What Happens in a Dental Exam

The dentist pokes and prods around your mouth while you do your best to sit still and pretend like it doesn’t bother you. Have you ever wondered what they’re looking for in there? No matter what type of dentistry you are being evaluated for (to learn about different types click here) you will have to allow someone poke at your teeth and gums. In a basic dental exam, they will follow a basic procedure.

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Before the dentist comes into the room, a hygienist will clean your teeth and check for potential cavities or gum disease. This is the part in the exam where he or she will floss your teeth and use a pumice, an abrasive substance that is usually mint-flavored in a dentist’s office, to buff the plaque and tartar from your teeth. This process helps them to better evaluate the spots on your teeth that may look like a cavity.


Depending on the clinic, a dental hygienist or the dentist can perform an evaluation of your gums and teeth. Usually, the hygienist evaluates you and then consults with the dentist for treatment options. They will use any X-rays of your mouth they may have taken to find problem areas in your teeth. The may also use a small measuring tool to log any inflammation in your gums that might signal gum disease. 


Some treatments can be done on the spot. For example, if you have some gum swelling because a piece of food is stuck in your teeth, the hygienist can flush it out with some water. Other treatments, however, such as filling a cavity, require you to schedule another appointment for the dentist to resolve the issue. It all depends on how severe your case and what options are available, which your dentist will discuss with you.