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Have you ever wondered what is happening during a dental oral examination?

An oral examination is much more than simply examining the teeth. It is a multi-step process used to detect any abnormalities in and around the mouth and its surrounding structures.

Initially, the dentist or dental hygienist will review your medical history with you, making sure to note any changes in your health or medications. This information allows your dental hygienist and dentist to identify any necessary precautions for treatment.

Dental radiographs, or x-rays, are not needed at each cleaning appointment, but usually every 1-2 years, depending on your risk for cavities or other disease. Dental radiographs are an important tool which enable your dentist to examine for damage or disease in areas that are not visible to the eye, such as the areas between teeth and the bone around the roots of teeth. Click here to learn more about the safety of today's digital dental x-rays.

The gums are examined by the dental hygienist using a periodontal probe. This instrument measures the depth of the spaces between the teeth and the gums. You may have heard a series of numbers being called out and recorded during this process. Measurements of 3 mm and below are ideal. Measurements of 4 mm and above usually indicate gingivitis or periodontitis.

All accessible surfaces of the teeth are examined for decay, cracks, failing restorations, signs of wear and other problems.

An oral cancer screening is performed during each routine examination to look for lesions that look like they may be cancerous or may become cancerous. Your dentist and hygienist will examine your tongue, the floor of your mouth, gums, lips, palate, cheeks, tonsils, the visible area of your throat, as well as parts of your face and neck. The purpose of this screening is to identify any pre-cancerous lesions before they become cancerous. Click here to learn more about oral cancer and its risks factors, prevention and treatment from the American Cancer Society (a new window or tab will open).

Regular dental examinations are a great way to help ensure your continued good health. Do you have your next check-up scheduled?

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