Visiting the dentist for a dental check-up is essential for clean, healthy teeth. That is something most people are aware of, but the actual process itself may be shrouded in mystery for some. Being aware of the steps involved with a regular visit to the dentist can help people feel less stressed and more informed about the process overall.
The different stages of a dental check-up
How often a person visits the dentist is based on individual needs and oral health concerns. The American Dental Association recommends having a check-up at least once a year, although most people have biannual visits. There are three steps to a routine check-up, each with a special purpose.
The X-rays are usually performed as part of the examination and may be the first step, although it can be the second depending on the dentist. This part of a dental check-up allows dentists to see problems not visible to the naked eye, such as tooth abscesses, decay, impacted teeth, tumors, cysts and even jawbone damage. It can also be a way for cavities located between two teeth to be noticed. Modern dental offices often use a panoramic X-ray that moves around the head to take more accurate and full images of the mouth.
The full examination is considered the bulk of a regular dental visit. It involves a dentist looking for signs of inflammation in the gums, disease, tooth decay, cavities and other oral health problems. The dentist usually reviews the X-ray images during the examination and crosschecks the information with a surface check of the mouth.
If anything unusual or concerning is found, such as a cavity, the dentist can explain what needs to be done to correct the situation. In some cases, the work may be completed right then and there, as is usually the case with cavities.
The final step of a dental check-up is the cleaning, which can be performed either before or after the full examination. Often, an oral hygienist handles this, but a general dentist with the right training may also do this step.
During a cleaning, one of the first steps is to check the gum pockets to see how inflamed the gums are. If there is inflammation, it is usually because of gum disease or a buildup of bacteria under the gums. The dentist uses a tool to remove plaque buildup along the surface of the teeth or beneath the gum line to thoroughly clean the teeth. After all that, the final steps include polish the teeth and flossing.
Visiting the dentist for a regular dental check-up is key for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Understanding the three-step process takes away the uncertainty of the situation and also makes people more informed about oral health care and the many benefits these routine visits provide. The dentist can help set a schedule for these visits to keep your dental health on track according to your individual needs.
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