New Patient Exam
A clinical exam is more commonly referred to as a routine check up. This check up lets your dentist essentially take inventory of the overall health of your mouth and teeth and diagnose any potential problems you may have.
- The first thing your dentist will check during the exam is your face and neck. Checking visually, your dentist will look for any abnormalities, such as lumps, bumps or swelling.
- Checking inside your mouth is next on the agenda. During this part of the check up your dentist will be looking for any abnormalities in the soft tissue, such as discolorations or ulcers on your lips, gums, tongue, palate and cheeks. Your dentist will also perform an oral cancer screening and will check your bite and your jaw joint for any problems.
- Next your dentist will check your gums and jawbone, as they are the foundation for your teeth. Your dentist will check them for any signs of gingivitis, gum disease and bone disease.
- Checking your teeth comes next. Your dentist will be checking them for cavities and other problems. Finally, your dentist will be sure to look specifically at any areas where you may have symptoms or concerns.
In most cases a clinical exam by itself is not sufficient to completely diagnose all potential problems with your mouth. In fact, the majority of problems with your teeth and the jawbone are not visible to the naked eye. That is why x-rays play a key role in allowing a better, and more accurate look at what is really going on inside your mouth and below your teeth and gums. By using x-rays your dentist can check for any bone loss and determine the severity of the gum disease.
In addition to revealing any problems that were not visible during the clinical exam these initial x-rays will also provide your dentist with a benchmark with which to compare against during your future visits.
Dental exams are an important step in early detection and treatment of gum disease and tooth decay. For a first time visit, the dentist will perform a comprehensive dental examination that is very thorough and can include:
- A review of the patient's medical history, especially drug and latex allergies
- A complete series of x-rays
- Oral cancer screening
- TMJ (temporomandibular joint) evaluation
- Orthodontic screening to check the positioning of teeth and jaw bite
- Complete gum examination and pocket measurements (periodontal examination)
- Complete examination of all teeth, crowns and fillings
- Evaluation of wisdom teeth
- Smile photographs and molds or impressions of your teeth, if necessary
During a regular checkup, the dentist will conduct a less extensive exam that will include many of the steps performed during an extensive exam, such as:
- Review of any changes in the patient's medical history since last visit.
- Examination of tooth decay and damage using special instruments.
- X-ray of any teeth that show signs of decay or wear.
- Evaluation of gums for signs of periodontal disease.
- Exam of existing restorations.
- Screenings for oral cancer.
Your dentist or dental hygienist will also likely provide you with a quick reminder on proper home care and brushing techniques.