While often ignored, dental problems have been linked to many major health issues such as cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, diabetes, and even pregnancy complications. Even before pain or discomfort appears, it is important to visit a dental provider often to keep your teeth in good health.
What to expect
At each initial visit, you will undergo a comprehensive examination. This will allow the dentist to become familiar with your teeth and to note any present or potential problems. The mouth, teeth, and gums will be examined, and the patient will be asked about his or her general health as well as medication and previous dental procedures.
The dentist will also ask about the patient’s dental cleaning habits, diet, alcohol consumption, and smoking practices. This information is helpful to the dentist as these may directly or indirectly affect oral health. Some medications, for instance, cause dry mouth, which increases the risk of dental cavities, and medical conditions such as nutrient deficiency and diabetes can affect the health of gums and other supporting structures.
Following the interview and examination, the dentist and/or dental hygienist will discuss the results and educate the patient on proper oral care and hygiene.
If the dentist finds no dental problems, he or she will recommend a timeline for the next dental checkup. Subsequent checkups will be scheduled based on each patient’s oral health. Those with healthy teeth and gums can expect to schedule follow-ups every one or two years.
What if there is a problem?
If a problem is detected during a checkup—or if the patient expresses concern regarding a toothache or sensitivity—the dentist will take an X-ray to examine the teeth more closely and isolate the issue. The dentist will then discuss treatment options and recommend home care and prevention.
It is important to let the dentist know of any lumps felt inside the mouth as these can be initial signs of cancer.
Dental checkups commonly include cleaning, although this practice varies depending on the dentist. At this time, teeth are cleaned to remove tartar buildup, which cannot be removed by regular brushing and flossing. Teeth are then polished to remove plaque and stains. These services are performed by skilled professionals using dental instruments.