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Dental check-ups are routine examinations performed by a dentist at regular intervals, aimed at ensuring your teeth and gums are healthy. Even if you brush and floss diligently you should see a dentist regularly to spot any problems early, such as dental decay, gum disease or oral cancer. During the visit your dentist will talk through your dental health and examine your teeth. You may require X-rays to check for potential hidden problems, which often comes at an additional small cost. Your dentist will advise how often you should have a dental check-up based on your dental health risk.
Why have a dental check-up?
While not an experience that many will readily admit to enjoying, regular visits to your dentist are crucial to maintaining good dental hygiene. Even the most diligent brusher will not be able to keep their mouth completely free of plaque and only a professional dental health examination can accurately recognize the early signs of gum disease. Regular teeth check-ups will help allow you to keep your teeth for life by preventing problems from developing into something more serious.
In most cases, your visit to the dentist will be for a routine check-up. Most will start by asking you a few general health questions and ask whether you have experienced any dental problems or pains. Your dentist should then carry out a full dental examination of the soft tissue lining of your mouth, teeth and gums.
If there are any signs that you have indulged in habits that could be detrimental to your dental health, your dentist will offer advice about any changes to lifestyle (such as stopping smoking or changing your diet), as well as oral care tips.
If these habits could lead to problems in the future, he or she will explain what you might be at risk of, as well as the associated treatments and costs that might be needed.
If you have tartar build up, you will be referred to the hygienist. Usually, this will take the form of a scale and polish to remove built-up plaque and tartar below the gum line. The hygienist will use several special instruments, which could include a combination of an ultrasonic device to loosen tartar or a special scraper instrument.
If your dentist finds further problems, they will recommend the next steps you will need to take. This could be the need for repairs to damaged or decayed teeth, treatment for gum disease or further tests to aid diagnosis.
During your check-up, there may or may not be a need for an X-ray. An X-ray can diagnose a number of problems that might not have physical signs, such as dental decay between the teeth, impacted teeth, damage to the jawbone, as well as any abscesses, cysts or tumors. For children, an X-ray will also establish where the second teeth will come through. There are various types of X-rays that you might need to have. Some machines are very small, which will show a few teeth at a time. Larger X-rays, called panoramic X-rays, will show the whole mouth, including the bone structure around it.
Assuming your teeth and gums are healthy, you should not need to have a check-up more often than every six months. Your dentist will likely recommend how often you need to visit based on your current dental health. If you need to return to the dentist for further treatment, you should make this appointment before leaving the practice.
Modern X-ray machines emit no more radiation than you would experience from a day in the sun or a commercial airline flight. Your dentist will take care to only use X-rays when necessary.
The exception would be if you are pregnant, in which case your dentist should only perform an X-ray in an emergency situation.