A complete walkthrough of how we perform dental exams at Dental Express, what we look for, and how often to schedule them
Going in for routine dental exams is like taking your car in for maintenance.
If you’re diligent about getting your oil changed and making your 30,000-mile checkups (whether there’s something wrong or not), you can get hundreds of thousands of miles out of your car.
But if you avoid seeing the mechanic, unseen issues can start to develop beneath the surface. In time, they can worsen to the point where driving your car becomes difficult or even impossible.
When it comes to your dental health, the same principles apply. You can think of dental exams like oil changes for your teeth.
They’re crucial to identify and treat minor problems before they become major ones, acting as the first line of defense against disease.
But what do they entail? What can you expect when you go in for your regular checkup?
Read on as we provide an in-depth breakdown of how we do dental exams at Dental Express, including what red flags we look for, and the steps we take to ensure your smile stays healthy.
What to Expect
Dental exams are generally simple and straightforward, usually taking anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour.
At Dental Express, we use these routine visits to establish a healthy dialogue between you and your dentist, giving you the space to share your wants and needs for your smile.
When you come in for your appointment, our office team will greet you, check you in, and set you up for your visit.
Before getting started, we’ll provide you with an iPad to complete the necessary paperwork (i.e., insurance forms, health history, consent forms, etc.).
Once you’re finished, one of our dental care professionals will welcome you to the back and begin an in-depth examination of your mouth and oral health.
The first stage of this process typically includes taking x-rays, intra-oral photographs, or digital scans of your mouth.
These images paint a clear picture of where your current dental health stands and serve as a valuable diagnostic tool for your dentist.
Speaking of which, if you’ve ever wondered what your dentist is looking for during an exam, we have your answers right here!
- Signs of tooth decay and cavities – Symptoms of these common dental health conditions can include tooth stains or discoloration, sensitivity, and even holes in the surface of your teeth.
- Signs of gingivitis and periodontitis in your gums – Gum disease typically leads to swollen, red, tender gums that may bleed easily. More advanced stages can cause bone loss and even pus to appear between your teeth.
- Signs of oral cancer in your gums, mouth, and throat – While it may be difficult to spot to the naked eye, oral cancer typically shows itself in the form of oral sores, discoloration of the gums or inner cheeks, lumps, and growths. Your dentist may also use a special cancer-detecting light to make sure your mouth is all clear.
- Proper bite and alignment – Your dentist will ask you to bite down to ensure your top and bottom teeth are in correct alignment with each other. If you have any restorations (fillings, crowns, implants, dentures, etc.), they’ll examine them to make sure they still fit properly and feel comfortable.
Throughout the exam, our main focus will be your teeth and gums, but we’ll also check your face and neck for any abnormalities that could point to potential dental health issues.
What if Something Comes Up During the Dental Exam?
If you come to us with any concerns, or your dentist notices signs of dental health issues during your exam, we’ll spend time discussing them and come up with the best possible solutions for your smile together.
Our goal at Dental Express is to minimize your time at the office while providing thoughtful, top-quality care.
So, if we do have some dental health issues to take care of, we’ll do as much as we can on the day of the exam to address them — or start to address them — if your schedule permits.
Luckily, many dental health issues we find can be fixed same-day. And if that’s the case, we’ll handle them on the spot and send you on your way.
During this time, your dentist may give you some recommendations for at-home care. And to wrap things up, we’ll recommend setting up a follow-up appointment, either for a routine hygiene checkup or to continue any necessary treatment.
If at any point you have questions about how to care for your teeth and gums, you can always feel free to give our offices a call. We make a point to provide full transparency throughout the process, so you know how best to maintain your oral health.
How Often Should I Have Dental Exams?
Everyone’s smile is different, but generally speaking, the average person should have a dental exam once every year.
However, if you’re pregnant or nursing a dental health issue, your dentist may recommend more frequent visits.
But don’t forget about your dental cleanings!
In addition to annual exams, regular dental cleanings are one of the best ways to remove plaque and strengthen your smile.
Regarding cleanings, the American Dental Association (ADA) states that higher-risk patients can benefit from two or more cleanings per year, while lower-risk patients may see the same results from just one annual cleaning.
As you likely already know, most dental practices will kill two birds with one stone and combine your annual exam with a cleaning — saving you the time and trouble of having to make two separate appointments.
Will My Insurance Pay for a Dental Exam?
After your exam, one of our team members will meet with you to review your insurance plan to ensure you understand how your individual policy works and find the most affordable solution.
During this time, we always encourage our patients to ask any questions they have to better understand their policy.
Typically, since routine exams are a cornerstone of dental health, most insurance providers will cover them without any out-of-pocket costs.
But What if I’m Uninsured?
Many people without insurance feel as if they don’t have access to affordable dental care. But at Dental Express, we’re committed to providing the highest quality care at the most reasonable price — insurance or not.
That’s why we accept several different payment methods, including low-interest medical financing, to get you the treatments you need when you need them, without breaking the bank.
We’re also proud participants in the Medi-Cal Dental program, which provides low or no-cost dental care for qualifying California residents. Simply show your Medi-Cal card to one of our office team members to access your benefits at Dental Express.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Don’t wait until you run out of oil to get an oil change.
Even if you’re not experiencing any dental health issues, going in for your annual exam is the best way to protect your teeth from tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer.
Detecting these problems early can allow you and your dentist to come up with the best course of action to handle them quickly and effectively.
But the proactive method doesn’t just benefit your oral health. It’s great for your wallet too. The cost of treating advanced dental conditions is much more than taking care of minor issues.
So, take some initiative with your oral hygiene and schedule your next exam today!
Spreading Smiles to All of San Diego
Dental Express is on a quest to provide the entire San Diego community with affordable, patient-focused care.
We’re a family of seven dental practices in the area specializing in serving patients of all ages and stages of life, from infants to seniors.
Every day, we strive to create a family atmosphere where people can feel at home and accepted, no matter their dental health. Building lasting relationships with our patients is what we do, and it all starts with putting your smile first.
Set up your next dental exam with us today and find out why we’re San Diego’s favorite family dentist!