Regular dental check-ups are an important part of preventive health care. They give your dentist a chance to provide tips on caring for your teeth and to detect any problems early when they are most treatable.
During dental check-ups, your dentist will check for things such as the presence of any dental cavities, gum disease, abnormal tooth wear as well as oral lesions.
Your dentist may recommend dental x-rays to determine the present status of your oral health. X-rays are useful in the detection of bony lesions, initial dental cavities, and to evaluate the severity of gum disease – which may not be visible to the naked eye yet.
Various types of dental X-rays are available, including:
- Periapical x-rays: used to look at the root tip of the tooth
- Bite-wing x-rays: used to look between the teeth for decay
- Occlusal x-rays: are primarily used for children to show the dentist the development of the child’s permanent teeth. Some children have congenitally-missing teeth, which means they were born without a permanent tooth.
- Panoramic x-rays: used to see the entire jaw bone, check for tumors and growths, view the position of your wisdom teeth, impacted teeth and even extra teeth
Dental x-rays produce very low level of radiation that the public and professional community considers safe. Radiation exposure from dental X-rays is no more than the radiation exposure from short airplane ride or spending a few hours under the sun.
You will be happy to know that 18 conventional dental x-rays deliver 56,000 times less radiation than an upper GI series x-ray, 800 times less than a chest x-ray, and 40 times less radiation than a typical day of background radiation from the sun.
Your dentist usually would ask about any health problems you have or medications you’re taking and discuss how they might affect your oral health. If you have diabetes, for example, you’re at increased risk of gum disease. Any medication that contributes to dry mouth can increase your risk of tooth decay. If arthritis interferes with your ability to effectively brush your teeth, your dentist might recommend an electric toothbrush.
Dietary habits, the use of tobacco products and other lifestyle factors that can affect oral health. There is also increasing awareness of the link between dental and systemic health. Many studies have shown an association between dental diseases such as gum disease and medical conditions such as diabetes and pre-term low birth weight babies for pregnant mothers. Your dentist may counsel you in these health concerns and help you manage them.
Your general dentist is the person to turn to whenever you have an oral health issue. The general dentist should be seen as your family dental health counselor, ready to advise you on your treatment needs or any other doubts you may have about oral health.