You know the routine. You are expected to see your dentist every six months for routine exams. You see the dentist, make the followup appointment, and show up to the next exam like clockwork. But, do you know why you need these appointments?
As a family dentist, Aten & Garofalo offers routine dental exams in Ballantyne to protect our patients’ oral and overall health. Here, we will explain the different types of dental exams, what to expect, and their importance.
What are the different types of dental exams?
If you attend regularly scheduled dentist appointments out of routine or expectation, you may not realize there are various types of oral exams. Each has a different purpose and expectation. Dental exams may be comprehensive, routine, or limited.
When you see a new dentist for the first time, your initial appointment is usually more involved. Additionally, if there has been a lapse or or significant change in your dental care, a comprehensive exam is needed. Your dental team needs to get a feel for your oral health and medical history.
During a comprehensive oral exam, your dental team may perform a visual and digital exam. This may involve x-rays or an examination to assess the following:
- Tooth decay or cavities
- Restorations to determine their condition
- Gum or bone recession
- Wear and tear on the teeth
- Lymph nodes
- Signs of oral cancer
- Quality of the soft tissues of the lips, cheeks, gums, and tongue
A comprehensive examination is an important part of preventive oral health maintenance.
General or recall exams
Regular dental exams or recall exams are generally scheduled every six months. These are your regularly scheduled appointments to monitor your oral health. At this time, the teeth are professionally cleaned using special tools. X-rays may be taken once per year or as allowed by your insurance.
Recall exams help your dentist assess your needs and track potential issues such as gum disease and tooth decay. The precise schedule helps catch and treat problems early to keep them from spreading and causing significant damage. Patients who are prone to dental health problems may be asked to schedule their appointments more frequently to stay ahead of decay and disease.
A limited oral exam differs from the two above in that this is a targeted appointment. Patients who are experiencing pain or new problems schedule a limited exam. This appointment is designed to assess a particular problem. This may include:
What is a general dental examination?
A general dental examination is part of routine oral care for patients of all ages, children to seniors. This is the routine or recall exam that is scheduled every six months. The appointment involves a professional teeth cleaning, x-rays, an oral assessment, and possibly a fluoride application.
Routine teeth cleanings are performed at your general examinations. Your dental hygienist uses special instruments to remove plaque and tartar buildup on the enamel of your teeth. Patients with more advanced needs may require a deep teeth cleaning, or scaling and root planing. This is performed to remove bacteria and plaque above and below the gum line.
X-rays or radiographs allow a dentist to see inside the teeth and gums. They give the dental team a better understanding of your overall oral health. X-rays show the roots, jaw bone, and facial bones giving an accurate picture of a patient’s needs. They allow dentists to see problems that are not visible to the naked eye.
Your dentist does not just assess your teeth. He/she also checks the gums, bones, and soft tissues. Your bite and chewing surfaces are examined. An oral cancer screening may also be done to check for signs of lesions or changes in your mouth.
If problems are found, followup treatments or procedures may be recommended to nip problems in the bud and protect your oral cavity.
Fluoride is a mineral that helps rebuild tooth enamel and reverse early signs of decay. During routine exams, fluoride may be brushed or applied to the teeth as an added protection. While fluoride is generally applied to children’s teeth, it can also be used for adults. Fluoride applications are recommended for patients who are at high risk for tooth decay.
How often should dental exams be done?
As mentioned above, dental exams are scheduled every six months unless otherwise recommended by a dentist. According to the ADA, patients who are prone to dental disease may require more frequent appointments, while those without issues may need to be seen less often. For example, patients with gum disease may need appointments every three months to stay ahead of bacteria which may spread into pockets in the gums.
Dental visits are a necessary part of oral health care. They are part of the preventive maintenance to keep your mouth healthy. The examinations and cleanings help ward off potential problems. Aside from cleaning and polishing the teeth, your dental professional checks for underlying issues or areas of concern.
Get routine dental care in Ballantyne, NC
At Aten & Garofalo, we believe in preventing dental problems and protecting our patients’ oral health. Our routine dental checkups and cleanings are opportunities to clean, assess, and schedule treatments, if needed. These appointments, combined with patients’ at-home oral hygiene habits, help patients stay ahead of dental problems. This keeps damage from spreading through the oral cavity.