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Dental check up or oral health assessment? Is there a difference?

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The Gentle Dental practice offers emergency/same-day dental appointments to new and existing patients who are suffering from a multitude of oral health problems.Have you always wondered what your dentist is saying to their dental nurse when you attend for a dental check?

Is it a code? What does it all mean? And if we’re talking about code what is the difference between a dental check and oral health or dental health assessment?

First of all, let’s talk about the names of the appointment. It has historically been called a Dental Check-Up but in recent years we have preferred the phrase Oral Health or Dental Health Assessment.

This is because these phrases cover more of what actually happens. We assess the health of all the dental tissues or the oral cavity.

So what is the dentist actually looking for?

After taking a full history and checking if there have been any changes with your medical history, your dentist will palpate and examine all around the outside of your head and neck. We will be looking for lumps or bumps or asymmetries that may indicate problems within the mouth.

For instance, when you have an abscess your body’s immune system will kick in and you may have swollen glands or lymph nodes in your neck. Therefore we can be alerted to the probability of dental problems before we have even looked in your mouth.

Next, we will look at your jaw joint, check it is working properly and opening fully with no pain or tenderness.

Inside your mouth…

Once we are ready to look inside we will be looking at the overall oral hygiene, how your teeth fit together, and then specific areas.

  • All the lining of the inside of your mouth right from the lips to the back of the throat. We are looking for any abnormalities but more specifically early signs of mouth cancer. Mouth Cancer is usually painless and you may not see an early lesion and this alone is a good reason to get regular checks. If detected early mouth cancer has the best chance of treatment successfully.
  • We will then look at your gums, how they look, whether they bleed easily on probing, and whether you have gaps or pockets between the teeth or gums. These pockets indicate the presence of gum disease that is the largest reason for losing teeth in adulthood so a diagnosis of gum disease is very important. You will hear your dentist mentioning numbers when they are checking your gums either 0,1,2,3 or 4 and this gives an indication of the problems in that area of your mouth. Each number is linked to a type of treatment that is automatically required, maybe simple cleaning or deeper root cleaning and gum treatments.
  • After all this, we will look at your teeth for signs of wear and tear, breakages, dental caries or tooth decay, and changes in position. This is when you hear some more jargon speak between dentist and nurse and yes it is really a code, all the teeth have a number 1-8 and then a surface and we will either describe the restoration in place or if decay is present. We may need to take some X-Rays at this point to ascertain if you are decay-free. Not all decay is visible to us with the naked eye and so to be certain it is advised to have x-rays taken at suitable intervals depending on your past history of decay – for most this is every two years but it may be sooner or later too.

What next?

Once we have all this information we are in a position to Assess your Oral Health and suggest a plan of treatment that may be required. Of course, you may not require any treatment and just some further preventive advice, but whatever you require we will discuss with you so you are fully informed.

So you can see an Oral Health Assessment is so much more than just checking your teeth. Is it time for your visit?

Perhaps you should call and book in?

Simply call 020 8224 7562 and speak to our friendly receptionist Danielle who will be more than happy to make an appointment for your next Oral Health Assessment.

Looking forward to welcoming you to the Gentle Dental Practice in East Molesey.

Dr Ali Rifiai
Principal Dentist


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