Dental checkups are not just about locating decay. It is about your entire oral health that also affects your general health and wellbeing in more than one way. From preventing serious root canal infections to early detection of oral cancer, routine inspections are invaluable to protect you from undiagnosed medical conditions that can be detrimental. If you are yet to make this a good dental care habit just as much as brushing and flossing, then let us give you the most important dental checkup reasons.
Head, neck, and lymph node check
This exam is used to evaluate your risk of oral cancer. Your dentist will check your head, jaw, lymph nodes, and neck for any abnormalities, including colour changes, lumps, and legions. It is painless and quick and will identify life-threatening conditions before they become serious.
Those over age 45 are more susceptible to oral cancer, but it can develop even earlier. It is a life-saving examination because survival rates are high when oral cancer is detected at early stages. Smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, HPV, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables are risk factors.
Head and neck exams reveal sores, lumps, white or red patches, swelling, sore throat, and pain when chewing or swallowing that are signs to watch out for.
Examination and palpation of cervical lymph nodes assess palpable and or tender lymphadenopathy. Lymph nodes are normally not palpable, and some palpable ones are malignant.
Your dentist will examine your nose, lips, thyroid, and neck. With both hands, they will gently feel the area under your jaw and the side of your neck for any signs of cancer. Next, your dentist will inspect your oral tissues, including your tongue, tonsils, and the back of the throat. They will ask you to stick your tongue out to look for any signs of swelling or abnormal colour or texture. Feeling the floor and roof of your mouth and gently pressing against the insides of lips and cheeks for lumps or sensitivity is also done.
Signs of tooth decay, cavities, and plaque
In most cases, pain signals cavities, but it doesn’t have to be. A dental check reveals tooth problems early on before pain has a chance to inconvenience you. Even if you are the most assiduous in oral hygiene, sometimes there are hard-to-reach spots that do not get cleaned properly and foods that are silent attackers. Sugary and starchy foods contribute to most tooth decay.
Plaque and tartar build-up on teeth and gums lead to not only tooth decay but also gum disease like gingivitis. Plaque can also cause halitosis or bad breath. While plaque gets removed every day when we brush our teeth, lapses in teeth cleaning can lead to an accumulation of plaque and subsequently tartar. Tartar hardens and attaches itself to the front and back of teeth and along the gum line. It becomes difficult to clean tartar with simple brushing and flossing. The substance also creates a rough surface which additional bacteria collect on, resulting in tooth discolouration. Dental exams are helpful in identifying this somewhat less obvious condition to protect your oral hygiene. If you have a dry mouth, which is commonly caused by medication, you are more likely to get plaque build-up. Schedule a check-up with your dentist to make sure your teeth and gums are not suffering from excessive plaque or tartar. Your dentist will also sometimes recommend you use an electric toothbrush if your teeth are more prone to plaque.
Detecting oral cancer
Extra-oral and intra-oral examinations are a part of routine dental care. It checks for any abnormalities that can be signs of oral cancer. Dental practitioners are one of the few health professionals who have frequent contact with patients through routine exams. They have a better advantage at detecting possible oral cancer, skin cancer, as well as other diseases, such as Crohn’s disease.
Detecting gum disease
Gum disease generally goes unnoticed. Sometimes you might not notice or even disregard red, swollen, bleeding, or receding gums. If left untreated at the gingivitis stage, it can develop into periodontitis and eventually tooth loss. After a visual examination, your dentist will use periodontal probing to measure the depth of pockets between teeth and gums. In a healthy mouth, the depth of pockets is usually between 1 and 3 millimetres. It is a painless test. Gum disease separates the inner layer of gum and bone from teeth. These spaces collect bacteria as they cannot be cleaned and become infected.
Dental x-rays also help in determining the extent of gum disease. It can reveal the depth of the pockets and if the condition has spread to other parts of the mouth, such as the jawbone. Depending on the seriousness of gum disease, your dentist will recommend anything from scaling to surgery. If your condition has advanced beyond general dentistry, you will be referred to a periodontist for treatment.
Diseases like cancer and diabetes, hormonal changes, certain medication, smoking, poor oral hygiene, and a history of dental disease cause gum diseases.
Detect any irregularities and start treatment/take preventive measures
Dental health issues are not just about tooth decay or gum disease. It is also about malocclusions that result in an improper bite. Children and adults equally benefit from regular dental checkups that detect smile correction and teeth alignment. Braces, Invisalign, and retainers help teeth shift into place for improved symmetry. Composite bonding is also used to correct minor gaps in teeth and short or uneven teeth.
Monitor oral hygiene and routine
A dental check is a revealing one. Your dentist can tell if your dental hygiene practices are sufficient or not. Some need extra effort or techniques to keep their oral hygiene in good condition. So, you will be advised accordingly. You might even be prescribed special toothpaste, toothbrushes, and mouthwashes. Without going to routine inspections, you will miss out on opportunities to improve your dental health.
Review any ongoing treatments
Root canal treatments, fillings, orthodontic treatments, and cosmetic procedures need ongoing review to ensure they are producing results, proving to be effective, and not relapsing. Some dental treatments also need to be updated and retouched. For example, after Invisalign or braces, you will need to wear retainers, and they should be looked at every now and then to make sure there’s no damage. Sometimes, damage to retainers can cause teeth alignment to relapse. Bonded teeth need retouching and replacements after some time. Veneers and crowns also need replacing if damaged. If you are under a teeth whitening regime like Enlighten, visiting your dentist for checkups ensures your teeth remain white and lustrous indefinitely.
How often do you need to do a check-up?
The frequency depends on your oral health and the dental problems you have. It could be within 3 months from your most recent check-up to 2 years. Those with more dental problems need frequent visits. Your dentist will inform you of your next appointment.
A dental check-up is just as important as a general health check. Your teeth are precious because you only receive one permanent set of natural teeth, and preserving them for longer should be a life goal. Your oral health and dental condition can be improved too, and sometimes, you might not even know that this is possible without going to see a dentist. Mouth Dental offers comprehensive dental care under one establishment with state-of-the-art technology and resident experts.