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The 5 Most Important Parts of a Dental Exam

You could try to cut your own hair, but only your hairdresser can achieve the style you want. You could try to repair your own car, but only a mechanic has the tools and knowledge to get you back on the road. The same is true for your dentist. While brushing and flossing are essential components of strong oral health, only through a dental exam can your dentist expertly evaluate the condition of your teeth, gums, and mouth.

This is why it’s so important to visit your dentist every six months. When you benefit from the following five most important parts of a dental exam twice a year, every year, your smile never has to falter. 


One of the most important purposes of a dental checkup is for your dentist to take x-rays of your teeth and jaw bone. These detailed x-ray images reveal critical information about the condition and health of your mouth. 


By taking x-rays, your hygienist and dentist can identify exactly what’s happening beneath the surfaces of your mouth in order to find, diagnose, and treat issues that may be invisible to the naked eye. 


If your x-rays indicate bone decay, swelling, tumors, shifting teeth, impacted teeth, or any other serious issue, your dentist can respond immediately. This is especially important to catch destructive, fast-paced diseases that don’t cause noticeable symptoms. 

Comprehensive Visual Examination

Every regular dental exam also gives your dentist the chance to assess the state of your visible teeth and gums with a comprehensive examination. Your dentist can identify potential problems that you may never notice. During a dental checkup, you can expect your dentist to do the following:

  • -Examine the gums and tongue
  • -Search for signs of gum disease
  • -Check for loose and broken teeth
  • -Assess the health of tissues inside your mouth
  • -Check your bite for alignment
  • -Look for visual evidence of decay
  • -Check for damaged dental work, such as fillings or crowns


Even with the best mirrors, this type of comprehensive dental exam isn’t something you can do at home. Only an experienced dentist can properly perform a visual exam to assess the condition of your mouth and recommend future treatments accordingly. 

Removal of Plaque and Tartar

Every morning and night, you brush (and hopefully floss!) to remove plaque from your teeth. If plaque has the chance to sit on your teeth for too long, it accumulates into tartar and causes inflammation, bleeding, cavities, and gum disease. 


Unfortunately, brushing and flossing doesn’t always eliminate all signs of plaque and tartar. Your dentist uses specialized tools to remove plaque and tartar from the areas of your mouth you can’t reach. Receiving this professional dental cleaning twice a year ensures that your mouth is protected from disease. 


You can expect your dental professional to perform a comprehensive cleaning using the following methods:

  • -Scrape away plaque and tartar on and between the teeth
  • -Polish the teeth
  • -Floss between all teeth
  • -Apply fluoride, if necessary

Early Detection

Through the process of your x-rays, visual examination, and dental cleaning, your dentist remains alert for any early signs of disease or oral complications:

  • -Cavities
  • -Gum disease
  • -Oral cancer
  • -Impacted wisdom teeth
  • -Tooth loss
  • -Discoloration
  • -Nerve damage
  • -Alignment


The earlier your dentist can identify potential issues and recommend the appropriate course of treatment, the more efficiently he can prevent future damage and protect your smile. However, it’s nearly impossible to achieve early detection without regular six-month dental exams. 


Oral Cancer Screening

The oral cancer screening is one of the most critical yet overlooked elements of a dental appointment. More than 10,000 people die every year in the U.S from oral cancer. It’s an aggressive disease that’s difficult to treat in late stages. This makes early detection vital.


Oral cancer can develop anywhere along your lips, cheek lining, gums, tongue, floor of mouth, roof of mouth, or throat. It is caused by dangerous changes to cells in the mouth tissue. Certain risk factors increase your risk of oral cancer, including the heavy use of tobacco and alcohol, excessive sun exposure to the lips, and the disease HPV.


An oral cancer screening during a dental exam only takes a few minutes to check your mouth for signs of oral cancer. It’s not painful, invasive, or difficult. Every screening includes a systematic visual examination of all soft tissue in the mouth, as well as a physical examination of the neck and lymph nodes. Your dentist will also ask important questions during every oral cancer screening to gain a comprehensive understanding of your unique oral cancer risk factors. 


Be sure to stay alert for the following symptoms of oral cancer and let your dentist know immediately if you’re experiencing any of these problems:

  • -A mouth sore or lump that doesn’t heal after a few weeks
  • -Red or white patches
  • -Pain and tenderness in the mouth or along the lips
  • -Unusual difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking
  • -A change in your bite
  • -The sensation of something being caught in the throat


Since early detection catches oral cancer before it has the opportunity to fully develop and spread through and beyond your mouth, this simple examination makes it more likely that your dentist and doctor can treat your cancer into remission.


Dr. Steven Pakiz is committed to helping all of his patients in Long Beach, California protect and enhance their smiles. By seeing them every six months for dental exams, Dr. Pakiz can effectively track his patients’ oral health changes and suggest treatments as soon as they are needed. Call (562) 597-7830 today to schedule your appointment now.