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What Happens During a Dental Assessment

The first exam appointment is usually made via a phone call from the patient. Although these days, first contact can often be made by e-mail, too. During the initial visit your queries that you have can be answered and you can let the dentist know of any dental problems you may have experienced in the past. You should find out in advance how long the appointment is likely to take and how much it will cost you.

Things that may happen during an initial appointment:

  • Completing a medical history questionnaire

Arriving 10-15 minutes before the actual appointment time is good as your dentist will probably want you to look through a medical history questionnaire, and fill out any details. It’s quite important then to have to hand the details of any medications that you are currently taking and any major illnesses or operations that you have had in the past. This may feel insignificant to you, but it may have an important bearing on any medication that the dentist might want to prescribe for you.

  • Meeting your dentist

The dental assistant should collect you from the waiting room and escort you to the surgery. Normally the dentist will talk to you face to face and ask why you have come to see them, or explain what they would like to do during the appointment. This is your opportunity to discuss your concerns. For this, it is advised to have a list of all your dental concerns ready to tell the dentist at the start of your visit, do not leave it at the end when the dentist is ready to see their next patient.

  • Visual check

The dentist carries out a visual check of the area of concern and/ or your entire mouth using a small mirror.

Your mouth is like a dark cave, and to peer into its furthest recesses, it is necessary for the dentist to shine a light into the mouth.

The dentist will also visually check your gums as well as your teeth. This is to check for any gum disease and any other potential problems that you should know about which are important for your health. An examination is also important to check for any underlying problems prior to Filling a tooth, Redoing a failing Filling, or doing an Extraction. Xrays may be needed to check for any underlying problems before treatment. In many cases without all the information such as x-rays, the dentist may not be able to give you a complete report of the state of your tooth/teeth to recommend the appropriate treatment or to confirm that everything is healthy. Most underlying problems are painless and show no signs at all

The dentist may also ask you to wear glasses when they lie you back in the dental chair. These are to protect your eyes in case there is any water splashing or any other particles which could inadvertently get in the eye.

Dental charting

Dentists have the make a record of the original condition of your teeth and mouth before embarking on active treatment. It assists in making a diagnosis, allows the dentist to ascertain what are your real treatment needs and allows the dentist to make an overall plan of treatment for your oral health. Because of this, they like to write everything down as they go. This is why, during a check-up appointment, the dentist will count around your teeth and make a note of any fillings that are present, any teeth that are missing and any holes or any decay in your teeth or areas that they want to keep an eye on. The dentist will start at one side of your mouth, say top right, at the back, and count around until they reach top left at the back. Then they will move to lower left at the back and count around until they reach lower right, at the back. This means that they don’t miss any teeth. There is a system there that the dentist will follow every time you have a dental assessment done. This ‘charting’ as it is called is recorded on either paper notes or on a computer screen by the dental assistant.

The Explorer

Why does the dentist want to poke at my teeth? The dental ‘probe’ or ‘explorer’ can be used by your dentist to gently feel the bumps and valleys on the chewing surface of the tooth. If the dentist notices any ‘tackiness’ on the surface of the tooth, it might be a soft area which would indicate decay is present.

Unfortunately, these areas of early decay on chewing surfaces may not show up on an x-ray. The dentist may feel that a full check-up has not been completed until he/she has probed the enamel surfaces. This is carried out is a gentle manner.

Intra-oral camera

The dentist may also have a small handheld camera with which he can take close-up pictures of your teeth and then display them on a screen. These pictures can be used to explain things more thoroughly so you can see what is actually happening in your mouth.