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What to Expect at a Dental Exam Part One: Risk of Periodontal Disease

You’ve gone to the dentist dozens of times and you’re used to the routine by now.

But do you actually know what your dentist is assessing when they ask you a random assortment of questions?

There is a reason behind every question and it involves your dentist assessing your risk of various diseases and providing suggestions for treatment based on your answers.

The “What to Expect at a Dental Exam” series aims to break down your dental exams into areas of risk for future problems, beginning with the first area your dentist checks: your gums and supporting bone.

Am I at risk for periodontal disease?

The answer to that question is based on your responses to a series of questions that your dentist asks.

Do your gums bleed or is it painful when you brush or floss?

If so, they are already infected with bacteria and treatment is needed. The treatment may be as simple as switching to better brushing habits at home followed by hygiene therapy at the dentist.

Have you ever been treated for gum disease or lost bone around your teeth?

Gum disease can be treated, but it doesn’t go away.

However, with treatment and diligent home care, you can slow the progress or stop the disease in its tracks.

Have you noticed any unpleasant tastes or smells in your mouth?

This is a result of either gum infection and bacteria (the most common culprit), or a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Either way, your dentist can help you so you aren’t embarrassed by bad breath in social situations.

Does periodontal (gum) disease run in your family?

Gum disease is genetic.

That doesn’t mean you have to succumb to a life of dentures though! As long as you are willing to put in the effort, you can keep your natural teeth.

Have you experienced gum recession?

Recession doesn’t always mean infection.

While that can be a contributing factor, gum recession can also be a result of muscle pulls near the gumline or your teeth or an unbalanced bite. It is important for you and your dentist to determine the cause so that they can help you with the correct solution.

Have your teeth ever become loose on their own (without injury), or do you have difficulty eating solid foods?

Teeth loosening is most often a symptom of aggressive periodontal disease with serious bone loss. In some cases, loose teeth can be stabilized if caught early enough. If the tooth cannot be stabilized, your dentist will advise you on the best course of action to avoid the infection spreading to other teeth.

Have you experienced a burning or painful sensation in your mouth not related to your teeth?

If you experience any pain in your mouth that prevents you from taking the best care of your teeth and gums, your dentist may be able to help make those other areas more comfortable. Some dentists can even use lasers to speed up the healing process of ulcers and other irritations.

Am I at risk for periodontal disease?

In this case, when your dentist examines your mouth, they will take your answers into the above questions into consideration, as well as taking measurements of your teeth and gums, both in your mouth and via x-rays.

If your dentist sees little to no bone loss or tooth mobility or a lack of deep gum pockets, the risk of you having periodontal disease is low. As problems with these areas arise in the future, more treatment could be needed. The information gained from a periodontal risk assessment will help your dentist tailor treatment with your best overall health in mind.

Patients who have complicating factors are placed into a higher risk category. Examples of these factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • People who clench and grind their teeth
  • People who have crowded teeth that don’t have even pressure when chewing

What are the benefits of dental exams?

Your dentist will provide you with the best course of action to take based on your risk levels. Of course, you don’t have to have the treatment that they suggest, but you would be remiss not to at least consider it.

The best possible scenario is your dentist finding a problem early on and treating it before it progresses further. Waiting until the problem area is unbearable means there is a probability that the treatment options are limited.

Your smile is often one of the first things that people notice about you. Dr. Andrea Stevens and her team can help make sure that the first impression is a memorable one.

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