What Is an Oral Exam?
An oral exam, or dental exam, is done by a dental hygienist to evaluate the health and state of your mouth. They check for cavities, tooth decay, gum disease, and other problems to make sure you get the appropriate treatment if need be.
Dental exams also include a cleaning portion, which is helpful for preventing problems before they arise.
What Happens During an Oral Exam?
It’s normal to feel a little bit nervous before going to the dentist. But just remember that they are not there to hurt you; they are only there to help you. If you find out you have a cavity or another injury, don’t worry. There are solutions to almost every single problem.
To alleviate some of the anxiety, here is what you can expect when you go in for an exam.
Before a hygienist cleans your teeth, they’ll start by giving you a physical examination by just looking and observing the current state of your mouth. This is done with a small mirror so that they can easily see all sides of each tooth.
During this portion, the hygienist is looking for clear decay or caries on the surface of each tooth that might require a filling. They’re also checking for signs of gingivitis, or gum disease, which is usually noticeable through swelling, redness, and inflammation at the gumline.
If they notice any major problems, they might call the dentist to make sure it’s fine for them to continue.
Additionally, if you’ve been noticing any pain or discomfort in a particular part of your mouth, this is the time to address them. Let your hygienist know so they can take a further examination of the specific area that’s causing you some trouble.
A dental hygienist is a very talented and educated professional, but they don’t have superpowers. For that reason, an x-ray may be needed so that they can see how your teeth are doing underneath the external surface.
An x-ray is done to diagnose issues that are not visible during the exam. Often, this helps the hygienist know if your teeth are growing into the gums properly or if there is some shifting taking place that may require braces or Invisalign. Additionally, this is typically used to assess the status of wisdom teeth as they are growing in to decide whether or not they need to be pulled.
While x-rays do expose you to radiation, the levels are extremely low. They’re even lower now that x-ray technology has evolved digitally.
In some circumstances, a hygienist may want to take an impression of some or all of your teeth to produce a replica to address any issues. This can help them evaluate your bite or help to make a mouthguard to help with teeth grinding.
Impressions are a quick and painless process. A horseshoe-shaped tray is filled with special gelatin. You’ll then bite down on the device and hold it there for a few minutes, allowing the mold to retain the shape of your mouth and harden.
A hygienist will also check you for signs of oral cancer by feeling the area under your jaw, the sides of your neck, and the insides of your lips and cheeks. They’ll also examine the sides of your tongue and the inside of your mouth to see if there are any abnormalities that would require further analysis.
Is Teeth Cleaning Included in an Oral Exam?
In most cases, if you pay for a routine dental cleaning service, you’ll receive an oral exam at the same time. However, receiving just an oral exam does not guarantee that your teeth will be cleaned.
With that said, a routine cleaning every six months is highly recommended, as only a dental hygienist can remove harmful tartar from your mouth to help prevent gum disease and other problems.
Additionally, routine cleanings often utilize fluoride treatments which are extremely beneficial for your overall oral health. Fluoride is a natural element that can strengthen enamel or the outer layer of your teeth.
What Do the Results of an Oral Exam Mean?
At the end of the examination, your dentist will discuss the results and next steps for improving and maintaining your overall dental health.
In cases where there is an excess amount of tartar or plaque on your teeth, they may advise you to floss more regularly or use a different kind of toothpaste. They may even recommend a special type of toothbrush.
If they notice cavities or caries, they may advise that you need to come back in on another day to receive a dental filling. This is a quick and painless procedure to fill in small cavities to prevent further tooth decay.
If tooth decay has become too severe, a dentist may recommend you come back for either a crown or a root canal procedure. These can restore the structure and integrity of a tooth that has been badly damaged from external trauma or decay.
This is also the time to ask them any questions you might have before going back home. Additionally, you’ll want to schedule your next exam and cleaning for six months after your current visit.
How To Prepare for an Oral Exam
Ready to pass your test? You don’t need to do anything more than practice good dental hygiene to ensure the best outcome from your dental exam. This means brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day.
A dentist may ask you about current medications or family health history, especially if you’re going to them for the first time. It’s useful to know this information ahead of time so you can save some time upon arrival.
You may be tempted to brush your teeth right before you go to the dentist. While this won’t do any harm, all of the food and debris will be removed during a routine cleaning regardless, so you don’t need to stress about it beforehand.
Do Dental Exams Hurt?
Dental exams are not meant to be painful. In fact, their whole purpose is to hopefully prevent conditions and injuries that may cause pain in the future.
With that in mind, a portion of the exam that may feel painful is when the hygienist scrapes the tartar and plaque off of your teeth. While that’s not the goal, you may feel minor discomfort or bleeding, especially when they get close to the gumline.
You can prevent some of this pain by taking steps now to improve your gum health. Flossing is a great way to do this.
Most other portions of a dental exam are entirely painless, including the x-ray.
Dental Hygienist vs. Dentist
When you go in for a dental exam, there’s a good chance that two people will examine your mouth. The person that you’re likely to spend the most time with is called the dental hygienist. These are trained professionals that clean your teeth and can assess the health of your mouth. They can recognize potential problems and report them to the dentist.
The dentist differs mainly in the fact that they have to have a doctorate degree, whereas most hygienists only need a master’s. Dentists can actually diagnose and treat problems, whereas hygienists do not have the power to do so.
So if your dental hygienist suspects a problem is occurring, they can’t actually prescribe you a treatment. They’ll need the dentist to come in first, who can then give you a prescription for a specific treatment method.
How Much Does an Oral Exam Cost?
Full oral exams are necessary to keep your mouth happy and healthy for as long as possible. But they’re not necessarily cheap. An oral exam alone costs an average of $108. That’s not including the cleaning, which can add on another $118.
Cost is one of the largest barriers to receiving dental care, and without insurance, a routine exam and cleaning cost almost $250. It’s no wonder that so many people are unable to make it to the dentist twice a year.
The good news is that oral exams just got a lot more affordable.
How To Afford an Oral Exam
Flossy uses a pay-as-you-go model that only charges you for the services you receive. No down payments, no monthly premiums, and no deductibles. You’ll know what you owe before you go. And we can save you up to 50% on select services, including oral exams and cleanings.
In fact, you can get a full oral exam and cleaning for $118 -- that’s the cost of just a cleaning by itself. You can also book your appointments and keep track of payments through our tech-enabled smartphone app, removing the headache from the traditional scheduling process.
There’s also no wait time to meet with one of our providers, who are vetted against vigorous criteria:
- Utilization of modern technology and techniques
- Four stars or more on popular review sites like Yelp or Google
- Experience and knowledge
- Peer recommendations
- Graduates of top tier dental programs
- Excellent patient reviews
It’s high-quality care without high prices. Book an appointment now to save big on the dental procedures you’ve been waiting for.
Get an Oral Exam Today With Flossy
An oral hygienist completes an oral exam to assess the current health and state of your teeth, gums, tongue, cheeks, and mouth as a whole. Hygienists use physical tools, x-rays, and visual observation to check for cavities, gum disease, oral cancer, impacted teeth, misshapen teeth, and more.
If a problem is noticeable, a hygienist and dentist may recommend that you receive one of many corrective procedures to alleviate the problem before it becomes too severe. Additionally, many oral exams coincide with a routine cleaning, which can help prevent issues from developing down the line.
While oral exams are usually recommended every six months, not everyone can do this because of cost barriers. Luckily, Flossy offers up to 50% on services such as oral exams and cleanings, making necessary care more accessible than ever.
From whitening to cleaning, dental implants to fillings, Flossy is the solution to affordable dental care.
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Dental Care Presents The Highest Level Of Financial Barriers, Compared To Other Types Of Health Care Services | Health Affairs
Dental Plaque: What Is It, Causes, How to Remove, Prevent & Treat | Cleveland Clinic
Fluoride | MouthHealthy.org
Dental Fillings: Materials, Types, Sensitivity & Allergy Issues | Cleveland Clinic
Slide show: Root canal treatment | The Mayo Clinic.
Cost as a barrier to accessing dental care: findings from a Canadian population-based study | NIH