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The Importance of Regular Dental Exams

Danny O'Keefe D.D.S. Jul 3, 2014

A patient having his teeth polished during a routine dental examYou’ve probably heard that you should schedule a routine dental exam twice a year. However, like many patients, you may have found an excuse to skip your appointment, whether it is a busy schedule, anxiety, or simple forgetfulness. No matter why you have neglected your appointments, it is important to call our Jackson practice to schedule your dental exams with Dr. Danny O’Keefe. At Family Dental Care, our thorough examinations can help prevent dental decay, detect the earliest signs of cavities, and diagnose other conditions, such as gum disease and oral cancer. We also offer sedation dentistry as a way to prevent dental anxiety during routine dental exams.

What Happens during a Dental Exam?

Dental exams are typically performed in conjunction with routine cleanings. During your appointment, Dr. O’Keefe will remove bacteria, plaque, and tartar from your teeth. While he is doing this, he can check your teeth for any exterior decay or structural damage. He will also examine your gums to look for any tissue irregularities.

Dental exams are designed to evaluate your entire oral structure. X-rays are one of the most common diagnostic tools, and there are several types of x-ray images. Periapical and bitewing x-rays give your dentist a detailed view of your individual teeth, allowing him to look for early signs of decay. Occlusal and panoramic x-rays reveal a comprehensive view of your entire oral structure, so the dentist can check your jaw health and bite alignment. To get a closer look at one or more individual teeth, Dr. O’Keefe may also use a small, handheld intraoral camera.

Occasionally, the dentist may also make an impression of your bite. This will help him evaluate your bite strength and alignment. If you need a mouth guard or you want take-home whitening treatment, these impressions will also be very helpful.

Dental Exams Help Prevent and Detect Decay

If you do not schedule your routine dental exams, you are already at a much higher risk for cavities. Even if you brush and floss regularly, bacteria, plaque, and tartar will still accumulate on your teeth. Eventually, this buildup may lead to widespread decay. Additionally, if you have already developed a cavity, Dr. O’Keefe will find it during your exam. With an early diagnosis, he can prevent the discomfort that accompanies advanced decay. He will also be able to treat the cavity with a small filling, and you will be less likely to need extensive restorative work.

Early Diagnosis for Other Oral Conditions

While your teeth are certainly an important focus of dental exams, Dr. O’Keefe will also closely examine your soft tissues, looking for signs of gum disease (periodontal disease) or oral cancer. Periodontal disease results when bacteria congregate below the gum line, forming pockets that eventually cause the tissues to pull away from the underlying teeth. To diagnose this condition, the dentist will look for symptoms such as redness, sensitivity, bleeding, bad breath, and loose teeth.

At your routine exam, Dr. O’Keefe will also conduct an oral cancer screening, looking for tissue abnormalities on your lips, cheeks, tongue, gums and soft palate. These irregularities include white or red spots and oral sores. If you display any of these symptoms, he will order a biopsy to determine whether these spots are cancerous. With early diagnosis, the majority of oral cancer patients have a very favorable outlook.

Suffering from Dental Anxiety?

Perhaps you have put off your routine exams because you suffer from dental anxiety or dental phobia. Unfortunately, the longer you delay your appointment, the more likely you are to need extensive restorative treatment. Luckily, Dr. O’Keefe proudly offers effective sedation dentistry, which can keep you comfortable and help you undergo your routine exam without stress. Options include:

  • IV sedation
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Oral conscious sedation
  • General anesthesia

Dr. O’Keefe will help you choose the right option for your needs, and we also provide a comfortably furnished office, complete with amenities such as contoured pillows, massages, and guided relaxation techniques.

Schedule Your Routine Exam

If you have put off your dental exam, don’t delay another day. Call our office today to make your appointment. It could be the most important thing you do to protect your oral and systemic health.

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