If you haven’t been to the dentist in a long time, you may be surprised at how extensive the new patient examination is when you are a patient at AZ Dentist.
What can you expect?
At AZ Dentist, we believe that a trip to the dentist shouldn’t be scary. That’s why we share as much information as possible up-front, so you’re well-aware of what will happen when you visit one of our clinics in the Phoenix area. And, we’re always around if you have questions or any other concerns.
To start, you will have X-rays taken of your teeth. There are two major types of X-rays that are taken inside your mouth.
One is called a periapical X-ray. This X-ray views the root of the tooth and the bone around the tip of the root. The angle on this X-ray is not dead-on, but about 60 degrees. This X-ray is good for visualizing the root of your tooth. It can also diagnose conditions that may affect the root of your tooth.
The other intraoral X-ray is the bitewing. This X-ray is taken perpendicular to your tooth. There is very little distortion of the image because of the angle of the X-ray. The bitewing is good for visualizing the conditions of the crowns of your teeth and also the periodontium. This is the bone and gums that surround and support the teeth.
Finally, there is another X-ray that you may need called a panoramic X-ray. This X-ray is good for visualizing the orientation of wisdom teeth. It can also identify any conditions that may not be captured in the other X-rays. The panoramic X-ray is taken outside of your mouth.
Your dentist will determine what type of X-rays you require.
Mouth and neck examination
During the new patient examination, your dentist will examine not only your teeth, but she will look at all the soft tissues inside your mouth.
She will also perform an oral cancer examination. As part of the oral cancer examination, your dentist will palpate (touch) all the lymph nodes on:
- Your lower jaw
- The front of your neck
- The back of your neck
If any anomalies in the soft tissue are observed, your dentist will note them in their chart, both by size and by appearance. She will recommend further treatment if necessary, but will always put a “watch” on them for the next appointment.
Your dentist may also take pictures of your teeth. If you have soft tissue anomalies, photos of the soft tissue concerns will be taken as well.
Temporomandibular joint examination
While your dentist is on the outside of your mouth she will also examine your temporomandibular joint—also known as the TMJ or jaw joint.
She will have you open and close your mouth. She’ll discuss anything she feels while you are doing that, and will also note anything you might feel during the examination of your jaw joint.
If you are a person who suffers with pain in your jaw joint or has temporomandibular dysfunction, or TMD, your dentist will do a further exam on your head, neck, and even parts of your upper back. This is done to see what symptoms you’re experiencing from problems in your jaw joint. Everything that your dentist finds will be noted down in your chart.
When your dentist moves the examination back inside your mouth to your teeth, she will note each tooth by number and will note the condition on every tooth.
One of the dentist’s biggest areas to examine is your periodontium. This is the bone and gums that are supporting your teeth and keeping them strong and solid in your mouth.
Your dentist or hygienist will use an instrument called a periodontal probe for their examination. This instrument is like a tiny ruler, measuring in millimeters. Your practitioner will take the periodontal probe and place it gently between your gum and your tooth, moving it along the root of your tooth until it reaches the alveolar bone.
This tiny measuring stick measures how thick your gums are covering your alveolar bone. It is a clinical measure of inflammation. There are six spots on each tooth that these measurements are taken. If bleeding or pain occurs during the measuring process, that is also noted. It shouldn’t bleed or be painful.
Another measurement that may need to be taken with the periodontal probe is the measurement of how much root is visible to the naked eye. Your dentist will measure from a line in the tooth called the cement-enamel junction, or CEJ, that divides the anatomical crown of the tooth from the root structure, to the free gingival margin. This is the place where your gums are on your tooth. This measurement helps the dentist quantify alveolar bone loss.
How does a thorough new patient examination help me?
After your new patient examination, your dentist will synthesize all the information she has gathered about the health status of your mouth and jaw joint. Then, she’ll present her findings. She’ll review your X-rays with you, and show you any photos that she has taken of your teeth. Then, she’ll talk about any findings or conditions to be aware of.
As long-time practitioners at AZ Dentist, we’ve worked with patients with many different concerns. Our dentist will typically have immediate recommendations for how you can treat any oral conditions in your mouth. You can expect that our dentist will let you know all the different ways the conditions present in your mouth can be treated. She’ll also give you time to ask any questions you may have.