What to Expect on a Routine Dental Exam

Dentist talking with patient at routine exam

Although most of us know what we should be doing to help keep our health intact, in today’s increasingly busy society, it can often be difficult to keep up with those things. Oral health, arguably one of the most important aspects of overall wellness, tends to be an area that is easily overlooked. This consideration is especially true in regards to regular dental check-ups.

Routine dental exams are the most efficient way of identifying abnormalities in the mouth and preventing potential issues from growing in size and severity. However, many people don’t understand the benefits of routine oral exams or feel anxious because they don’t know what to expect during a typical dental check-up. Here’s what you can expect on your next routine dental exam.

Why Should You Have Regular Dental Exams?

When the word dentist is mentioned, most people think of pain, drilling, and complex invasive dental procedures. As a result, many people only visit the dentist when they feel pain, or think something is seriously wrong, both of which could be avoided with regular oral care. Regular visits to the dentist will help diagnose a problem early and can prevent the need for these invasive dental procedures.

Some of the issues that can be detected early during a dental checkup include tooth decay, cavities, gum diseases, and oral cancer. Identifying and dealing with these problems early enough not only increase chances of successful treatment but also help save a lot of money in the long run.

How Often Should You Have A Dental Exam?

Your dentist will use the information gathered about your oral health to determine a personalized schedule for regular maintenance, cleaning, and check-ups.

Generally, for people with a healthy mouth, dentists recommend their patients to visit them every six months. For patients with certain oral risks, and those with high-risk factors for periodontal disease, dentists will often recommend more frequent visits to address these specific issues.

Simply put, the frequency of your visits to the dentist will depend on how healthy your gums and teeth are and the potential risk for future problems.

What To Expect On A Routine Dental Exam

dentist cleaning teeth

Your dental check-up will be performed by a general dentist, along with the help of one or more experienced dental assistants and a dental hygienist if teeth cleaning is required. Here’s a detailed look at the general procedure and steps of a routine dental exam.

1. Medical History Intake

Once you get into your dentist’s office, the dentist will ask you a few questions that will help them discover more about your oral health. You will be required to offer information about the medications you’re currently taking, possible healing remedies currently in progress, allergies, and whether you smoke or consume alcohol.

The dentist must ask if you have any medical conditions for which you are undergoing treatment. Once you answer all these questions, the dentist may ask you about your previous dental treatment procedures, surgeries, and your experience with anesthesia. With all this information, the dentist will be able to make an essential first step towards establishing a sound treatment plan.

2. Investigations

After collecting all the information needed, the dentist will move to the second step, which involves a thorough investigation of your teeth, gums, jaw, and supporting structures. Here are what dentists use and look for during the examination.


dental x-rays

X-ray machines are essential and are commonly used to detect dental abnormalities that are not visible to naked eyes. The dentist will first take full mouth X-rays before ‘spot checking’ specific problem areas in future visits. X-rays are not generally required at every dental exam. Although exposure to radiation from X-rays is low, you should speak to your dentist if you have concerns about radiation exposure.

Dental Cleaning

dental cleaning

When performing a check-up, your dentist will get rid of tartar that frequently forms on teeth and under the gum. Many dentists now use ultrasonic cleaning equipment during a dental cleaning. After scraping away the tartar, the dentist will polish your teeth and will recommend proper brushing and flossing techniques that will help you maintain oral hygiene.

Examine the Results

After tartar removal, the dentist will conduct a dental exam using both visual and X-rays results to check if there are more dental defects and will also evaluate your risks for future dental abnormalities.

Oral Cancer Screening

The increasing number of oral cancer cases has prompted many dentists to include an oral cancer screening during dental exams. Oral cancer is a serious problem and can occur in various ways. If not detected early, oral cancer can quickly spread and become life-threatening.

An early oral cancer diagnosis, however, is often beneficial since it is easily treatable. Modern dentists are highly trained to detect early signs and the likelihood of detecting the disease in time is dramatically higher. Your dentist will examine the area surrounding your jaws and also the soft tissues in your mouth for signs of oral cancer.

3. Education

After scraping, cleaning, and checking for other abnormalities, the dentist will treat you and spend time with you discussing the discoveries and concerns. They may advise you to see an expert if you have a serious problem and will also guide you on how to take care of your teeth to avoid future problems.

How Do You Prepare For A Dental Exam?

Now, with a greater understanding of the procedure of dental exams, it’s clear there is nothing to fear when going in for a routine dental check-up. In preparation for your dental exam, you only need to know your medical history, radiation history, and allergies before visiting your dentist. These exams can be the difference between the need for invasive dental procedures, and a future of straightforward visits to the dentist.

Not regularly visiting your dentist may not seem like a big deal, but oral problems can develop and spread quickly if you don’t notice them on time. Following a schedule of regular cleanings and dental exams will save you time, money, and potential oral health issues in the future. In addition, missing a follow-up appointment can result in major dental issues. Absolute Dental has dentist offices in Reno, and Las Vegas, NV that can help ensure your oral health is on the right track with regular check-ups. Schedule an appointment with a qualified dentist today.

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About the Author

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Dr. Joan Landron

Currently serving the community at Absolute Dental since August 2008, Dr. Joan Landron graduated from Temple University School of Dentistry in 1997.

She further honed her skills with a general practice residency at Metropolitan Hospital and underwent specialized training at New York University’s Implant Program for General Practitioners. Specializing in services such as X-rays, examinations, cleanings, crowns, and more, Dr. Landron brings a comprehensive approach to general and cosmetic dentistry, including implants.

A proud member of the American Dental Association, Nevada Dental Association, and Southern Nevada Dental Association, she cherishes her free time by spending moments with family, reading, and maintaining her health through exercise. Dr. Landron takes immense pride in being a part of the Absolute Dental team and is dedicated to her patients at the Absolute Dental – Nellis in Las Vegas, ensuring they receive the best care possible.

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