Dental Exams & X-Rays
Routine dental exams and x-rays are important to maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Additionally, they can help prevent costly treatment associated with pain and infection by detecting cavities at an early stage. The Academy of General Dentistry recommends checkups every 6 months starting from the age of 1 or 6mo after the first tooth erupts.
Modern digital x-rays allow the dentist to use 70-90% less radiation than traditional film x-rays. Other benefits include, quicker diagnosis, better enhancements and quality, and easier transfer of records. On you first appointment, the dental assistant or hygienist will take a set of “full mouth” digital x-rays containing 18 pictures or your tooth and tooth roots. A panoramic (pano) X-Ray allows the dentist to see underlying structures such as the joints, sinuses and wisdom teeth. Both the full mouth series and pano only needs to be taken every 3-5 years. On recall visits, a set of 4 x-rays called “bite wings” are taken every 6 months to 1 year. Insurance typically help to pay for preventative exams and x-rays.
After gathering needed xrays and pictures, the dentist will examine your mouth visually. All existing fillings will be noted, then a closer examination of your teeth will be done using an “explorer” to feel for soft spots in the pits and grooves of your teeth and for anything that looks abnormal. Other information used to asses your overall health will include:
- Medical history review: The dentist will assess how any recent or long term medical conditions or illnesses may affect your dental health. i.e diabetes, Crohns, medications, GERD
- Diet: nutritional information will help determine your decay risks
- Oral cancer screening: The face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums will be checked for any signs of oral cancer.
- Gum disease evaluation: Your gums and bone around the teeth will be checked for any evidence of periodontal disease.
- Examination of existing restorations: Current fillings, crowns, and other restorations will be assessed to determine the quality of the seal or if they are causing cracks in your teeth.
- Additionally, your dentist will take diagnostic x-rays to reveal any other hidden problems, especially in the areas below the gums. Bitewing x-rays are typically taken every 12 months and a pano x-ray, which revolves around the head, is taken every 3-5 years.