A dental check-up consists of x-rays and a visual examination.
The number of x-rays will differ depending on when your last examination was. If you have not been to the dentist in a while, you will typically get a ‘full set’ (or FMS) of x-rays.
PA’s – show the root of the tooth (used to look for infections at the end of the root, severe bone loss, etc.)
Bitewings – most clearly show cavities
If you have been to the dentist recently and had a ‘full set’ you will probably only get a limited number of x-rays or a recall series. This is typically 4 BW’s and 3 PA’s but can be more if the dentist needs to see the roots of certain back teeth.
If there is a possibility of problems with the wisdom teeth, a panoramic x-ray is taken which is of your entire lower face. It shows the relationship between your teeth and important structures such as nerves and sinus cavities. These panoramic x-rays are necessary before a dentist can remove your wisdom teeth safely.
Typically, a dentist will do a visual exam and make their diagnoses based on this combined with the x-rays. Some problems can be seen only on an x-ray, and some can be detected only by looking or feeling. What do I mean by feeling? That little sharp metal pointed instrument you probably despise is called an explorer, and in order to tell if a dark spot is a cavity, the dentist will likely need to poke it with this instrument.
They will also look at your gums. Gum health is usually measured with a tiny ruler, or probe, which you also probably despise. They will be measuring your “pockets” AKA the depth between the tooth and the gum. You want your pockets to be 3mm or less. More on this to come…
A dental checkup is recommended every 6 months. Sticking to every 6 months allows problems to be caught early before they progress to larger issues. We will discuss this in greater detail as we go through other topics but the basic gist is:
if you get your checkups every 6 months, cavities can be caught while they are small, before they progress to the level of needing root canals. Or, mild gum disease can be diagnosed and treated before progressing to more advanced gum disease and tooth loss. Make sense?
After your exam, a dentist or office manager will review their findings with you. Hopefully you will need nothing! A pat on the back and a see you in 6 months! But just in case this is not… the case, I will continue to write these posts…
In the meantime, Keep Smiling 🙂
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