Diagnosis is the process we go through to determine the proper course of treatment for each patient.
- Medical History. The medical history form contains questions that are designed to help the dentist understand how to avoid things that could lead to medical complications. It also contains some questions about your dental history.
- Complete Oral Examination involves listing the condition of each tooth, location of missing teeth, the condition of the gum tissue associated with each tooth and an oral cancer screening. In addition, we examine the muscles of the head, neck and jaw joints, which are commonly referred to as the TMJ’s.
- Digital X-Rays. This x-ray system does not use the traditional film that requires development in caustic chemicals. Instead, the “film” is a sensor that is connected to a computer. The sensor is placed in the mouth beside the teeth just like old style film used to be placed. The x-ray beam is aimed at the sensor and when the x-rays pass through the sensor an image is produced and is immediately displayed on a computer screen that both the dentist and the patient can see. Because the sensors are so sensitive to x-rays the amount of radiation required to create an image is greatly reduced compared to traditional film.
- Panoramic Digital X-Ray. This type of x-ray also uses a sensor instead of film, but the sensor is not placed in the mouth. It is mounted on a special x-ray machine that circles around the front of the patient and it produces an image of all the teeth and supporting structures of both jaws in one continuous shot. Panoramic images provide a lot of information in one shot, but the detail is not as good as individual x-rays and so a combination of the two types of x-rays is sometimes appropriate.
- Decay Detection is probably the most common task a dentist performs, but it is not always obvious if decay is present, especially between the teeth. The traditional method of decay detection on the surfaces that can be seen with the naked eye is the use of a sharp pointed instrument called an explorer (often referred to by patients as “the pick”). If the instrument sticks, it often, but not always, means there is decay present. So how can we tell the difference? Nowadays we have access to modern technology that helps us make those determinations. We have harmless colored liquids that when applied to the area of suspicion can indicate if decay is present. We have a low powered laser device that can detect decay below tooth surfaces. The digital x-ray system we use comes with a patented software program that can detect decay between the teeth that cannot be seen even if the x-ray is magnified. And we have a specially designed light called a transilluminator that can be shone through the side of the tooth which will produce a shadow if decay is present in a sufficient amount. However, even with all these tools, it is not always possible to be 100% certain that decay is present. Under those circumstances we tend to adopt a “wait and watch” attitude.