Dental Exams and Cleanings
Dental Exams & Cleanings
At your first dental visit a complete dental exam will be done by your dentist. At that time and at following regular check-up exams, your dentist and hygienist will include:
- Diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): to find decay, tumours, cysts, bone loss and tooth positions.
- Oral cancer screening: to check your face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
- Gum disease evaluation: to check your gums and bone around your teeth for any signs of periodontal (gum) disease.
- Examination of tooth surfaces: to check for decay with special dental instruments.
- Examination of existing restorations: to check your fillings, crowns, veneers etc.
Professional Dental Cleaning
Professional dental cleanings (scaling, root planing and polishing) are done by Registered Dental Hygienists. Your cleaning appointment will include a dental exam by the dentist and:
- Removal of calculus (tartar): Calculus is hardened plaque that has formed on the tooth and will be firmly attached. Calculus forms above and below the gum line, and can be removed with appropriate dental instruments.
- Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produces toxins that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease and can affect your general health!
- Teeth polishing: Remove stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during toothbrushing and scaling.
Oral Cancer Screening
Your dental professional may screen you for oral cancer even if you do not have symptoms. Screening test are useful as they can help detect oral cancers early, decreasing the chance of fatality due to these cancers. For most types of cancer, odds of survival are greatly increased if diagnosed at an early stage.
Your dentist may exam you for lesions in the mouth, lips, hard palate, gums, tongue and mucous membranes. If lesions are detected, a variety of screening methods may be used to further investigate such as:
- Biopsy – a small excision of the suspicious tissue is made and sent for microscopic examination.
- Exfoliative cytology – cells are obtained by means of scraping or smearing and examined.
- Imaging tests- X-rays, ultrasounds, or MRIs are other, and possibly less invasive, methods of detecting oral cancer that involve using radio wave energy to view possible subsurface masses and lesions.
- Toluidine blue (vital staining) – This procedure involves wiping the suspicious mucosal area and applying Toluidine blue solution, which is a type of stain that colors abnormal cellular surfaces.
It is important to keep in mind that if your dentist has sent you to get oral cancer screening it is usually a precautionary measure and does not mean that you have cancer.