You’ve made your regular checkup appointment and it’s finally time to visit your favorite dentist for your bi-annual cleaning. Believe it or not, for some of us, sitting in “the chair” can mean a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. While for others, a dental visit can conjure up feelings of anxiety and fear of the unknown. No matter which side of the scale you fall on, rest-assured that your oral hygiene team has your best interests in mind and is working to provide you with adequate care before your seat even hits the chair.
Here are 5 things you may not have known that your dentist was doing at your checkup:
Performing a Cancer Screening
Dental hygiene checkups are about more than just your oral health; they’re about your health in general. We check for oral cancer each time you visit for a 6-month checkup. To assist in our cancer prevention efforts, we will check your lips, head, neck, tonsils, salivary glands and mouth tissues like the surface of your tongue for any visible signs of oral cancer. This helps us to identify any abnormalities within the mouth or symptoms that could possibly lead to oral cancer.
Evaluating Your Bite
While we don’t bite, we do evaluate yours. That’s right, as we’re investigating your mouth, we’ll check your bite and alignment to see if your teeth have moved recently. If we notice that they have, then we may suggest either traditional metal braces or Invisalign® clear braces as a suitable treatment plan for your bite and smile. We may also recommend that you see an orthodontist, a specialized dentist trained in orthodontics.
Examining Your Gums
We will always thoroughly examine your gums during your dental checkups. Why? Our goal is to identify any signs of bleeding or swelling in/on/around the gums, as well as to look for large gum “pockets” to determine if your gums are unhealthy or if there is any indication of gum disease. As a part of your examination, we may also measure your gums. This is known as ‘periodontal charting’ and requires the use of a periodontal probe to measure the distance between your gums and where they attach to your teeth. As noted above, these areas or spaces are often called “pockets,” and the size of these pockets can tell us how healthy or unhealthy your gums and bone support are & how we should treat them.
Checking Your Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)
Yes, that’s a mouthful of a phrase, pun intended, but you may have heard of the acronym: TMJ… and now you know what it stands for. That being said, TMJ disorders are often more commonly grouped and known as “lockjaw”. Your temporomandibular joint is one of the more frequently used joints in your body as it’s required for speaking and chewing. And let’s be honest, there aren’t too many of us out there who would choose to be quiet or forego flavorful foods if the option were available. TMJ is the joint that connects the jawbone and the jaw together. When we’re in your mouth, we’re also checking to make sure that this joint and your bite are working properly together.
Checking Old Dental Work
When you come in for a visit, we check for any problems with existing fillings, braces, bridges, dentures, crowns, or other restorations. Additionally, we may probe your teeth with a dental instrument called an explorer to look for cavities. Note: Decayed enamel feels softer when probed compared to healthy enamel, which helps us to adequately assess the state of your oral health.
This is just a short list of work we may be performing during your routine checkups. As always, feel free to ask any questions you may have about your dental health and oral hygiene!