The Dental Exam - More Than a 'Check-up'

VANCOUVER, April 4 /CNW/ - Gum disease, tooth decay, bone loss, and oral lesions. Unrecognizable in the early stages of disease, only a dentist is trained to examine and diagnose these conditions to stop disease from advancing and to prevent problems from becoming more serious.

"Dentistry is focused on keeping patients healthy through preventive care," said Dr. Bruce Ward, President of the British Columbia Dental Association. "Unlike many other diseases or illnesses, dental disease is not reversible. By the time a patient recognizes an issue exists it may be more serious and require more extensive treatment than if identified and diagnosed earlier through a dental exam."

In conjunction with self-care, a regular dental examination is a critical component in maintaining good dental health, including individuals with dentures. By understanding what the dentist is looking for during an exam and speaking to the dentist about the diagnosis patients can make informed decisions about their dental and overall health.

What is included in the dental exam is not the same for everyone. Factors such as age, dental health status, level of general health, medication use and lifestyle choices may influence what is covered during the dental exam. The dentist may also perform parts of the examination in partnership with members of the dental team.

A dental examination starts with a medical history review to identify any health conditions or medications that could affect dental care or treatment. The dentist will undertake a visual exam of the mouth to look for any damaged or decayed teeth, the positioning of the teeth and the condition of existing dental work. The gums are inspected for any redness or swelling that may be an early sign of gum disease. This provides the dentist with important information on the structure of the mouth and potential bone and/or tooth loss. The dentist may order radiographs (x-rays) to uncover what's going on below the surface of the teeth and gums and compare what is seen with what appears on the x-ray.

The dental exam also looks beyond the teeth and the gums. The dentist will examine all of the soft tissues of the mouth including the lips, tongue, cheeks and upper and lower surfaces of the mouth and the area of the throat at the back of the mouth. The dentist will also examine the neck area, feeling the glands and lymph nodes. The dentist is looking for anything unusual that could suggest oral disease (like oral cancer) or signs of other health conditions. How the jaw functions will also be examined.

The dental examination is a partnership between the patient and the dentist. By gathering information from the patient, conducting the exam and working with the dental team for additional input, the dentist will make an informed diagnosis and offer treatment options or recommendations to the patient. Patients are encouraged to take an active role in this process and ask the dentist questions related to their care and frequency of exams.

About the British Columbia Dental Association (BCDA):
The BC Dental Association is the recognized voice of dentistry in this province, dedicated to serving the interests of its members and promoting oral health. There are over 3,000 practicing dentists in BC.


The Dental Exam

As with your overall health, prevention and early detection are the cornerstones of good dental health. Dental disease is irreversible and symptoms are often not noticeable until problems have advanced. In conjunction with good oral hygiene practice at home, the dental examination performed by your dentist is a critical component to maintain dental health.

By understanding what the dentist is looking for during an exam and speaking with your dentist about your diagnosis, you can make informed decisions about your dental health needs to address any problems before they become more serious.

During the examination your dentist will inspect a number of important areas and functions of your mouth to identify and diagnose any early signs of dental disease. Each patient is unique, so the specific components of the dental examination will vary based on your current dental and general health, lifestyle factors and frequency of professional dental cleanings. Your dentist may also perform parts of the examination in partnership with other members of the dental team and will gather all the necessary information to make an informed diagnosis.

A dentist may look at some or all of the following during an exam:

  • Medical history, including health conditions or medications that could impact dental care or treatment.
  • X-rays are a valuable diagnostic tool that may be taken to see what's going on below the surface of the teeth and gums as well as the bones of the jaw.
  • Oral hygiene to confirm plaque and tartar levels that affect the health of the gums and teeth.
  • The gums will be examined for signs of disease such as redness, swelling or infection.
  • Soft tissue health, including the lips, tongue, cheeks and upper and lower surfaces of the mouth for signs of oral cancer or sensitivity.
  • The condition of teeth to identify any damaged or decayed teeth along with the condition of any dental prosthesis (e.g. dentures).
  • Existing dental work, such as fillings, root canals and crowns will also be examined for any deterioration.
  • Jaw function: how the teeth are fitting together and the bite. The overall health and function of the temporomandibular joint (joint that joins the jaw to the skull).
  • The general condition of the bones in the face, jaw and around the mouth.
  • The normal growth and development of baby and permanent teeth in children.

Talk to your dentist if you have any questions about your dental exam, diagnosis or treatment options.

SOURCE British Columbia Dental Association

For further information:

Susan Boyd, Manager Communications
604 736 7202

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British Columbia Dental Association

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