A regular dental check-up is one of the most important things you can do for your dental health, next to brushing and flossing. Check-ups are not just for kids and they are not just to check for cavities.

Check-ups are about:
• Stopping (or preventing) dental problems before they start and
• Making sure that problems you have do not get any worse.

Here is how you and your dentist can work together to get the most out of your dental check-up.

Benefits of a regular dental check-up

Even if you brush and floss every day, you cannot see all the parts of your own mouth. During your check-up, these are the things the dentist can see that you can’t see:
• Fillings, crowns and other repairs that are no longer in good shape
• Root cavities or cavities that form when the gums pull away (or recede) from the teeth
• Cavities around your fillings
• Tiny cracks (or fractures) in a tooth
• Wisdom teeth that are trapped (or impacted) in the gums
• Early signs of gum disease
• Early signs of oral cancer
• Signs of other problems that could affect your general health

How often you go for a check-up depends on your dental needs. The goal is to catch small problems early. For many people, this means a check-up every 6- 12 months. Your dentist may suggest that you visit more or less often depending on how well you care for your teeth and gums, problems you have that need to be checked or treated, how fast tartar builds up on your teeth and so on.

Parts of the check-up
Your dental check-up will include some or all of the following:

1. Medical history update
Be sure to tell you dentist:
• if you smoke (smoking can lead to serious problems like oral cancer)
• allergies
• mediations taken
• health problems or medical conditions
• fears you have about seeing the dentist or dental hygienist

2. Dental history update.
Also tell your dentist:
• about any changes in your teeth such as changes in color, looseness or position
• if your teeth or gums are more sensit5ive to heat, cold or sweets
• about any changes in your gums like changes in color, tenderness or bleeding when you brush or floss
• if your floss shreds or catches on rough edges of teeth
• any changes in the skin on the inside of outer areas of your mouth, such as changes in color
• if you clench or grind your teeth, if your neck and jaw muscles are tense
• any other dental or mouth problems you have
• stresses in your life (yes, this can affect your oral health!)

All of these bits of information assist the dental team in your treatment plan. It is surprising how all of these areas tie into one’s dental health.

3. Examination and treatment

Your dentist looks for cavities, gum disease, loose or cracked fillings, broken teeth, infection, cancer and signs of other problems that can affect your general health. Many small problems can be caught before they get big. The small problems can often be treated right away.

Dental x-rays might be required to help the dentist diagnose the problem.

X-rays help your dental team see problems long before they get too serious. X-rays can show:
• cavities between teeth, under the gums and around old fillings
• bone loss caused by gum disease
• teeth that are trapped (or impacted) in the gums, such as wisdom teeth
• long or crooked tooth roots that will need special care if you have to have a root canal or extraction
• location of sinuses in relation to roots of the teeth. (Sometimes sinus pain can be mistaken for a toothache).

At your dental check-up the dentist will determine if x-rays are required. There is not such thing as “routine” x-rays. The necessity for x-rays is determined on an individual basis.

The check-up appointment may include a dental “cleaning”. The dentist or dental hygienist scrapes (scales) away tartar (calculus) deposits that could cause gum disease. Polishing may be required for stain removal.

4. Advice

When your dentist is finished the check-up you will be able to ask questions and seek advice. At this time, a treatment plan will be set up. The dentist will let you know what will come next. Sometimes, the treatment can be done the same day. You play an important role in attaining dental health and the first step forward is the dental check-up!