Frequent dental exams and check-ups are crucial even if you don't have any dental or oral health issues. Prevention is better than cure, and that is why dentists recommend regular preventative dental exams and check-ups. Practicing proper dental hygiene habits, including visiting your dentist regularly, is the key to maintaining top-notch oral health and general body wellness.

Skilled and friendly family dentists at Washington Dental are here for you if you or your child haven't had a dental check-up in a while. We understand the importance of maintaining your dental and oral health and will be ready to offer you dental exams and check-ups if you are in Carson, California, to ensure you are not at risk of any dental plague or infection.

The Different Between Dental Exams and Check-ups

The terms "dental exam" and "check-up" are common terms in a dental clinic environment and might be confusing. You can use these terms interchangeably, but some people bring out a distinction that a hygienist is in control of your dental check-ups during your appointment while the dentist will conduct your dental exams.

Generally, dental exams are more technical than check-ups and require a trained dentist's expertise to make the proper dental and oral health diagnosis for appropriate guidance or treatment measures.

Types of Dental Exams and Check-Ups

Typically, there are three types of dental exams and check-ups that dentists provide. Depending on the specific dental or oral health problem you are experiencing, below are common types of dental exams and check-ups you may need:

  1. Limited Oral Examination

A limited oral examination will only address specific dental health problems you might be experiencing, as the name suggests. For instance, if you have a sudden tooth loss, cracked tooth, or severe toothache, your dentist may only need a single x-ray to examine and evaluate that specific area of the mouth for proper treatment.

During a limited oral examination and check-up, your dentist will not be screening for health problems in other surrounding teeth or parts of your mouth.

  1. Comprehensive Oral Examination

Unlike a limited oral examination, comprehensive oral examination focuses on screening every part of your mouth and teeth. A comprehensive oral examination is crucial in your first dental appointment after a while to pinpoint any possible health changes in your gums, teeth, or any other surrounding tissues for appropriate treatment.

The outcome of this comprehensive oral examination will act as a baseline for other check-ups or treatments you might need in the future to protect your oral and dental health.

  1. Periodic Oral Examination

After your initial check-up, periodic or regular oral examination of your mouth and teeth will be necessary to determine whether there is an emerging dental health issue since your last comprehensive oral examination or review.

Periodic oral exams, also commonly known as "recall visits," make the majority of most people's dental and oral health appointments with a dentist. During a periodic oral exam, your dentist will address common dental and oral health concerns to reduce the chances of experiencing an infection in the future.

Preparing for a Dental Exam and Check-up Appointment

Making the necessary preparation before a dental exam and check-up appointment is vital to ensure the best dental and oral health services on every appointment with your dentist. Some of the reasons why you need to prepare for a dental exam and check-up appointment ahead of time include:

  1. To Reduce Dental Phobia and Anxiety

If you experience anxiety or uneasiness every time you think of visiting a dentist for a dental exam or check-up, you have a "dental phobia." Most people with a phobia of visiting a dentist's office are conscious and aware that the fear is unnecessary, but they cannot do anything about it. Therefore, they exhibit avoidance behaviors and do everything they can to avoid visiting a dentist.

Below are signs that you have a dental phobia:

  • Every thought of visiting a dentist makes you cry or physically ill
  • A feeling of extreme nervousness anytime you are in your dentist's office waiting room
  • Lack of sleep and restlessness the night before a dental exam and check-up appointment date
  • A feeling of extremes uneasiness when you think of the objects or tools your dentist will insert in your mouth during a dental exam and check-up

The key solution to coping with dental phobia and the anxiety associated with dental exams and check-ups is to discuss your fears with a dentist. Once you inform the dentist of your fears, he or she will know the best way to work with you during your routine dental check-ups to ensure utmost comfort and less anxiousness for the best services you deserve.

The following tips can help you reduce dental phobia and anxiety during your dental exam and check-up appointment date:

  • Don't drink anything containing caffeine hours before your dental appointment.
  • Ask your dentist or hygienist if you can listen to music during the procedure using your
  • Try to choose a low-stress appointment date and time

If your dentist ignores your dental fears, you may want to consider finding a different expert for comfortable and reliable services.

  1. To Reduce the Hassle of Finding a Reliable Dentist

As you prepare for a dental exam and check-up, you should take ample time to find a reliable dentist who will offer you these services at an affordable fee. Below are tips to consider when finding a dentist for regular dental exams and check-ups to protect your oral health:

The Dentist's Location and Accessibility

Find an accessible dentist within your residential area for convenient services whenever you or your child needs a dental exam and check-up to protect his/her dental and oral health. Retaining the services of a dentist based within your area of residence can help you save time and money whenever you need a dental check-up or examination.

The Dentist's Payment Plan and Cost of His/Her Services

Don't assume your prospective dentist will accept your health insurance policy to cover your dental exam and check-up fee. Consult your prospective dentist ahead of time to know his/her cost of services and whether your health insurance policy can cover the cost of these types of dental services or not.

Every dentist's cost of services and payment plans are different. Hence, knowing your prospective dentist's cost of services and participation in your health insurance plan ahead of time can help you narrow down choices available to find a dentist who suits your budget and interests.

The Dentist's Experience and Reputation

Overlooking a prospective dentist's experience and reputation is a mistake many people make when finding a dentist for routine dental exams and check-ups. To avoid settling for the services of a mediocre and unreliable expert, you should know your prospective dentist's experience and reputation before you make any significant deal or commitment with him/her.

Your prospective dentist's length of experience will determine the quality of services you are likely to experience while at his/her dental office for a dental exam or check-up. Most experienced dentists will also have a credible reputation among their past clients, but you should confirm it yourself.

Don't hesitate to ask your prospective dentist to provide you with contact details of his/her past clients to hear what they have to say about his/her quality of services before you make any substantial commitment.

Recommendations from your colleagues and friends can also help you narrow down numerous options to find an experienced dentist with a credible reputation for your regular dental exams and check-ups.

Information to Discuss With New Dentist During a Dental Exam and Check-up Appointment

When you retain the services of a new dentist, he/she will want to know about your general dental and oral health to enable him/her to notice any possible changes with ease during future appointments. However, before reviewing your dental and oral health, he/she will want to learn more about your general health history. Here are some of the areas that your dentist will discuss:

Current Dental Health

Don't hesitate to discuss any symptoms you might be experiencing with your dentist because the ultimate goal is to protect your dental and oral health. If you feel sensitivity in your teeth or any other possible symptom of a dental infection or cavity, you should let your dentist know.

By making your dentist aware of the symptoms you are experiencing or feeling, you might assist him/her make an early detection or diagnosis of your dental or oral health issue for appropriate treatment.

Current Medicines or Medical History

Your new dentist also needs to know about your general medical history and any current medicine, whether prescribed or not. It is essential to discuss all your general health issues and medications with your dentist, even those not related to your teeth or mouth.

Discussing with your dentist this information is important because some diseases like diabetes can make you prone to gum infections and necessitate using different anesthesia to treat any current dental health issue.

Dental Fears

If your dentist isn't aware of your dental fears already, you should let him know. Since it is not an uncommon issue, an experienced dentist will have the skills and strategies to handle patients like you to ease your dental anxiety and phobia.

What You Should Expect During Your Oral/Dental Exam and Check-Up Appointment

Common oral health activities that most dentists perform during a regular dental exam and check-up appointment include:

A Visual Examination of Your Gums and Teeth

An experienced dental hygienist or a dentist can collect numerous information by looking at your gums and teeth' condition with naked eyes. If you have any teeth discoloration, staining, cavity, or inflammation in your gums, the hygienist can detect it, even with naked eyes. 

A visual examination of your mouth is crucial because it gives your hygienist an insight into your general oral and dental hygiene, which is essential for diagnostic reasons. Signs of gum infection will also be apparent during this visual examination and may require immediate attention to prevent it from worsening.

Assessment of Your Risk of Tooth Decay or Cavity

Tooth decay is a common dental issue resulting from activities of bacteria that thrive in your mouth, especially if you have dental plaque. When tooth decay remains untreated, it can worsen, leading to severe dental issues like cavities or abscesses. A tooth decay demands immediate attention because it can spread to other nearby healthy gums or teeth with time.

To find a possible risk of tooth decay or weakness in your teeth enamel with ease, your dentist will use a special electronic sensor known as an explorer. If you have a tooth cavity already, an X-ray might also be essential to examine the extent of this dental issue. When the dentist detects a decay or cavity in your tooth early, he/she will use a small and simple filling to treat the problem.

In a worst-case scenario, tooth extraction might be necessary when the cavity reaches the root part of the tooth, making it weak. Therefore, it is vital to schedule a regular appointment with your dentist to detect these dental issues when they are in their early stages for easy treatment.

Dental Cleaning and Polishing

Although home-based ways of cleaning your teeth help maintain your oral health, you should visit your dentist regularly for thorough cleaning. Professional dental cleaning by your hygienist or dentist will focus on removing the hardened tartar and any build-up of bacteria, which can cause severe tooth or gum infection in the future.

Your dentist will use special dentistry tools like ultrasonic scalers to remove unwanted deposits and hardened tartar above and below your gum line for whiter and healthy teeth. Thorough dental cleaning also involves teeth polishing to remove any stains, plaque, and discolorations for a new and fresh smile.

To make your teeth shiny and smooth, your dentist will polish and clean your teeth using a special electronic toothbrush and an adhesive toothpaste that contains fluoride. You cannot undermine the importance of regular professional dental cleaning when it comes to protecting or improving your oral health. It is even more critical for children because their flossing and brushing skills are poor.

Mouth or Dental X-rays

Based on your risk of dental infection and your general oral health, your dentist may need X-ray images of your mouth or not. If you haven't had an oral or dental exam and check-up in a while, X-ray images of your mouth could be necessary. X-rays or radiographs help your dentist make a diagnosis of your dental and general oral health needs for appropriate recommendations or treatment measures.

For a comprehensive dental exam and check-up appointment, your dentist may have to take an x-ray picture of your mouth to ensure there aren't any underlying health issues. X-ray pictures or images of your mouth give your dentist a detailed perspective of the underlying dental and gum health issues, which are unnoticeable with naked eyes.

You should also expect an X-ray examination of your mouth if a treatment procedure like a root canal is needed to restore your dental health during this dental appointment.

Oral Cancer Examination

Another significant activity during a dental exam and check-up appointment is screening the signs of oral cancer. During oral cancer screening, your dentist will examine your jaw, tongue, cheeks, lips, and neck to check or feel any signs of abnormal cell growth. Below are some of the signs and symptoms which can indicate a possibility of abnormal cell growth:

  • Rough spots or lumps
  • White or red sores/spots
  • Difficulty with swallowing or chewing
  • Tenderness or pain anywhere in your oral cavity

Oral cancer examination or screening is particularly important for patients who drink alcohol and smoke any tobacco product. Like any other type of cancer, mouth or oral cancer is treatable if your dentist detects it early for immediate action.

Dental Impressions

Although it is not a mandatory part of a regular dental exam and check-up appointment, a dental impression of your jaw and teeth can help your dentist design or make your bleaching trays and evaluate your bite.

Your dentist will create your dental impression using a horseshoe-shaped tray, which he/she will fill with a gelatin-like material before placing it on your lower or upper teeth. To make a dental cast or replica of your mouth and teeth, you will hold this tray in your mouth for less than five minutes.

Your dentist may also want you to bite down a specific soft material to review your bite for appropriate recommendations or treatment measures.

Oral and Dental Health Counseling

Before the end of your dental exam and check-up appointment, your dentist will explain to you his/ her findings or observations and outline the next steps to take to protect or improve your oral health.

He/she will discuss your general oral health, including your susceptibility to gum disease, tooth cavity, or any other life-threatening infection. The idea behind oral and dental health counseling is to ensure the subsequent dental exam appointment is smooth as possible.

During this part of your routine dental exam and check-up appointment, your dentist will explain when to schedule the next appointment. It is advisable to seek a dental exam and check-up after every six months, but more frequent dental exams and check-up might be necessary if:

  • You are pregnant
  • You are a tobacco smoker
  • You are diabetic
  • You already have a gum infection
  • You have a weak immune system
  • You have a history of cavities

If follow-up treatment is needed to manage an ongoing dental or oral health issue, you can book your next appointment before leaving the dentist's office. Like every medical expert, dentists also focus on preventing infections rather than treating them.

That is why every dentist will advise you to make routine dental exams and check-up appointments to detect and fight any possible infection or decay before it becomes severe.

Tips on How to Take Advantage of the Benefits of Your Routine Dental Exam and Check-up Appointments

As you can see above, routine dental exams and check-up appointments come with numerous benefits that you cannot underrate or overlook. To gain full advantage of these benefits, you should observe proper oral health care while at home because most bacteria that invade your gums and teeth are persistent.

Here are some of the steps your dentist will recommend you to take while at home to protect your overall oral and dental health:

  • Use a toothpaste containing fluoride to prevent tooth cavities/decay
  • Consider replacing your toothbrush after every four months
  • Watch your diet and limit intake of any sugary foods and drinks
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day
  • Avoid smoking any tobacco-related product
  • Floss daily to remove any plaque that can attract other dental or gum infections
  • Keep making regular or routine dental exam and check-up appointments

Takeaway Notes

With modern dentistry tools and technology, a dental exam and check-up appointment should not take much of your time. Every session takes about 45 to 60 minutes, depending on your current oral health and the last time you had a dental exam and check-up.

For parents, it is advisable to introduce their children to proper oral healthcare practices at an early age, which includes making routine dental exams and check-ups with a dentist. Routine dental exam and check=up appointments encourage a child to develop excellent oral health and hygiene practices which he/she will live to follow throughout his/her life.

Remember, if you are looking for a dentist to handle your family dental exam and check-up needs, you need to take ample time to find the best reliable expert within your location.

Find a Dentist Near Me

Frequent dental exams and check-ups are crucial for every family to ensure everybody has a healthy and bright smile. We invite you to schedule your routine dental appointment with professional dentists at Washington Dental to experience exceptional oral healthcare services on every appointment.

Call us now at 310-217-1507 for a quick dental exam and cleaning services from our experienced team of friendly dentists wherever you are in Carson, California.