Regular dental exams are a necessary part of preventative health care. This isn’t just about your teeth (as if that isn’t enough of a reason), this is about your whole body’s health. That’s why for this article, we’re taking a look at what you can expect from a dental exam, starting with why they’re important in the first place.
WHY REGULAR CHECKUP’S ARE IMPORTANT
There are three major reasons why regular checkups (twice a year) are important:
- Preventing Gum Disease
Between cleanings, bacteria and tartar build-up in your mouth, after enough time it can destroy the bone that supports your teeth, which leads to tooth loss. Gum disease is often preventable; simply by brushing daily and getting routine checkups.
- Cardiovascular Disease
For years, doctors have been studying the connection between the health of your gums and your heart. As we just learned having regular dental exams prevents gum disease, which in turn reduces your risk of heart attack or stroke.
- Oral Cancer
In 2021, the Canadian Dental Association predicts that 5,400 Canadians will be diagnosed with oral cavity cancer; unfortunately, approximately 1,500 will die. What makes this so frustrating is that many oral cancers are curable if detected early, which is why scanning the mouth for signs of cancer has become a regular part of your regular dental exam.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Your dental hygienist usually starts your dental exam by cleaning your teeth and checking for cavities. This process often involves scaling, which is the removal of plaque from below the gum line, as well as polishing, which is where the hygienist uses a small soft rubber cup with polishing paste to leave your tooth enamel glossy and smooth.
When the dentist begins your exam, he/she is looking for symptoms that could affect your oral or overall health. Some of the things your dentist is looking for include:
- Early signs of cavities.
- Damaged, missing or decaying teeth.
- Suspicious growths or cysts.
- The position of your teeth.
- Signs of clenching or grinding.
If this is your first appointment with the dentist, or the first appointment in a long-time, then your dentist will probably include the following:
- A complete medical history, so your dentist will know about any health conditions that could affect the success of treatments.
- An examination of your neck area, specifically feeling the glands and lymph nodes for signs of inflammation.
- Dental X-rays to show problems such as cavities forming uner existing fillings, fractures, or impacted wisdom teeth.
TIPS TO MAKE YOUR CHECKUP MORE ENJOYABLE
If trips to the dentist make you nervous, you’re not alone. There are some tips others use to help make the experience more pleasant:
- Communicate With Your Dentist. Don’t be shy about communicating your fears with the dentist, they could be a sign of an underlying problem. If you can’t stand the polisher, for example, it could be because you have sensitive teeth, the dentist will want to know and will be able to help.
- Take An Anti-inflammatory. An over-the-counter pain killer such as Advil can help reduce inflammation during and after the treatment. This might reduce any pain from inflamed gums and make you feel more at ease.
- Request A Numbing Gel. Dentists usually stock a variety of gels to numb your gums, they make cleanings much more pleasant. The gels don’t hold the dentist up because they’re fast-acting, they also wear off pretty quickly too.
- Oral Sedation. Many patients choose oral sedation to help relieve discomfort from dental exams. The most common form of sedation is through a pill, it may not completely knock you out, but you will feel at ease.
- Keep Up Regular Cleanings. This is, understandably hard to do,…especially if you don’t enjoy dental exams to begin with. Skipping your checkup though will make the next one worse. Going longer between dentist visits allows more time for tartar to build up. That means the hygienist needs to take longer during the next checkup.