You might wonder, “What does a dentist do during a visit, exactly?” To maintain a healthy mouth, brushing and flossing aren’t always enough. You also need to see a dentist for preventive checkups. This is what you can expect:
Dental X-rays: Routine dental X-rays are frequently taken at checkup visits. They can reveal cavities between your teeth, the health and height of the supporting bone and the position of developing teeth in children.
While there are many types, your dentist will decide which X-rays will give the best diagnostic view and how many are needed. A dental hygienist, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), may take the X-rays.
During a routine checkup, hygienists can do many things, but more advanced tasks, like cavity fillings, are left to the dentist (but they will assist). Who works on your mouth will be looking for basic oral hygiene concerns and areas to address, like the following:
Decay Detection: Your dentist and hygienist look for visible signs of tooth decay and if any tooth enamel has softened. This is often an indicator of a cavity in its early stages.
Pocket Measurements: To determine the health of your gums and supporting bone, your dentist or hygienist uses a periodontal probe to measure the pockets around your teeth, according to the ADA. This measurement is a marker of whether bone has been lost to gum disease.
Bite Evaluation: During an oral exam, a dentist will evaluate your bite and look for any irregularities that could compromise your dental health. And dentists closely monitor the development and eruption pattern of children’s teeth so orthodontic referrals can be done at the proper time.
Dentists will also conduct a variety of other procedures and checkups including oral cancer screening, scaling and polishing, fluoride treatment, sealant application, and instruction on how to take care of your teeth at home.
Most dentists are general practitioners, handling a variety of dental needs. Other dentists practice in any of nine specialty areas. Orthodontists, the largest group of specialists, straighten teeth by applying pressure to the teeth with braces or other appliances. The next largest group, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, operates on the mouth, jaws, teeth, gums, neck, and head. The remainder may specialize as pediatric dentists (focusing on dentistry for children and special-needs patients); periodontists (treating gums and bone supporting the teeth); prosthodontists (replacing missing teeth with permanent fixtures, such as crowns and bridges, or with removable fixtures such as dentures); endodontists (performing root-canal therapy); oral pathologists (diagnosing oral diseases); oral and maxillofacial radiologists (diagnosing diseases in the head and neck through the use of imaging technologies); or dental public health specialists (promoting good dental health and preventing dental diseases within the community).