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  The Dental Exam

What goes on during a dentist visit?

On your first visit to a dentist, they will collect your complete medical history. Your medical history can provide the dentist with vital information on any health condition you may have which can ultimately impact the success of any dental treatments.

Most dental visits are checkups. Regular checkups (ideally every six months) will help your teeth stay cleaner, last longer and can prevent painful problems from developing.


X-rays are taken and studied so that the dentist can have a visual of the inside of your teeth, the condition of your roots and areas between your teeth. This helps the dentist determine bone loss, root health and the indication of any cysts or growths than may affect your overall oral health.

A full examination

Next the dentist will do a visual scan of the teeth, gums and soft tissue and compare it to the X-rays. They will check the condition of the gums and see if there is signs of periodontal disease. Knowing the condition of the gums provides information on the overall health of the supporting structure (gums) that can lead to loosening of the teeth and potential bone and/or tooth loss.

The dentist will check other areas such as the tongue, roof of the mouth (palate) and floor of the mouth for any visible signs of inflammation or bleeding. Looking for signs of white lesions or oral cancer and/or suspicious growths or blocked salivary glands. Your dentist will also check the general condition of the bones in the face, jaws and around the mouth. This gives a dentist a clear picture of the overall function of your temporomandibular joint (joint that joins your jaw to the skull), and other areas such as the overall health of your sinus cavity.

Dentists will examine your neck area, feeling the glands and lymph nodes for possible signs of inflammation which could be an indicator of other general health conditions. The glands in the neck area are prominent gateways to the rest of your general overall health.

The dentist is also looking for other things such as, cavities, damaged or missing teeth, restorations in the mouth such as root canals or crowns and the positioning of the teeth.

Dentists have the opportunity explain what they are doing during the examination and provide you with a summary of their findings when they are finished. If the examination reveals a problem that requires treatment, there should be a two-way discussion on the options available. If your dentist identifies a problem that is complex or requires specialized treatment; the dentist may refer you to a dental specialist. Patients, as an active part of your oral health team, are encouraged to ask questions.

Your Dental Exam Checklist

Here are some important things your dentist is checking during an exam:

    • Medical history outlining any health conditions
    • X-rays
    • Gum condition
    • Early signs or oral cancer or other suspicious growths or cysts
    • The overall health and function of your temporomandibular joint (joint that joins your jaw to the skull)
    • Condition of current restorations: root canals and crowns
    • Position of the teeth: spacing and your bite
    • The presence of damaged, missing or decayed teeth
    • Proper growth and development in children
    • General condition of the bones in the face, jaw and around the mouth

Contact the Alberta Dental Association

Please note the Association does not have a physical office location at this time.

Mailing Address:
#201,10654 82 Avenue NW
Edmonton, Alberta, T6E 2A7


Telephone:  780.701.8668  (Edmonton Local)
Toll-Free 1.800.783.0122

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