March 13, 2010
Today, I would like to discuss the varioud types of dental examinations that we use to aid in appropriate treatment. The first examination that I will discuss is the comprehensive oral evaluation. As the name implies, this is an examination that should involve the entire oral complex. This exam is done most frequently with a patient who is new to a dental practice or who has not been seen by their dentist for a number of years. During this exam, we will review the patients current and past medical history as well as the patients current and past dental history. There is often much to be learned before even looking in the patients mouth. A patients expectations, past dental treatment and anxiety level can all be discussed to aid in making the patient more comfortable and informed. Once we begin to examine the patient we will look at much more than teeth. We will also look at the patients periodontal(gums)health. This is accomplished by measuring the space between the teeth and gums.Excessive tooth wear or mobility of teeth should also be noted. The comprehensive exam will also include an oral cancer screening and a review of any bite or TMJ(jaw joint) issues. After a visual examination, often a complete set of dental x-rays will be imaged. A complete radiographic series should be accomplished every 3-5 years depending on the patients condition. Occasionally, diagnostic molds of the teeth will be taken as well as photographs of the mouth. All of this information will be used to determine the level of health and potential need for treatment.
The next exam to discuss would be the periodic exam. This is accomplished during the patients recare visits. A review of the medical and dental histories will be accomplished. Since the patient is known to the practice the depth of the exam is lessened but still involves evaluation of entire oral cavity. This exam can be done by the dental hygienist or dentist, and commonly both. The need for current x-rays will be evaluated depending on the patients condition. The patient should have the results of the exam discussed, as well as any recommendations for necessary treatment.
The most obvious dental examination is the problem focused, or “emergency” exam. This type of exam would take place when the patient realizes that they have a problem and need to seek dental care. Commonly this would occur with the fracture of a tooth or filling or the occurance of pain or trauma. As you would imagine, a diagnosis will need to be made before treatment is rendered , and arriving at the correct diagnosis can be quite obvious, or it can be quite a challenge. Visual examination, past dental history, and appropriate dental xrays are all tools to aid in arriving at a correct diagnosis.
Hopefully, this discussion will help our patients understand that not all dental exams are the same. Each is critical to optimal dental health to the individuals that we treat.
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