Oral exams are thorough diagnostic assessments of your entire mouth, including the throat, tongue, and oral tissues. They are important because your oral health can say a lot about your overall health, and many health problems first appear as signs or symptoms in the mouth.
Oral exams are often performed when you switch to a new dentist in an effort to establish a baseline regarding your unique oral health needs, and they are usually repeated every 3-5 years to update and screen for larger issues that may not be evident during a regular dental checkup.
Our goal at Castle Dental is for every one of our patients to feel confident in a healthy, beautiful smile that will last them a lifetime. We offer a full range of comprehensive dental services like oral exams that can help improve both your dental health and your overall health. By taking the time now with an oral exam, we can help prevent many potential problems.
What happens during an oral exam?
During an oral exam you can expect the following:
- Updated Medical and Oral Health History – In recent years, doctors have identified what is called the “Mouth-Body Connection” which indicates a link between oral health concerns and overall health concerns, such as the link between gum disease and many health issues like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. A clear picture of your family’s medical history, as well as your own, will give your dentist insight into any potential issues she or he should be on the lookout for.
- Identifying previous dental work or existing damage or decay – Your dentist will spend time charting each and every tooth looking for existing dental work like fillings, sealants, crowns, implants, bridges or root canals. They will also chart any decay, broken, chipped or missing teeth.
- Periodontal Charting – This is when a measurement of your gums is taken to screen for periodontal (gum) disease. Because gum disease can impact your comprehensive health, this step is especially important. Your dentist will use a tool called periodontal probe, which measures the small gap between the tooth and the gums.
- X-Rays – New dental X-rays will be taken to examine the area beneath the visible tooth, like the roots and the pulp.
- Dental Photography – Photos of the teeth may be taken to keep in your file. This allows your dentist to have a baseline as they look at the progression or decline of the teeth.
- Review Previous Dental Treatments – Your dentist will use this time to check the health of any fillings, crowns, bridges or implants as well as many other procedures and treatments. Based on these findings, they may recommend additional restorative works such as replacing a crown due to wear and tear or adding sealants to reinforce the strength or a previous treatment.
- Screening for Abnormalities in Neck and Lymph Nodes – Your dentist will feel for abnormalities or hardness in the neck and lymph nodes which could be an indication of infection or throat cancer.
- Screening for Oral Cancer – Mouth cancer is often detected during visits to the dentist. Using a light, they will look very thoroughly for white dots or mouth sores on the soft tissues of the mouth. They may also use their fingers to feel around the tissue for any abnormalities such as firmness or softness in irregular places. These are often an indication of oral cancer.
- Assess Occlusion – Occlusion is the term used to describe the way the lower jaw and upper jaw meet. If the bite is misaligned, it can cause chewing and speaking difficulties and/or clenching, resulting in headaches and muscle soreness. This may lead to an orthodontic referral.
- Assess Teeth and Jaw for Signs of Bruxism – Bruxism is the term used to describe the grinding of the teeth. Grinding your teeth causes a slow erosion of the enamel, leaving your teeth vulnerable to decay.
- Make any Necessary Referrals – Your dentist may find symptoms that need more specialized analysis and care. You could be referred to an orthodontist, endodontist or an oncologist depending on your specific oral needs.
- Make any Necessary Recommendations – During this part of the exam your dentists will discuss your oral hygiene habits, make recommendations to improve them and suggest any treatment plans to enhance the health and appearance of your smile.
What is the difference between dental checkups and oral exams?
Although they cover a lot of the same steps, dental checkups and oral exams are slightly different.
- Are semi-annual
- Includes a professional cleaning from a dental hygienist
- Are usually shorter
- Look at the current health of your teeth
- Are a brief evaluation for very obvious symptoms or irregularities
- Primarily for identifying conditions like cavities and gum disease and removing plaque and tartar buildup
- Include just a few minutes with the dentist
- Provide an opportunity for preventative treatments like fluoride
- Performed every 3-5 years
- Last longer, than checkups, up to an hour or more
- Compare the past and current health of your teeth
- Are more thorough and deliberate
- Assess every aspect of oral health, including oral tissues, tongue, and throat
- Can identify larger health problems like oral cancer
- Are performed entirely by the dentist
- Provide an opportunity to make treatment recommendations based on trends in dental health, not just existing concerns
Protect Your Overall Health with Oral Exams from Castle Dental
Caring for your oral health doesn’t have to be complicated. With multiple convenient locations, extended hours, and flexible scheduling, Castle Dental makes it easy for you to get professional preventative services like oral exams. We also make it affordable, accepting most major dental insurance plans as well as CareCredit, and offering a variety of financing options, including our OneSmile Dental Plan, which offers discounts on many important dental treatments like oral exams.
Schedule an appointment at the Castle Dental location nearest you, and start taking care of your smile today for a healthier tomorrow!