed since your last visit. Tell your dentist what medications you are taking (both prescription and over-the-counter products); if you’ve had any problems with medications; or if you have any drug allergies or dependencies. This is important because there may be interactions between the medications you are taking and the medications that your dentist may need to administer or prescribe.
By scheduling regular dental visits and talking with your dentist, you can help keep you mouth healthy throughout your life.