Why Do I Need a Dental Exam?
Is Every Six Months Enough?
For the person who dreads visiting the dentist, the dental exam is viewed as the tip of the iceberg. The thinking goes that if the mouth does not hurt, then nothing bad can be happening! So why go to the dentist, who is only going to tell me otherwise? Yet this suggests that avoiding the dentist actually prevents dental problems, despite reality telling us that the reverse is actually true. Here are the facts about why you need a dental exam, how they actually prevent problems with your teeth, and why some people may even want to visit our Carmichael dentists more than every six months.
The Purpose of the Dental Exam
The dental exam is more than just a preliminary to cleaning your teeth. It is also a lifesaving activity that regularly prevents death from oral cancer and saves teeth from loss. Here is what happens when we examine your mouth during your visits.
First, we do a thorough check for signs of oral cancer. Caught in its earliest stages, oral cancer is readily treated. As time advances, however, this disease becomes more difficult to eradicate successfully. Dentists are a key part of the medical community in recognizing the signs of this disease before it spreads widely. And as mentioned by The Oral Cancer Foundation, “Patients over 40 years of age should be considered at a higher risk for oral cancer.” For this reason alone, a semi-annual visit to our Carmichael dental office should be a regular part of your schedule.
Second, we examine the condition of your teeth. Annual x-rays and comparisons with digital surface photos help us see what is above and below the gumline. Small cracks and minor decay that has not penetrated the enamel can all be dealt with in early stages to prevent major procedures.
Third, we examine the condition of your gums. Many perfectly healthy teeth are lost due to gum disease, not tooth decay, and this is a major purpose of the dental exam — identifying areas of focus for your cleaning treatment to prevent gingivitis and especially periodontitis. We determine the depth of your gum pockets. We decide if your roots are being exposed by sagging gums or gum recession. If you have gum problems, is tartar the cause, or is there another potential source, such as a new oral piercing? Have you improved since a prior visit, or is gum disease progressing? Treating gum disease thoroughly is critical to saving teeth and the dental exam tells us what procedures are needed to succeed.
Finally, if you already have restorations, like dental implants, crowns, bridges, fillings or veneers, we check the condition of all of these repairs, to make certain that they are still doing their job properly and preserving your oral health.
Do I Need to Come More Often?
Some of our patients have particularly pernicious gum disease. They develop more plaque and tartar than other patients. Waiting six months between exams means that they always need more cleaning work, or deeper cleaning, to remove this dental calculus and to prevent advancing gum recession. The simplest solution is to simply have a dental exam three times a year, instead of just two. For most people, this is sufficient to control fast-forming tartar. For others, especially when getting control of particularly bad cases of gum disease, quarterly visits are called for.
Consider the advantages of this approach. While visiting the dentist more often is some people’s definition of being “a sucker for punishment,” it’s much easier to simply do a regular cleaning every four or three months, than a deep cleaning with root planing every six months. It’s better to avoid annoyingly irritated gums (that bleed when your brush and floss at home), simply by visiting the Marconi Dental Group for additional exams and cleanings. Our patients that successfully adapt to this schedule treat their gum disease, stop the progress of gum recession, and prevent far more complicated procedures from ever taking place.
It dental anxiety makes it difficult for you to make the semi-annual trip to the Marconi Dental Group, talk to us about ways we can reduce your discomfort, either behaviorally or medically. We are more than happy to help, because experience shows that regular dental exams help our patients be healthier and save time and money on detailed dental treatments. Contact our friendly dental staff today to arrange your own dental exam and cleaning.