Inside a Dental Checkup: What to Expect

woman with dental mirror

Your dental health is an essential aspect of your overall well-being. Regular dental checkups are essential for your smile, ensuring its brilliance and strength. If you’re curious about what unfolds during a dental checkup or feeling a bit nervous, fear not! In this blog, we will take you on a journey through the various stages of a dental checkup, shedding light on the significance of each step and the role it plays in maintaining your oral health.

1. Cordial Welcome and Preliminary Assessment:

As you step into the dental clinic, you will be greeted warmly by our dental team. They will initiate the process by verifying your contact and insurance information. If you are a new patient, you may also need to fill out paperwork about your medical and dental history. Once settled, a dental assistant will accompany you to an examination room, where they will begin the preliminary assessment by asking about any specific concerns or dental issues you may be experiencing.

2. Thorough Examination of Teeth and Gums:

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Once the dentist comes in, your dental checkup will kick off with a comprehensive examination of your teeth and gums. The dentist will use a small mirror and dental explorer (a thin, metal tool) to inspect each tooth’s surfaces for signs of decay, cracks, or abnormalities. They’ll also examine your gums to detect any indications of gum disease, such as redness, swelling, or bleeding. In some cases, a special tool may be used to measure the depth of your gum pockets to see if any gum recession has occurred. These visual examinations allow your dentist to look for any signs of oral health problems. 

3. Dental X-rays:

In some cases, the dentist may recommend dental X-rays to gain a more in-depth view of your oral structures. X-rays help identify hidden problems, including cavities between teeth, impacted wisdom teeth, or issues with jaw alignment. The modern digital X-ray technology used in dental clinics reduces radiation exposure, ensuring your safety. Most dentists recommend having dental x-rays at least once a year, however there are cases where more x-rays may be needed for treatment planning, especially if there is decay or wisdom teeth present. 

4. Checking Existing Dental Work:

If you have existing dental work, such as fillings, crowns, or implants, the dentist will inspect them for signs of wear, cracks, or any potential issues that may require attention. Although modern dental restorations are designed to last for several years, it is still important to have them regularly checked to make sure they are not damaged or in need of replacement. By checking existing dental work, your dentist can help to prevent additional complications by addressing potential problems early on. 

5. Bite and Jaw Alignment Assessment:

A proper bite and jaw alignment are crucial for optimal dental health. The dentist will evaluate your bite, checking for any irregularities or signs of teeth grinding (bruxism). Proper alignment ensures even distribution of pressure on your teeth, preventing premature wear. Proper jaw alignment also decreases the risk of damaged teeth, as well as the risk of temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD). If there are problems with your bite or jaw alignment, your dentist may recommend orthodontic treatment to better align your bite. In cases where signs of bruxism have been noticed, your dentist may also recommend wearing a nightguard to protect your teeth and reposition your jaw while you sleep. 

6. Oral Cancer Screening:

One of the most crucial aspects of a dental checkup is the oral cancer screening. Unfortunately, oral cancer cases are on the rise. However, most cases of oral cancer are highly treatable if caught early. For this reason, dentists now screen for oral cancer during dental checkups. During an oral cancer screening, your dentist will examine your lips, tongue, cheeks, throat, and the roof and floor of your mouth for any suspicious lesions or abnormalities. If they notice anything suspicious, they may refer you for further testing. Although dentists cannot diagnose oral cancer, they can recognize potential signs that warrant further testing. 

7. Professional Dental Cleaning:

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After the dentist has examined your teeth and gums, a dental hygienist will expertly clean your teeth, removing plaque, tartar, and surface stains. This process, called dental prophylaxis, ensures your teeth are polished, smooth, and free from harmful bacteria. During a prophylaxis cleaning, the hygienist will use either a metal scaling tool to gently scrape off excess plaque and tartar. They may also use a pulsed water scaling tool to “power wash” the teeth. In most cases, dental cleanings are completely painless. Dental cleanings should be completed at least twice a year in order to reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. 

8. Flossing and Fluoride Treatment:

After cleaning, the dental hygienist will floss your teeth to reach areas between your teeth and below the gum line that brushing might miss. This is also usually painless, however your gums may bleed. Once your teeth have been cleaned and flossed, a fluoride treatment will be applied to the surface of your teeth to strengthen your tooth enamel and protect against decay.

9. Personalized Oral Care Recommendations:

Based on the examination’s results and your dental history, the dentist will provide personalized oral care recommendations. These may include advice on improving your oral hygiene routine, dietary suggestions for dental health, or the need for any specific dental treatments. During this time, your dentist will also ask you about any dental questions or concerns you may have. 

In Conclusion:

A dental checkup is a comprehensive and essential process that goes beyond just examining your teeth. It is a vital investment in your oral health, helping you maintain a radiant smile and identify potential issues at an early stage. By partnering with your dentist and following their advice, you can achieve optimal oral health and enjoy the confidence of a healthy, beautiful smile for years to come. So, embrace your dental checkups with enthusiasm, knowing they are the secret behind your smile’s enduring brilliance!

Dr. Sisko

Dr. Gerald Sisko graduated from Ohio State University College of Dentistry in 1987. He is an active member of the American Dental Association, the Ohio Dental Association, and the Akron Dental Society where he is currently holding a council position. He has had the honor and distinction of being awarded “TOP DENTIST” in Akron and Cleveland as well as Northeast Ohio for the last several consecutive years.

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