A dental checkup or examination appointment is a very important opportunity for a dentist to identify any early signs of dental problems, which usually takes less than 30 minutes for routine check ups and around 45 minutes to 1 hour for new patients. This is because most dental problems when found early can be treated quickly and inexpensively.
Dental decay is often difficult to see with the naked eye, so X rays are used to see beneath the surface of the tooth along with checking for bone loss due to gum disease. X rays in dentistry are very safe (expectant mothers will have X rays postponed until after birth) and usually have less radiation exposure than a short flight. You can also ask your dentist why the X ray is being taken as the need for an X ray is due to a clinical need. Most dentists have switched to digital X rays which means you can also see the images on a computer screen. The X ray may be a full image of an individual tooth, called a peri apical or a collection of the side view of the back teeth, called bite wings. Less frequently a full X rays of the jaw and teeth is taken, called an OPG or OPT. Considering that the radiation risk is so low, having regular X rays is an accurate way to spot dental problems.
Commonly dental decay between the teeth, underneath fillings or crowns is monitored. The dentist also checks the bone quality and quantity around the tooth because when gum disease has been present for some months and left untreated it causes the bone that supports a tooth to start shrinking. This effect is irreversible and this advances can even lead to tooth loss. This is the number one reason people lose teeth in the UK.
With oral cancer rates significantly rising, a dentist or hygienist will carefully check all of the lining of your mouth and tongue to check for signs of oral cancer and if necessary refer you to a specialist for further investigation.
Teeth grinding is particularly common these days and linked to stress as a cause. The wear effects on the teeth are irreversible and the jaw can become permanently damaged if left untreated.
Even though a dental check up may appear a chore it can potentially save you thousands of pounds in more expensive treatments – and even save your life! There is more and more scientific evidence emerging about the link between oral health and your overall health. At the end of a check up, your dentist will inform you how long you should wait before the next checkup. This decision is based on your risk factors and can range from 3 months through to a year. Children need more regular visits than an adult generally.