What’s a Comprehensive Dental Exam and Why Do I Need It?

February 22, 2018

If you occasionally schedule with a hygienist to have the build-up “scraped” off your teeth, only to wait for the doctor to say you have no cavities without listening to what else he’s found, you may be overlooking something more serious.

If you believe you are fully capable of cleaning your own teeth at home with brushing and flossing, and only need to see a dentist when something hurts, then you have been failed in the past because you weren’t properly educated in your oral health.

If you think “perfect teeth” are the only ones a dentist wants to see, then you haven’t paid any attention to the many options the media has been tempting the public with lately.

Why am I pointing out these very common attitudes to dentistry?  Because if these are the principles you base your oral care on, then you are most likely already affected with a variety of other dental diseases and anomalies, and could be missing out on a smile you can be completely proud to show off for years to come.  The easiest way to know what’s going on in your mouth is to have a Comprehensive Examination done.

What are some of these issues that a Comprehensive Examination will reveal?  

Cavities start off as very small areas.  The majority of cavities are not found while they are little because they are so difficult to detect.  By the time a cavity can be seen on an x-ray, it could be rather involved and already require more than just a simple filling.  Shades Creek Dental now has a non-invasive, no radiation needed, light fluorescence wand that can reveal decay in its earliest stages!  By repairing a cavity quickly, less tooth has to be removed to restore it, and the overall strength of the tooth is still mostly intact.

Cracked or broken teeth can sometimes be asymptomatic, and you may not be aware of the problem because it’s not painful.  But a cracked or previously broken tooth is more fragile than a healthy tooth, and can make itself known at very inconvenient times.  Biting down on a crunchy treat can be just the right amount of pressure needed to cause a crack to become a break!  How a tooth cracks/breaks can be the difference between only needing to smooth off a rough spot, or requiring a root canal and crown. Shades Creek Dental has intra-oral digital imaging cameras to take pictures of your teeth so you can see what the doctor is talking about.

Gum disease comes in 2 different forms:  gingivitis, and periodontal disease.  Gingivitis is the inflammation of the tissues that make your gums look puffy and prone to bleeding in some places when you brush and floss.  Gingivitis is the only gum disease that is “curable.” Periodontal disease is untreated gingivitis that advances past the soft gum tissue into the hard tissues of the jaw bone, and destroys the foundation of the tooth (or teeth).  Once you are diagnosed with periodontal disease, you will have it for life.  It will either be “active” or “inactive”, depending on your adherence to regularly scheduled visits with the hygienist, and your case specific home care routine prescribed by your doctor and hygienist.  Both forms of gum disease will require more than just a regular “cleaning” of your teeth, and can take as many as 4 visits to complete your treatment.  Also, patients with any form of gum disease will be required to see the hygienist more often than 2 times per year, so the disease can be monitored.  Shades Creek Dental performs a Periodontal charting once each year, to assess your condition and the progress of your treatment.

Oral cancer doesn’t only affect smokers or smokeless tobacco users.  It can begin with something as benign as a tissue trauma from an accident or ill-fitting prosthetics.  If you have an ulcer, sore spot, or trauma area that doesn’t heal in 2 weeks, your dentist needs to look at it and evaluate the potential of something more involved. All areas of the mouth are susceptible to oral cancer.  The roof of your mouth, inside the cheek areas, under your tongue, and your tongue itself can be affected.  Anything out of the ordinary needs to be reported to the dentist.  Shades Creek Dental performs an oral cancer screening at each hygiene visit.

Clenching or grinding your teeth may be something you have done your entire life, but it’s not healthy for the teeth or the bones and muscles of your mouth and face.  Excessive grinding can wear teeth down smaller than their intended size.  This exposes the inside, or dentin, of the tooth that is much more sensitive to cold temperatures and sweet or acidic foods.  Clenching the teeth while stressed or during sleep can cause micro-fractures in the enamel of the teeth that will eventually start to chip out.  This is very noticeable around the gumline areas or “neck of the tooth” where it and the gum tissue meets.  A night guard may be prescribed to protect the remaining tooth structures and help with any tooth or jaw pains.  Shades Creek Dental uses digital scanning and recording of your teeth, which can take the place of regular impressions that sometimes gag sensitive patients.

Older restorations can, and do, breakdown over time.  Fillings can degrade around the lines where it meets the tooth, and an older crown can lose its cement bond and allow bacteria to seep into that space, causing decay in the base of the tooth.  Because of the existing filling or crown, it’s not always easy to detect new decay in these areas, and x-rays can’t “see” through the metal in the tooth.  If you have a lose crown, or feel that a filling has “shifted,” this could be due to a new cavity destroying the tooth around the restoration. Shades Creek Dental uses a combination of the previously mentioned intra-oral pictures and blue light fluorescence wand to observe any changes around these areas.

Tooth pain can keep you from sleeping soundly, eating properly, and will distract you from your usual daily duties.  If you are curious to see if you have any potential tooth issues, or are looking for a new dental office, Shades Creek Dental would love to be of service to you and your family. Mention this blog post when you call and we will schedule your New Patient visit, comprehensive examination, complete x-rays and routine cleaning for only $200! Make the call, schedule your first appointment, and then come check out our brand new office in Homewood, conveniently located on the corner of Broadway and Green Springs in front of Broadway Park Condominiums.

Thank you for reading,

Ron MacBeth, DMD