If you have read my previous articles, then I hope you get the sense that I am passionate about the profession of dentistry and my desire to keep my patients as dentally healthy as possible. I view my role as integral in the shared responsibility of maintaining good oral health.
So, what is it that we dentists do when we do a check-up? Though I can’t really speak for my professional colleagues, there are several things we are assessing when we look inside your mouth. Naturally, foremost amongst my aim is to ensure that my patients’ teeth and mouth are disease free. This is the same for patients I meet for the first time, as it is for those I have been seeing for many years.
I will look at your cheeks and tongue to screen for changes in the colour or texture of these tissues as the tongue, in particular, is a high risk site for oral cancer. Naturally I will look at your teeth. Are there any obvious signs of tooth decay? What shape are the existing fillings in? Are they fractured or broken in some way? For kids, how many are there? How is dental development progressing? Is crowding hindering proper cleaning and will orthodontic treatment be needed?
How well are you completing your role – namely how well do you brush and floss? Is there a lot of dental plaque (that furry feeling) over your teeth? How much tartar build up is there since your last professional clean? I’ll also take the time to have a look at your gum health. Are they red, puffy and bleed with gentle probing? Are the probing depths too great – possible indication that you may be experiencing gum disease? What about overbrushing and the risk of gingival recession and possible sensitivity.
And yes, I will recommend that we take a screening set of bitewing x-rays. Despite the advances in lighting, and using magnifying operating glasses, I still cannot detect early disease any other way. They also provide a great snap shot and reference in time. For many of my long-standing patients they show what changes occur over time, and I find them valuable to demonstrate what is ‘going on in there’.
For a new patient to our practice, this part of your appointment can take around 15 minutes to complete and my staff will note your dental condition in our clinical records. We will usually complete a professional clean at this appointment too. On more than one occasion additional problems have been identified once we can see all the tooth’s surfaces, so I am continually assessing whilst cleaning.
We’d recommend an annual check up for most patients. If it has been a little over 12 months, or you are a bit worried about ‘what’s happening in there’, then it is time to get in touch.