When you come in for your routine 6 month visit, your dentist will examine your mouth at some point in the visit. What is he or she looking for?
First, your dental team will review your medical history and note any updates. New medications and conditions should be reported and discussed. These can impact your dental health, and your dental conditions may affect them as well.
Next, the teeth are examined for any sign of decay or mechanical wear or breakage that may need restoration. This includes evaluation of gum line wear that may need to be restored as well. Previous restorations and crowns are checked to ensure integrity of the margins and tight contacts that don’t trap food. X-rays are reviewed at this time also.
The gums are checked for health. This may include a PSR (Periodontal
Screening and Recording) to look for signs of early gum disease by probing around the teeth. Your oral hygiene effectiveness will be checked and home care procedures will be reviewed if necessary.
Any removable full or partial dentures are checked for their fit and function. Adjustments may be made at this time if they are minor, or a follow-up appointment may be necessary.
Finally, an oral cancer screening exam is done. All the soft tissues in and around the mouth are checked for any sign of disease. Early diagnosis of these problems can be life saving. Part of our routine involves retracting the tongue. We ask you to stick out your tongue and we gently pull it forward so that we can see the lateral borders in the back of the mouth. Although accounting for only about 2 or 3% of oral cancers, the lateral tongue is an area often overlooked. That’s why we continue to look in all areas of the mouth as well as feeling the tissues of the lips, floor of the mouth, and neck. Some years ago a study was done that indicated that dentists and physicians weren’t overlapping enough in the diagnosis of head and neck cancer. This is why we are thorough in assessing these areas.
While the exam often seems quick, much training and experience are applied to ensure health. The dental hygienist will often find questionable areas during the dental cleaning that she will bring to the dentist’s attention so there are multiple eyes looking out for your dental health.