Going to your dentist for regular dental check-ups is a pivotal part of maintaining your oral health. Most Australians realise this, with the Australian Dental Association reporting that 80% of citizens visit their dentist at least once per year for regular check-ups.
However, dental exams can be scary for a lot of people. They walk in with the uneasy thought of if their teeth are in good health, then once in the dentist chair, the strange sounds and someone poking and prodding around their mouth can turn that uneasiness into fear and anxiety.
Well, don't worry. It's not as scary as it sounds. Today we are going to tell you what your dentist and their staff are doing in your mouth from start to finish. It all starts with your dental hygienist.
A dental hygienist works alongside your dentist and is the person at the dentist office that you will spend the most time with. They take care of the routine steps during your dental check-up. Things like cleanings, administering fluoride and examining your mouth for signs of diseases such as gingivitis. However, before examining your teeth, they will start with an analysis of your medical history.
Dental and Medical History
Before examining your mouth, your dental hygienist will want to know about your medical history. Things like do you have diabetes, take any medications, if you're pregnant, or have any allergies. It's crucial that the dental staff knows about any prior or current health conditions to avoid drug interactions or avoidable incidents while you're in their care.
Your dental hygienist will also want to know about any anxieties you might have. Don't be afraid to tell them. It's one of your hygienist jobs to help ease your fears about dental check-ups and procedures. After going through your medical history and any questions you might have your hygienist will move on to the next step.
This is the first thing your hygienist will do when they begin working inside your mouth.
Your teeth cleaning is a three-step process that starts with scraping off plaque and tartar that has built up above and below your gum line.
The next steps are as follows:
- Flossing between and around every tooth to remove plaque and clingy food particles.
- Polishing your teeth using a slightly abrasive paste and a polisher with a rotating head. This will rid your teeth of any particles that were previously missed, and give your teeth a smooth and shiny finish that will give your teeth resistance to plaque in between routine dental check-ups.
- Next, your dental hygienist will exam your teeth.
Now that your teeth are clean and plaque removed your hygienist can adequately examine your teeth for any problem areas.
To do this, they will use a dentist mirror, which is a small metal probe the size of an electric toothbrush with a mirror attached to it. This will help them inspect between and behind your teeth and gums.
They will also look for softening enamel, gum swelling, and mouth sores, which can tell them a lot about the health of your mouth.
Lastly, they will inspect and measure your periodontal pockets. This is the space between the tops of your gum line and where your gum tissue attaches firmly to the tooth. In a healthy mouth, the pocket is between one and three millimetres. Deeper pockets are a sign of gum disease.
This is the last step in your initial examination, and it's required so that your dentist can identify any issues that are below your mouth's surface. To perform the x-ray correctly, you will bite down on a specially designed piece of plastic while an x-ray machine is placed against your cheek.
The image will reveal the complete bone structure of your mouth, your teeth, the roots below the gum line, and your jawbone.
With these x-rays and the findings of your dental hygienist, your dentist will have a clear picture of what's going on in your mouth, and they will be able to prescribe the next step in your oral health care.
Now that your initial examination by your hygienist is completed it's time for your dentist to perform their examination.
Using your dental x-rays and the findings of your dental hygienist as a roadmap, your dentist will investigate your mouth further. They will examine jaw alignment, teeth grinding and screen for oral cancer by feeling the area under your jaw, the sides of your neck, the inside of your lips and cheeks and also the roof and floor of your mouth and tongue.
Your dentist will also want to examine your bite to make sure there's no clicking in your jaw joints, and that your bite is smooth and aligned. After this, your dentist will examine your teeth for wear and tear. Things like cracks or tooth surfaces that have been filed down due to grinding or jaw clenching. Once this is completed your dentist will be ready to tell you their findings.
Results and Advice
At this point, your dentist will fully understand the condition of your mouth and oral health. All issues will have been discovered and identified, and they will be able to prescribe further treatment.
In this step, your dentist will give you advice on how to improve or maintain your oral health. They will discuss any problem areas you might have, and recommend procedures if needed.
Future Appointments and Treatments
At this point your exam is complete, and it's time to schedule your next dental check-up. It's recommended that you schedule your next check-up right then and there to avoid the possibility of forgetting or procrastinating.
Remember, even if you practice good oral hygiene, it's still necessary to get regular dental check-ups and cleanings to aid in the early detection of dental problems that could lead to painful and expensive procedures.