10 Things You Didn’t Know Your Dentist was Doing at Your Checkup


10 Things You Didn’t Know Your Dentist was Doing at Your Checkup

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Anita M. Shade,18th Dental Squadron Deputy Squadron commander, performs a teeth cleaning procedure on a patient Jan. 10, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Unexpected dental emergencies can happen anytime and the 18th DS provides on-call, after-hours emergency care during non-duty hours and weekends. This service can be accessed via the Kadena Connect app. The app provides step-by-step instructions to help guide patients through the process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

Going to the dentist twice per year is essential for maintaining good oral health. Finding and taking care of cavities is the main objective, but it is just a small fraction of your check-up. There are a few other things your dentist looks at during your exam.

1) First impressions

As soon as you walk into the dentist’s office, you can reveal many things about your overall health. Your walk, posture, voice, and skin can show information about your current condition. For example, flushed skin paired with a raspy voice may be an indication of a viral infection.

2) Checking your face

Things like facial asymmetry and lesions are something your dentist looks at as indicators for other diseases. On the other hand, bruises can reveal a recently sustained trauma.

3) Your saliva

As an essential part of oral homeostasis, the characteristics of your saliva are very important. For example, a lack of saliva can contribute to the development of cavities by preventing tooth remineralization. This is why it gets checked during every visit.

4) Examining your oral mucosa

Your mouth is a window into your overall health. The teeth are just a small part of your oral cavity. Dentists pay close attention to the state the oral mucosa. The color, texture, and gloss are some things to look for while checking the lining of your oral cavity. Any changes may be the result of infections (viral, bacterial, or fungal), autoimmune diseases, vitamin deficiencies, allergic reactions even oral cancers.

5) Checking your tongue

Your tongue may be a source of bad breath, and if that is your chief complaint, you can be sure your dentist will be checking if you brush it. Also, changes in its shape and movements can reveal other diseases.

6) Analyzing your oral hygiene

In case you have missed some spots, or you have been missing them for a while, your dentist will take note and discuss your brushing technique with you. Make sure you brush before your visit, even if it’s on the go using a Fuzzy Brush.

7) Looking at your gums

Gum health is very important to the longevity of your teeth. A receding gum line may be a sign of periodontal disease. The disease may cause tooth loss if left untreated.

8) Counting the number of teeth you have

With some variations related to the wisdom teeth, a healthy mouth should have between 28-32 teeth. Any deviations in that number can give the dentist a glimpse into your history. Changes in the number of teeth may be a sign of genetic disorders, or extractions related to poor hygiene, and orthodontic treatment. It can also be considered when creating a treatment plan, as you may need some form of prosthetics or dental implants.

9) The shape of your teeth

Some diseases may cause abnormal development of your enamel, dentin and tooth cementum. A clue to these diseases can be hidden in abnormally shaped teeth.

10) Checking for cancer

The best weapon in the fight against cancer is early detection. Your dentist is the first line of defense when it comes to oral cancer and some form of skin cancer. This is why your dentist has a heightened awareness for cancerous lesions during the exam. Changes in the shape, color, and texture of the mucosa, tongue, and skin may be indicative of cancer.

Your dental check-up involves much more than searching for cavities. Visiting your dentist may be instrumental in detecting and treating other diseases while maintaining good oral health.

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