Striving to be healthy is one of the essential things to do to enjoy a long life. Healthy living involves not only exercising and eating healthy foods but also proper dental care. A common misconception is that you only need to see a dentist when you have a dental problem. However, this is not true; regular check-ups and dental examinations are crucial in maintaining overall dental health.
A general dentist checks your dental health and carries out regular examinations to identify any potential disease or abnormality. Identifying dental issues early enough is crucial for your general health and finding a qualified and experienced dentist is equally important. If you’re in Northridge, book an appointment with Northridge Dentist today and have a thorough examination and checkup.
Understanding General Dentistry
General dentistry involves the evaluation, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of oral diseases, cavities, and the maintenance of teeth and their appearance. When during a routine check, your dentist notices abnormalities or oral diseases, it could be an indication of other health conditions. Your dentist could then recommend you visit a physician for treatment.
General dentistry, however, involves various services. These services include:
- Comprehensive dental exams, cleaning of teeth and performing dental x-rays
- Treating root canals, fillings, and teeth extractions
- Dental implants that include restoration and placement
- Providing cosmetic dentistry, which involves teeth whitening or composite and porcelain veneers procedures
- Fitting of bridges, crowns, partial and full dentures
- Orthodontic treatments and services
- Providing oral appliances to treat sleep apnea
Having frequent dental visits and exams are essential to ensure your optimum dental health is great.
When you visit a dental clinic for an oral exam, the hygienist or dentist cleans your teeth and checks for gum diseases and cavities. Dental exams involve checking if a patient is at the risk of having other dental problems and identifying any abnormalities around your face, mouth, or neck. Sometimes, an examination includes radiographs or oral X-rays as well as other procedures in diagnosing problems.
Additionally, during your exam, your dentist could discuss your oral hygiene habits and dietary intake. They may demonstrate to you the proper way of flossing and cleaning your teeth. You and your dentist could also discuss lifestyle habits that affect your oral health and cosmetic procedures that could improve your teeth.
Different Kinds of Dental Exams
When you visit your dentist, there are various types of dental examinations you could undergo. These include:
- Comprehensive dental exams. These are typically conducted during the initial or first visit to a dentist. Results from the examination are used as the baseline for your oral health as well as your general health. Your dentist could base subsequent dental visits upon this first exam
- Limited oral exams. As the name suggests, it is an examination focused on a particular situation. Typically, this type of exam is carried out in emergencies where a specific issue in your oral health gets addressed
- Periodic oral exam. This exam comes after your initial comprehensive one. As the name suggests, these exams are done during your regular visits to the clinic. The clinic should keep a record of your routine dental care
The Why, When and Preparation for a Dental Exam
Dental exams are recommended because they help in protecting your overall health as much as they protect your dental well being. For example, symptoms of diseases like rheumatoid, lupus, arthritis, and diabetes show in your mouth first. During a regular dental exam, the dentist may notice these signs and recommend a physician for further diagnosis. They could also offer essential dental care tips as well as detecting potential dental problems way in advance.
According to the American Dental Association, dentists should determine or schedule the intervals between dental exams in adults. It is important to note that dental exams are not beneficial to persons with natural teeth only. Everyone could benefit immensely from these exams. A regular checkup also ensures the replacement teeth are working well, and in case of a problem, it is addressed.
When looking for a dental clinic, it is important to seek recommendations from persons you know and trust. The location of the dental office, the fees charged, and available payment options are also essential aspects to consider.
After identifying the dental office to visit, you may be anxious before the examination. Talk to your dentist about your concerns so that they make your treatment more comfortable. During the exam, you should expect the following from your dental hygienist or dentist:
- A thorough assessment of your oral hygiene and overall health
- The dentist could determine the likelihood of you getting tooth decay, bone or gum disease, and root decay
- Your dentist could decide whether you need replacement or restoration of a tooth
- The dentist could check if you have jaw problems
- The dentist could clean your teeth by removing any debris and stains
- Your dentist could educate you on proper techniques of cleaning your dentures or teeth
- Your dentist could check if you need fluoride
- During the examination, the dentist could recommend a dental X-ray or other procedures that help diagnose other problems
As your dentist carries out the exam, they will question you about any health concerns you may be having and the medications you are taking. These questions are important to identify how the underlying health conditions could affect your dental health. For instance, people with diabetes usually have a higher risk of developing gum disease. Knowing this is critical in employing measures to counter the likelihood.
If you are on medication that dries your mouth, your chances of developing tooth decay are higher. A person with arthritis may find it challenging to brush their teeth. If you have this condition, your hygienist should show you tricks or techniques that could make your grip easier on the toothbrush.
If a patient has prosthetic replacements like bridges or dentures, during the exam, the dentist will check their fitting. If there is a need for adjustment, the dentist discusses with the patient and schedules for the procedure.
Additionally, dental exams will sometimes include dietary advice. Some of the foods we eat or the lifestyles we lead can significantly affect our dental health. For instance, a person who uses tobacco might have their teeth discolored and an increased buildup of plaque.
When an oral X-ray is recommended or performed during an exam, it gives the dentist a chance to see specific areas of the mouth. The X-ray helps in diagnosing problems that the dentist could not identify in a general oral exam. Typically, X-rays are not necessary during each visit to your dentist. An X-ray is usually recommended when your dentist suspects underlying issues that could be detrimental to your dental health.
Your dentist could also decide to do an oral cancer screening exam. The exam involves checking for cancer signs under the jaw, sides of the neck, inside the cheeks, lips, and on the tongue. The roof of your mouth and the floor may harbor signs of cancer.
During the dental exams, the dentist could mold or cast your jaws and teeth. Lifecasting your jaw is necessary when the dentist wants to make bleaching trays or analyze your bite or a mouthguard. Once the dentist has created the mold, they will recommend the ideal procedure to correct your bite.
After the Dental Exam
After completing your oral exam, the hygienist or dentist will talk about your dental health. This includes your chances of developing gum disease, tooth decay, or other dental health problems. Additionally, preventive measures and ways of improving your dental health are discussed as well.
Your dentist will then proceed to recommend and schedule another appointment. If you’re at risk of developing periodontal disease or tooth decay, frequent check-ups may be recommended. Additionally, the dentist may recommend treatment procedures that address these issues and assure you of optimum dental health.
A dental checkup is a routine visit to your dentist. The checkup is mostly done after one has had a procedure that needs monitoring by the dentist or hygienist. However, even when a person has had no procedure done on their teeth, a dentist visit or dental checkup is essential to make sure they maintain excellent oral health.
Like routine dental exams, during your first dental checkup, the dentist could ask about and discuss your health history. Your health record is critical in determining the safest ways of caring for your dental needs. During these regular dental check-ups, oral exams are also performed.
Expectations in a Routine Checkup
Routine dental check-ups are highly encouraged in line with maintaining excellent dental care. While some people visit their dentists regularly, others never bother. This means a significant percentage of patients do not know what to expect and what goes on during a regular checkup.
For a person who is new to visiting a dentist, the strange noises they hear, and having a person work in your mouth can cause anxiety. For you to be at ease, you must understand what happens from the moment you find a dentist to what happens at the dental office. Although some of the procedures may seem scary, after understanding the expectations, it becomes easier. There are various steps that one has to go through. These include:
Making an Appointment
Making an appointment is usually the first step when you want to have a routine checkup. When you suspect you have a problem with your dental health, the first thing you do is look for a dentist. In most cases, your friends or family will recommend a dentist and share their contact. It is important to know that you cannot walk into a dental office without an appointment. Once you identify the dentist of your choice, the next step is to call them and schedule an appointment for the checkup. Typically, the receptionist picks the call and will schedule the appointment after getting brief details from you.
Visiting the Dental Office
After getting an appointment, you will wait for the day and time you are scheduled to see the dentist. When you walk into a dental office, the first person you meet is a receptionist. A receptionist is an important part of the dental office, which ensures the smooth running of the office. The receptionist typically welcomes you and guides you around the dental office while coordinating the administrative aspect of the office.
Meeting Your Dental Assistant or Hygienist
The next step is meeting your dental assistant or hygienist. These are two different people, and you will meet them according to your needs. A dental hygienist is professionally trained to care for routine dental issues like cleaning, among other procedures. These are also important in the dental office and in keeping you in excellent dental health.
Dental assistants, on the other hand, do not do the jobs done by hygienists. However, they are critical in helping in the preparation needed towards a dental procedure. This means, if you had visited the dental office for a particular procedure, they will prepare you or get you ready for the dentist to perform it.
Activities During Dental Check-ups
Several activities happen during your visit to a dental office. These include:
- Assessing your health history. This is typical for first-time visitors. A health history assessment, accompanied by a thorough dental exam, is carried out to determine your current dental health condition. This is typically carried out by the dentist or hygienist. If a hygienist is assigned to you, they will examine your mouth to identify any problems. A hygienist does not treat the challenges but will document them for the dentist. The hygienist will also discuss your general health in detail while documenting it. Afterward, the information is shared with your dentist before they attend to you.
- The dental exam. After you have given the hygienist all the required information, your dentist uses it to carry out a detailed exam. The exam involves checking your overall dental health by identifying any oral health issues. This is only on first-time patients. Your dentist, after identifying the problem, he or she will recommend various procedures that are suitable for you. The procedure advised depends on your health history that may include underlying health issues and medications you are using.
- Cleaning of teeth. Although you floss and brush your teeth regularly, it is not enough to remove all the accumulated plaque. Professional cleaning, however, by a hygienist or dentist helps remove the tough plaque known as tartar or calculus. Dentists and hygienists use specialized instruments to provide this type of deep cleaning of your teeth. Cleaning is also done above the gum line with ultrasonic scalers. Accumulation of plaque is one of the leading causes of tooth decay or gum disease. A regular dental checkup to have your teeth cleaned helps prevent the development of gum disease and tooth decay.
- Polishing of teeth – After the deep cleaning of the teeth, a procedure of removing stains and plaque on their surface is carried out. This procedure is known as polishing. During polishing, a substance that is abrasive in nature and fluoride are used. Using a small rubber cup that rotates on the teeth or a brush, fluoride and the abrasive substance are applied on the teeth surface. With gentle movements, the teeth surface is cleaned and rinsed out.
- Preventive measures – After the procedures get completed, the hygienist is likely to offer further instructions on maintaining excellent dental hygiene at home. Additionally, you will get instructed on preventive measures that you must practice. If you have any questions regarding oral health, you will have an opportunity to ask them and get guided.
- Treatment – If you are found to have any oral problems, your dentist will discuss the possible treatment options available. Together, you will pick the option that best suits you. Some recommendations after discovering the problem may include further diagnostic tests, medication or a repeat of restoration work, among others.
After the thorough cleaning of your teeth, it is important to have them examined. A dentist uses a metallic probe with an angled mirror to check for issues in your teeth. This helps them see between the teeth, gums, and behind the teeth. Your dentist will also check if your tooth enamel is softening and your dentin as well.
Additionally, during the routine checkup, the dentist will check to identify any swellings of the gums, mouth sores, or redness. The periodontal pockets are also measured to see that they have not widened. These are the spaces found between the gum tissue and the tooth. A good and ideal pocket should not be beyond three millimeters, in-depth or less than one millimeter. If the pockets are too deep, it may mean you are developing a gum disease that needs close monitoring and treatment.
After completing your first dental checkup visit, your dentist will recommend that you make routine appointments as follow-ups. As you leave the dental office, the receptionist will help you schedule your next appointment.
Why are Routine Dental Check-ups Necessary
Although visiting your dentist regularly, even when you don’t have an issue is important, many people do not understand the benefits. A routine dental visit is not a waste of time or money. The benefits of routine checks are many, including:
- Saving your teeth. One of the primary causes of losing teeth in adults is periodontal or gum disease. Gum disease occurs because of inflammations and infections in the gum and the bone surrounding the teeth. When you visit your dentist regularly, they eliminate the buildup of plaque that encourages the growth of bacteria. This means you will avoid suffering gum disease due to maintaining plaque-free teeth. Additionally, if your dentist sees signs of the disease during routine check-ups, they can treat it before it gets worse.
- Affording a bright and white smile. Every person wants to have a bright and white smile. When you go for a routine dental checkup, cleaning your teeth is one of the routine activities performed. This helps you maintain a bright and white smile that boosts your confidence.
- Protecting your oral and general health. As earlier discussed, symptoms of some diseases show in the mouth first. During your regular dental visits, you will not only be caring for your dental health but also your overall health. If your dentist identifies symptoms of another disease during your checkup, they could recommend you visit a physician for expert treatment.
- It saves life. During a routine dental checkup, your dentist could perform oral exams to identify the signs of oral cancer. This type of cancer is one of the deadliest, but when discovered early, treatment is easier. When a cancer diagnosis is made at a later stage, it becomes difficult to treat successfully. Routine dental check-ups help detect the disease in its early stages, which saves a life following successful treatment.
- Saving you money. When you do not take care of your dental health, you may suffer costly consequences. Routine checks are relatively inexpensive compared to how much you may spend if a problem you could have prevented arises. For instance, during a routine check, the dentist could identify the onset of periodontal disease and treat it. If you do not go for the check-ups, you may not know you have the disease until it is too late. This may result in your losing teeth that will force you to have dental implants to replace the missing teeth. This is a more expensive procedure compared to regular check-ups.
- Keeping bad breath away. One of the reasons why people have bad breath is the buildup of plaque. Regular checks help fight against halitosis which is a condition brought about by calculus or tartar.
Find a Dentist Near Me
When you feel the need to visit a dentist either for a routine checkup or a dental exam, one of the critical things is to find an experienced dentist. A capable dentist should discuss various options available to care for your oral health. If you are in need of dental services, visit Northridge Dentist for a comprehensive exam and follow up. Call us at 818-875-0216, and we will schedule an appointment for you.