What is a comprehensive dental exam?
A comprehensive dental exam is an extensive evaluation of your oral health. It consists of a medical history to evaluate the medications you’re taking (as these sometimes impact treatment or the way in which you are managed) a dental history, including an assessment of all your teeth, gums and soft tissues and a discussion of anything you wish to talk about- anxiety, problems, aches, sores, cosmetic procedures, missing teeth etc. The dentist will make a chart of all the treatment in your mouth that has already been done and note anything that they feel needs doing. X-rays are nearly always required as without them the dentist can only see limited parts of your mouth and cannot gauge decay in between your teeth or the amount of bone supporting your teeth. Discuss anything with your dentist that they can do to make your visit more comfortable and any concerns you may have. This is the perfect opportunity. Dentists have a “template” of what needs to be done in a comprehensive dental exam, however the order and process may vary slightly depending on the individual. The comprehensive exam occurs generally when you present to a new dentist for the first time. It is a little more involved than your regular check up and takes a little longer. Recall exams or examinations follow every 6 months to keep things ticking over and to spot any changes that may have taken place. If you go into the dentist to discuss a particular problem e.g. the colour of your teeth or wisdom teeth pain then we refer to this as a consultation.
How often should I get a comprehensive dental exam?
Every new patient should have a comprehensive dental exam so the dentist can really understand both you and your mouth and teeth. A dentist may perform this more comprehensive exam about every three years and regular checkups every 6 months in between. Getting you up to speed on your hygeine and ensuring prevention is critical to your long term health. Prevention is much more preferable to treatment so listen to the dentist in this regard, we have seen what happens when people don’t and they end up running into problems and needing much more extensive and expensive treatment in the future. Oral diseases doesn’t just happen overnight so the earlier your dentist can detect its signs, the more likely he can treat it and save your teeth from bigger issues. This does mean going to the dentist for those of you who only ever go when you have trouble or pain and find it’s a more drastic treatment that is needed.
What is done in a comprehensive dental exam?
Since a comprehensive dental exam is a thorough evaluation of your oral health, not only your teeth, but your joints, gums, as well as the bones that are supporting your teeth will be examined. It will involve checking the following:
- The soft tissues of your mouth, throat, and neck (Head and Neck Oral Cancer screening)
- Your bite (Occlusal Exam)
- Your jaw (TMJ Exam)
- Your saliva (Salivary Function Exam)
- The way your teeth and gums look in relation to your face (Aesthetic exam)
- The bone support for your teeth (periodontal exam)
- Your teeth- an assessment of wear, position, decay (dental caries) and any restorations.
X-rays and various scans or special tests may be needed as part of the assessment. This will aid detection of any cavities, cysts, tumors, bone loss, or any dental problem that may be obscured from the eye as part of the clinical examination. You will also be asked to list down all your current medications (including natural remedies, vitamins or supplements), as well as your detailed medical history. It is also important that you inform your dentist about any allergies you may have, negative experiences with anesthesia or adverse reactions, and smoking or drinking habits. Let them know if you have any pain, aches or concerns, if you grind or snore, your hygiene habits (be honest), your diet, any bleeding or halitosis. Take this time to tell your dentist if you have any dental anxiety (anything more than simply not really liking the dentist) and what they can do to make your visit more comfortable for you.