What Does a Dental Exam Entail?

We are all busy and our daily schedules can get in the way of doing some of the things that we should do to take care of ourselves. Preventative dental care is on that list. Oral health is, however, one of the most important aspects of overall wellness. Having regular dental checkups is an essential component of being on top of your health.

Routine dental exams are the best way of identifying abnormalities in the mouth and preventing issues from getting bigger and more severe. At Hamby Family Dental Center, your local Fuquay-Varina dentist, we take dental exams seriously and we have found that many people don’t always understand the full intent of a dental exam. In our effort to be informative, this article explains what a dental exam entails and why.

Why You Should Have Routine Dental Exams

Many people think of pain when they hear the word “dental” anything and, as a result, they shy away from going to the dentist regularly for an exam. They will only go when they have a painful occurrence in their mouth and teeth. Yet, routine visits to the dentist help diagnose a problem early, preventing the need for a more invasive dental procedure to correct a situation that has progressed. Some issues that a regularly scheduled dental exam can detect early are tooth decay, gum diseases, and oral cancer. Having the opportunity to identify these problems and address them with treatment can strengthen the chances of having a successful outcome.

How Often Should You Have a Dental Exam?

The frequency of your visits to the dentist for an exam depends on how healthy your gums and teeth are and the potential risk you have for future issues. The dental professional community agrees that you should have two dental exams each year, one every six months. However, each person’s situation is different. Your dentist uses the information gathered about your oral health to set a personalized schedule for regular maintenance, cleaning, and check-ups. Generally, if you have a healthy mouth, the recommendation is to have a dental exam every six months. If you have certain oral risks such as periodontal disease, a dentist may recommend more frequent visits to address those specific issues.

What a Dental Exam Entails

A complete dental exam includes taking your oral history, diagnostics to examine your current situation, cleaning, and X-rays. It will be performed by a team of dental professionals–the dentist, a dental hygienist, and possibly a dental assistant.

Patient Interview

Either the dentist or the dental hygienist discusses your medical and dental history with you. If you go to the same dentist for each dental exam, they will have records and will talk to you about what has happened in the period of time since your last visit and whether you are experiencing any issues currently. They may talk to you about your oral hygiene habits, your diet, and other risk factors such as using tobacco products. This information helps the dentist understand your overall dental health.

Diagnostic Exams

The dental team will perform diagnostic exams including X-rays, radiographs (if necessary), and other images the dentist may need. X-rays are recommended every one to three years, depending on your age and the status of your health. If this is your first visit with a certain dentist, you will always have X-rays taken. X-rays show more information than an oral exam alone does–such as bone loss in the jaw, impacted teeth, cracks, and cavities. While the X-rays are taken, you will be protected from radiation and will need to bite on a piece of plastic, and then the pictures are taken. They will take a full-mouth series to check the overall oral health.

Teeth Cleaning

Many times, a teeth cleaning will be part of the dental exam, although you may schedule the cleaning on a follow-up visit if needed. The cleaning involves scaling, which carefully scrapes off the surfaces of the teeth and along the gum line. This process removes tartar and plaque that forms on the teeth and under the gum. Many dentists now use ultrasonic cleaning equipment during a dental cleaning. After scaling, the dental hygienist will polish your teeth. Teeth polishing smooths the enamel and removes more plaque and stains. Flouride and/or dental sealants may be applied to your teeth if needed or desired. Finally, the hygienist and/or dentist will recommend proper brushing and flossing techniques that help you maintain oral hygiene.


After the teeth are cleaned, the dentist conducts a dental exam using the X-rays and their eyes to check if there are dental defects. And, he/she will evaluate your risks for future dental abnormalities.

Oral Cancer Screening

Dentists typically check for signs of oral cancer during a full dental exam. They may check all areas of the face, neck, tongue, throat, and cheeks. If any issues are found, they may recommend a full oral cancer screening.

After the Dental Exam

The dentist will make recommendations based on what is found in the exam. They can provide a treatment plan for issues that have been uncovered. If you have no problems or issues, you may only need to schedule another check-up visit. If you have specific oral care or cosmetic issues to address, you may need a follow-up visit for treatment sooner.

Contact Hamby Family Dental Center

Our professional dental team at Hamby Family Dental Center is experienced in performing thorough dental checkups and cleanings for patients of all ages. We will help you maintain good oral health! Contact us today for teeth cleaning and an exam by filling out the form below or calling  919-552-2431.

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