The Importance of a Complete Dental Examination

What is a complete or Comprehensive Dental Examination?

When I see a patient for the first time or after a prolonged absence, I am accepting responsibility for his or her entire dental history. It is my job on that first day to detect any number of diseases or disorders of the teeth and gums that may have resulted from a lifetime of use or possibly abuse. Its is crucial for every patient’s long-term treatment and overall health, that a complete dental examination is performed at the beginning of our dental relationship.

I like to schedule about an hour for a complete exam, allowing me to completely evaluate all aspects of a person’s teeth and soft tissues. The goal of this procedure is to uncover any potential trouble spots at an early stage. When we catch problems early on, they are easier to treat, less painful, and less expensive!

Here are some of the things that we are evaluating during a complete exam:

1. We check the muscles of the head and neck… Evidence of soreness or tenderness, usually indicates that a person is grinding or clenching their teeth.

2. We evaluate the bite and observe how the teeth come together…. Are the biting forces causing destructive pressure on an individual tooth?

3. We look at the soft tissue of the mouth including the tongue and airway…. We are searching for any unusual pathological changes in any of the tissues. Sometimes we need to perform a biopsy to rule out possible problems. We are also looking for patients who may be at risk for sleep apnea, a very common problem which can cause people to die prematurely.

4. We probe periodontal tissues … one of the most common causes of tooth loss in adults is periodontal disease. In its early stages, the disease is usually reversible. During this part of the exam we measure the pocket depth at six locations around each tooth. We also check the gums for evidence of tissue or bone recession.

5. We explore each tooth for cavities and evaluate the strength of any existing fillings. Over the years, fillings breakdown and may need replacement.

6. We take any x-rays that we deem necessary along with photographs. The photographs allow me to have a record of what the teeth look like at that particular moment in time. Later I can refer back to these photos to see if things are improving, deteriorating or stable.

In my practice, our patients are required to have this type of examination so we have a baseline. In addition, the comprehensive exam should be done every 5- 10 yrs depending on the individual situation. By being thorough in my dental investigation, I give my patients a better chance of staying out of dental trouble and saving money on complicated restorations later in life. —Arnold Chernoff

“Dental Care Choices” shows that there are different ways to approach maintaining health.