Dental Exam: Overview

Tooth Decay

Micoscope image of a cavity developing on tooth.

Dental exams are an important part of disease prevention

Regular dental exams help your dentist monitor your health and identify early signs of disease. During the exam, your dentist may look at some or all of the following items depending on your needs. Your dentist gathers all of the information to make a diagnosis and recommendation to meet your oral health needs.

Medical history: Your dentist will discuss any changes to your health including health conditions or medications that could impact dental care or treatment.

X-rays (radiographs): Your dentist may recommend X-rays, a valuable diagnostic tool to see what’s going on below the surface of your teeth and gums.

Status of oral hygiene: Your dentist will assess plaque and tartar levels as these can affect the health of your teeth and gums.

Gums: Your dentist will look for signs of disease such as redness, swelling, pockets or infection.

Soft tissues: Your dentist will monitor the health of the soft tissues of your mouth including the lips, tongue, cheeks and upper and lower surfaces of the mouth for signs of oral cancer or sensitivity.

Teeth: Your dentist will check the condition of your teeth to identify any damaged or decayed teeth along with the condition of any dental prosthesis like dentures, for example.

Existing dental work: Your dentist will inspect any existing dental work such as fillings, root canals and crowns to make sure they are in good shape.

Jaw function: Your dentist will evaluate how the teeth are fitting together and your bite, as well as the overall health and function of the temporomandibular joint (the joint that joins the lower jaw to the skull).

Facial structure: Your dentist will look at the general condition of the bones in the face, jaws and around the mouth.

Baby teeth: Often overlooked by adults, baby teeth are very important and should be examined regularly. Your child’s dentist will monitor the growth and development of baby and permanent teeth. Children can have their baby teeth until they’re 12-13 years old.