Preventative Dentistry For Maintaining Optimal Health
COMPREHENSIVE DENTAL EXAM
Why is Comprehensive Exam Important?
Comprehensive dental exams are thorough evaluations of your oral health history and the current health of your mouth, teeth, gums, neck, jaws and throat. They are a valuable part of your preventative health maintenance plan, and are designed to set a baseline for measuring your oral health, assess the condition of any previous dental work done on your teeth such as fillings, crowns, bridges, or dental implants and catch any early signs of serious illness that may be otherwise undetected. They are normally performed for all new patients or done every 3 to 5 years for existing patients to address potential dental health problems before they become serious, detect oral cancers and gum diseases in their early stages and also help protect your oral health and general well-being.
What Can You Expect During the Comprehensive Exam?
Here is what you can expect from your comprehensive dental exam with Dr. Tufa:
- A discussion about your health, dental history, diet, medications, oral hygiene habits as well as any dental concerns and long-term oral health goals.
- A full mouth digital X-rays will be taken to help us detect dental issues (tooth decay, bone loss, hidden cavities) not visible with a visual exam.
- Intraoral and extraoral photoshoot. We will take high quality photos of the inside of your mouth to help us examine hidden problems in the mouth and teeth like detecting hidden cavities or cracks. The extraoral photos are taken to set a baseline for present state and to document use them as your educational tool.
- Wellness digital scan using our state-of-the-art iTero digital scanner where you can see simulations in real-time and time-laps comparisons.
- Extraoral exam to evaluate your jaw joints, muscles, gland and nodes
- Soft tissue exam to screen for signs of oral cancer or other lesions and conditions that may be a symptom of a systemic condition
- Evaluation of your bite and jaw to check how well your teeth fit together.
- Assessment of wear patterns and bruxing habits as well as acid erosion.
- Evaluation of airway and sleep disordered breathing to help detect sleep apnea
- Examination of the gum tissues including recession, bleeding, tooth mobility, measuring and charting pocket depths to screen for gum disease and other signs of periodontal problems.
- Examination of your teeth for any signs of tooth decay, craze lines and cracks, quality of existing restorations
- Upon completion of the exam, Dr. Tufa will share her observations and findings with you and give you a tour of your mouth using the intraoral photos and x-rays that were taken previously and other educational tools and videos.
What is a Comprehensive Exam
Screening For Gum Disease
Our Co-Diagnosis Approach
Dr. Tufa uses the modern Co-Diagnosis approach in dentistry. This means that you are actively involved in the learning process about your mouth, what the benefits of each treatment are, options and alternatives, best and worst case scenarios, pros and cons, consequences and anticipated outcomes/prognosis. At the end of your comprehensive exam, you will have full understanding on what the findings mean, treatment choices and what the implications are for your well-being so you can make an informed decision on how to proceed.
Routine Teeth Cleanings & Periodic Exam
Why Do We Recommend Regular Preventative Teeth Cleanings and Exams?
A regular cleaning and exam is the best way to help ensure optimal dental health. During your exam, periodontal (bone and gum) assessment will be performed to determine the type of dental cleaning and recall interval that is appropriate for you.
For patients with healthy gums, professional dental cleaning appointments are recommended every 6 months. For patients with compromised gums, the frequency of the cleanings is customized based on the patent’s needs.
Routine dental cleanings are preventive in nature and designed to keep gum disease and tooth decay from developing. Our registered dental hygienist will remove plaque and tartar from your teeth that you may not be able to remove at home by brushing and flossing. Measurements of the gums will be taken annually to catch any signs of gum disease. Oral hygiene recommendations will be given to improve and reinforce your daily routine. Your teeth will be polished to remove stain, leaving your mouth feeling refreshed.
Dr. Tufa will perform a periodic dental exam every 6 months to assess and screen for any problems that may arise. Digital xrays will be reviewed for cavities, failing restorations, recurrent decay, bone pathologies and infections of the nerve. Oral cancer screening will also be completed at this time.
What can you expect at your teeth cleaning appointment?
Our registered dental hygienist will remove plaque and tartar from your teeth that you may not be able to remove at home by brushing and flossing. In addition, measurements of the gums will be taken annually to catch any signs of gum disease and oral hygiene recommendations will be provided to improve and reinforce your daily routine. Your teeth will be polished to remove stain, leaving your mouth feeling refreshed.
After that, Dr. Tufa will perform a periodic dental exam (every 6 months) to assess and screen for any problems that may arise. Digital xrays will be reviewed for cavities, failing restorations, recurrent decay, bone pathologies and infections of the nerve. Oral cancer screening will also be completed at this time.
Digital Dental X-Rays
Digital Dental x-rays or radiographs are an essential part of good patient care. They are taken because we can see only one third of the teeth in the mouth so they help us visualize what we cannot see with the clinical exam. An X-ray may reveal:
- areas of decay between the teeth or recurrent decay under existing fillings;
- infections in the bone;
- gum disease;
- abscesses or cysts;
- developmental abnormalities;
- some types of tumors;
In addition, many dental diseases and conditions are asymptomatic until advanced and radiographs help us with early intervention in those situations.
How often x-rays are taken depends on the patient's individual oral health needs. Adults who are at an increased caries risk, have obvious clinical decay, generalized dental disease or a history of extensive dental treatment in the past, are recommended to have posterior bitewings taken every 6-12 months. Patient who have had minimal dental treatment in the past and are at a low caries risk may have their x-rays taken every 12-24 months.
For new patients, the dentist may recommend a full set of radiographs to complement the clinical oral exam. If you have had recent radiographs at your previous dentist, please make sure you have those forwarded to our office. Radiographs are vital to proper diagnosis. Without the necessary dental x-rays, we compromise our ability to provide competent care.
Nutritional counseling and cavity prevention
What you put in your mouth impacts not only your general health but also the health of your teeth and gums.
During your visit, we will discuss foods and drinks that increase your risk for cavities and what changes you can make to lower your risk. We will also discuss systemic or local medical conditions you may have, such as gastrointestinal reflux, eating disorders, dry mouth, radiation treatments, etc. which can increase risk of cavities and bone loss.
Mouth Guards and Tooth Wear
Tooth wear is a common problem that occurs in patients who experience parafunctional habits such as bruxing. Bruxing is the dynamic, repeated grinding of teeth against teeth that causes wear facets, loss of tooth height and thickness, cracked teeth or restorations, loose teeth, un-cemented restorations, muscle spasms and tenderness upon awakening, limited opening, clicking and popping in the jaw joint, etc.
Clenching is another non-functional habit that generates constant, static force on the teeth without any lateral movement. Clenching and grinding are usually subconscious and occur mostly at night, but can sometimes happen during the day. Only a small fraction of patients are aware of their nighttime parafunctional habits, because symptoms of jaw pain and discomfort appear in less than 10% of patients.
There are preventative and corrective measures that can be taken to minimize the effects of grinding and wear. Mouth guards (aka nightguards, occlusal guards, bite splints) are custom fitted appliances, worn at night that take the shock out of this parafunctional habit and protect the teeth and supporting structures from the excessive forces generated during grinding. Parafunctional habits can generate forces of up to 1000 psi; as a comparison, the average force measured in the 1st molar region of dentate person is 150-250 psi, and in an edentulous patient wearing complete dentures about 50 psi. In addition, mouth guards improve jaw and bite alignment, thus relaxing the musculature and deceasing any TMJ related symptoms.
When tooth wear is excessive, and tooth structure is compromised, corrective measures may be indicated in addition to a mouth guard. These may include tooth bondings, full coverage restorations such as veneers or crowns, crown lengthening surgery, root canal treatment, and/or realignment of the teeth with orthodontics.