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The Optimal Dental Exam

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by Chris Edwards, DDS

August/September 2010

Oral Health and Over All Health Related

Technology has come a long way in the dental office and enables us to look at the mouth and diagnose in ways that were unheard of just a few short years ago. After a thorough health history, digital radiographs (X-rays) are taken which enable the dentist to enhance the images and show each patient the conditions of their own teeth.

Evidence continues to mount regarding the connection of your oral health and over all health. The question is no longer if it is true, that is demonstrable. But how does it happen? One theory is that oral bacteria can affect the heart when they
enter the blood stream, attaching to fatty plaques in the arteries contributing to clot formation, which leads to strokes and heart attacks. Growing evidence also points to a link between gum disease and premature, underweight births. Pregnant women who have gum disease are more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small.

The initial comprehensive dental exam is the most important visit in a patient’s dental relationship with a dentist. Offices that offer a limited cursory or “introductory” examination have the potential of doing a disservice to the patient. The failure to diagnose conditions that will worsen or lead to significant consequences, are serious and costly.

Treatment started without a through investigation of the particular condition in ones mouth may lead to work that is destined to fail in the future. Costs escalate for the necessary repair. A case in point is caries (a cavity) that if not diagnosed early, can go on to infect the nerve of the tooth, leading to an abscessed tooth, a root canal and crown or even an extraction. Proper diagnosis with the Diagnodent Laser Cavity Detector finds decay, even in early stages and leads to preventive restorations halting deeper decay. Crowns, bridges and more significant restorations often are completed without regard for the periodontal health or where the current bite is and whether it is the optimal position for long term function. Problems are often compounded rather than corrected.

Live Video

Technology has come a long way in the dental office and enables us to look at the mouth and diagnose in ways that were unheard of just a few short years ago. After a thorough health history, digital radiographs (X-rays) are taken which enable the dentist to enhance the images and show each patient the conditions of their own teeth. Panoramic X-rays show many structures other than the teeth such as the sinuses. A live video of each patient’s exam, where the patient is able to watch their own teeth magnified on a monitor in high definition as the dentist describes the conditions is very valuable.

The operating microscope is superior to diagnose and treat the patient. Nothing is hidden and treatment options are explored. A Smile Evaluation is beneficial when looking at esthetic possibilities. Here the teeth and gums are examined in relation to the lips and overall smile. A video exam of the teeth and lips in speaking and smiling helps in the diagnosis of what is possible. Very often esthetic reshaping of the edges of the teeth, a minor laser gum lift , or a simple bonding can make all the difference in the world in a patients smile, all without major time and expense.

It is in your best interest to expect an evaluation of your existing restorations and decay, your occlusion (bite) and how your teeth come together and relate to each other. An evaluation of your muscles of mastication, and tempromandibular joint and how they all work together is worthy of attention. An oral cancer screening is vitally important. A periodontal examination looks at whether or not there is pocketing and or bleeding around each tooth, any recession or bone loss and examines whether there is a sufficient amount of gum around the tooth. This exam also checks tooth mobility, and the relationship of the bite to periodontal problems.

Multi Dimensional Dental X-Rays

Your oral cavity is a dynamic part of your anatomy. Pain and or bleeding are preliminary signs that all is not well. We are fortunate these days that we no longer have to wait for the pain to become excruciating and for the barber to pull the tooth out. Advanced technologies such as the Diagnodent Laser Cavity Detector, dental lasers and high powered surgical microscopes all work together to diagnose early, repair and heal a myriad of problems that arise due to neglect. In the case of implants, 3 dimensional dental X-rays are making placement very precise.

These newest technologies, including educational soft ware, enable us to explain the diagnosis of the current condition, educate the patient as to their choices and create a working treatment plan. Once the health of the mouth is achieved, aesthetics can be improved.