Dentist showing model of teeth to patient

There are few things that you can do that are more beneficial for your overall health than to practice good dental hygiene. It is also important to recognize that this not only includes brushing and flossing at home but also regular visits for a dental exam and cleaning. 

For most people, it is recommended that they schedule dental exams and cleanings every six months. Of course, there are always exceptions. Some may find that their dentist feels once every nine or 12 months is appropriate, while others, especially those with a higher risk for gum disease, will usually need to make more frequent visits. 

What Is Included in a Dental Exam?

If it’s been a while since you had a dental exam, it may be helpful to understand just what goes on during one. While the exam and cleaning are technically separate, your dentist, dental assistant, and hygienist will all work together to make sure you receive the most thorough examination and cleaning possible. 

On your first visit with a new dentist, you will be asked a variety of questions about your health. These will include any dental-related issues you may be having, such as new cavities, sensitivity to hot and cold or pressure, bumps or lumps on your gums or any other concerns. There will also be general, non-dental-related health questions. Is it important for your dentist to know if have been diagnosed with any diseases and what medications you may be taking?

This will also be the time to discuss any fears or anxiety you may have about going to the dentist. Not only have dental techniques seen vast improvement, so have ways to further minimize pain and facilitate a comfortable, relaxed experience. 

More to a Dental Exam Than You May Realize

A comprehensive dental exam will cover more than you may expect. This is particularly true of your first visit, during which your dentist will not only be looking in your mouth but also examining your entire head and neck area. Some of the things included in this inspection are:

  • signs of tooth decay
  • red or puffy gum tissue or gums that easily bleed when gently probed, indicating signs of gum disease
  • problems with fillings, braces, bridges, dentures, crowns or other restorations
  • occlusion, which is how the upper and lower teeth come together
  • swelling or tenderness in the lymph nodes or salivary glands, indicating some sort of infection
  • examination of the temporomandibular joint to detect any signs of TMJ disorder
  • checking the tongue and soft tissue inside the mouth for any cuts, swelling, spots, lesions or growths
  • inspecting back of throat and tonsil area
  • thorough cancer screening to detect any issues before they advance

Also during your first visit, your dentist will want to take a complete set of x-rays to look for any underlying issues that may not be apparent during a visual exam. Future appointments may or may not include x-rays, depending or what your dentist sees during the exam, your dental history, and any issues you may report. 

Dental Cleaning

You may do everything right with your daily dental hygiene practices, but your teeth will never feel as clean as they do when you leave your dentist’s office after getting them cleaned! It’s just not possible to remove all of the plaque and tartar that inevitably builds up in hard-to-reach places between teeth and under gums. 

The good news is that your hygienist has the tools and knows just how to give your teeth a thorough cleaning. Most will use some combination of traditional hand-held instruments along with ultrasonic scalers, which are able to get below the gum line and remove hardened areas of plague. Once clean, your teeth will then be polished to removes any stains or remaining plaque on the surface of the teeth. 

Your hygienist is an excellent source for asking questions about what you can do to improve your at-home hygiene techniques. 

Do You Question the Value of Regular Dental Exams and Cleanings?

Everyone understands the importance of dental health with it comes to maintaining a beautiful smile. The self-esteem boost that comes with being able to confidently smile affects all areas of life, personal and professional. While this cannot be minimized, there are other, equally important, reasons for keeping those yearly or twice-yearly dental exams. 

It may be true that life has gotten increasingly busy, but foregoing regular visits to your dentist is likely to end up costing you far more time, as well as opening you up to a host of health issues. Some of these include:

  • tooth decay 
  • bad breath
  • gum disease
  • abscesses 
  • infections
  • eventual tooth loss

Gum disease, or periodontitis, is like opening Pandora’s Box and unleashing a horde of unpleasant possibilities. Besides the damage it can create as far as tooth and bone loss, gum disease has been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease.

No one questions the need for making an appointment with the dentist when there is a problem that can’t be ignored, like a painful cavity or broken tooth. Truthfully, though, the best time to go to the dentist is before you urgently need to. Doing so just might make those other trips unnecessary. 

During the first visit to Dr. Cohen’s dental office, patients are thoroughly examined for oral cancer screening and receive a complete check-up which includes basic cleaning, clinical exam, and digital x-rays that have up to 90% less radiation and offer superior image quality. 

All treatment options will be explained and discussed with the patient. Read more about our general dentistry here!