A check-up, which involves a thorough examination of your teeth, gums and mouth, will prevent minor problems from becoming major ones. At Elsternwick Dental, we recommend six monthly check ups with your dentist, which when supported by a good at-home routine, will help to keep your mouth healthy.
Nowadays, a regular examination uses both modern technology and the dentist’s up-to-the-minute knowledge and skills, all in a virtually pain-free environment.
What does the dentist need to know?
At the first consultation, your dentist will want to find out about your health, both oral and general. The dentist needs to be aware of your medical background as it may impact the way that they treat and diagnose issues – diabetes, for example, can increase the risk of gum disease and may need different anaesthesia. Certain medicines, meanwhile, can cause dry mouth, which can increase your risk of cavities. Importantly, all your medical information will be kept confidential.
It’s also a good time to discuss any dental phobias – for some patients, fear of the dentist starts in childhood after a bad experience. The dentist will take this on board – in fact, just talking about these issues can actually help relieve them.
After the first consultation, a full-check-up will take place, followed by a thorough treatment plan.
What happens during a check-up?
At each check-up, the dentist or dental hygienist will ask about any difficulties since your last visit. As you settle into the dental chair, a check-up, scaling and polishing takes place.
Check-up: Your dentist or dental hygienist will check for cavities and to see if there’s any plaque – that’s the clear, sticky layer of bacteria – or tartar on your teeth. Next, the dentist checks the gums, seeing if the spaces between your teeth and gums are shallow. Gum disease becomes apparent when the spaces become deeper. The dentist also checks the tongue, throat, face and neck, looking for any signs of trouble or swelling as well as detecting any signs that might indicate oral cancer.
Scale & polish: Plaque or tartar build-up needs to be removed, so the dentist or hygienist uses special instruments such as an ultrasonic scaler to painlessly knock loose any larger pieces of tartar, and provide deep cleaning above and below the gum line – all with a tickling vibration. Once all the surfaces are smooth, they are polished to remove stains from the teeth using a slow-speed handpiece with a soft rubber cup that spins. Inside the cup is a polish comprised of an abrasive toothpaste-like material and fluoride – this powerful mix is spun around on the soon-to-be smooth and shiny teeth.
Do I need an X-ray?
Depending on your oral exam, dental history and any risk for developing cavities, a dental X-ray may be required. An X-ray can give the dentist a good view of your jaw alignment, any decay between teeth as well as identifying any impacted teeth, abscesses, or cysts on the roots of your teeth.
What happens after the check-up?
After the examination, the dentist will discuss any treatment recommendations, covering everything from tooth brushing techniques to your diet and nutrition, alcohol intake, and smoking.
If there are any complications, a return visit may be required for restoration work, such as a filling or crown. For more complex work, the dentist may need to refer you to a specialist such as an orthodontist, periodontist, oral surgeon or an endodontist. At all stages, the dentist is happy to talk about different options – good communication is another vital skill in his or her repertoire.
When’s the next check-up?
After completing the check-up, your next visit will be confirmed. Dental check-ups are generally recommended every six months though it can be different for each individual depending on their oral health needs.