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While dental exams have a vital role in keeping our gums and teeth healthy, in the U.S, millions of people never see a dentist year in and year out. Yet, routine dental visits detect dental issues early when treatment is less costly, simple, and effective. Dentists can also prevent potential dental problems from developing during a dental exam. A dentist or a dental hygienist performs dental exams. The dentist is trained to care for your gums and teeth, while the hygienist is trained to clean teeth and help patients maintain good oral health.

What to Expect During a Full Dental Exam

Dental exams aren’t just a quick look at your dental structure. Instead, they involve a thorough dental examination, cleaning, and X-rays. The following are steps to expect during complete oral exam care.

Oral Examination

The oral examination procedure is comprehensive, by which the dentist will use a metal probe and a small mirror for easier access to your mouth. They will look out for cavities, gum diseases, or tooth decay. The dentist will also examine your jawbones while you bite down to ensure you have an aligned bite and absence of clicking joints.


Dental x-rays showcase images of periodontitis, cavities, bone loss, and other issues that can’t be detected visually. There ate different types of dental x-rays available. For example, a full-mouth series x-ray is taken once every few years to check on your overall health, and a bitewing x-ray is usually used to check on cavities and other teeth issues.

  • When having a bitewing x-ray, a lead apron is used to cover your chest, and extra covers may be used to cover your neck. This is to protect your body from radiation.
  • You are then provided with a small piece of plastic to bite on. Next, a scanner is placed outside your mouth, and the dentist will take a picture.
  • Depending, you may repeat the process while biting different areas of your mouth.

Oral Cancer Screening

During the exam, a holistic approach that involves oral cancer screening is taken by your dentist. This is because, just like any other cancer, oral cancer is life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated in its early stages. During the screening, the dentist will examine your whole oral cavity to look for any cancerous or precancerous conditions. The examination will not only be visual, but they will also feel your mouth and throat tissues to detect any abnormalities. If an area of concern is found, further tests, such as a brush test that collects cells from the suspicious lesions, are sent to the medical lab for analysis. If the tests come back, a positive biopsy may be recommended.

Common symptoms looked out for during the screening include,

  • Bleeding sores that don’t heal
  • White or red spots
  • Chewing, speaking, swallowing or tongue and jaw moving difficulties
  • Rough spots or lumps

Dental Cleaning

During the dental cleaning, you will sit on the dentist’s chair with an overhead light shining above you. This step will involve a thorough dental cleaning that removes plaque and tarter. Next, the dentist will scrape, floss, and brush your teeth using an electric toothbrush. Finally, if necessary, you will receive a fluoride treatment to protect your teeth from cavities.

What is the purpose of an oral exam?

The following is the importance of dental examination regularly:

Protects Both Your Oral and Overall, Health

Visiting your dentist twice yearly increases your lifespan. Having untreated cavities and periodontists can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular conditions.

Prevents Cavities and Periodontitis

Despite our overzealous home care dental hygiene, we still aren’t able to get rid of all the bacteria and plaque in our mouths. Fortunately, your dentist can achieve that. Plaque and bacteria left to build up in your teeth for years can erode your gums and enamel, causing cavities and gum disease.

Teaches You Proper Hygiene Techniques

After a dental exam, your dental team can advise you on the best tips you can use during your oral hygiene routine, especially if you have been flossing and brushing your teeth improperly.

How often should you visit the dentist for an oral exam?

It’s a basic rule that one should visit the dentist twice a year. However, at Zen Dental, we advise patients with dental issues should visit the dentist three or four times a year. The more frequent you visit, the more likely you prevent serious dental problems.

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