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What Happens at a Dental Exam?

If you go to your dentist twice a year as recommended for regular cleanings and exams, you already know what happens at a dental exam. But if you’re one of the 35% of American adults who didn’t go to the dentist last year, you might need a refresher on exactly what happens at an exam and why it’s important to go.

At Portrait Dental in Katy, Texas, Dr. Minh D. Nguyen performs exams regularly on patients of all ages. Here’s how he conducts his exams so you can know exactly what to expect the next time you head to the dentist’s office.

Why are dental exams important?

Regular dental exams are a preventative health measure — you’re not going to the dentist because something is wrong, your goal is to keep something from going wrong. If you make sure your teeth are clean and healthy, they are more likely to stay that way in between visits.

Also, some serious problems such as gum disease and tooth decay don’t present with obvious signs right away. Regular dental exams with experts who know exactly what they’re looking for can help catch problems like these early, when they are more responsive to treatment and before they progress to a stage where treating the problem will be more difficult and painful.

Your oral health is also linked to your physical health, so you don’t want something like gum disease to cause high blood pressure or diabetes, for instance. Regular exams are a good general health measure. 

What occurs during an exam?

Depending on when your last visit was, your dental hygienist may take a set of oral x-rays to help them spot decay or other trouble areas that may not be easily visible with a surface examination.

Next, the hygienist will conduct a visual exam to look for any signs of trouble such as decay, gum disease, oral cancer, or plaque build-up. They may use a small circular mirror to be able to check in every corner of your mouth.

Assuming everything is fine with the visual exam, the hygienist will then scrape the plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth with an effective metal tool called a scaler. The thicker your build-up, the longer this step will take. (Yet another reason to visit the dentist more often.)

After your teeth have been cleaned off, the hygienist will polish your teeth with a gritty type of toothpaste designed especially for this purpose. They will also perform an expert flossing to get any plaque and/or food particles out from between your teeth. 

Finally, Dr. Nguyen will perform his own exam to make sure everything in your mouth looks good and there are no problems that anyone missed. 

If it’s been a while since you’ve been to the dentist (or even if you’ve never been), contact Portrait Dental by phone or fill out our online scheduler to set your appointment.

Once you’ve completed that visit, we’ll see you at the next exam in six months!

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