By Caron Nelson Glickman
All dental exams are not the same. You’ve got your initial exam and your limited exam; then there’s the popular periodic exam, and the comprehensive exam. You might think that you don’t even really need to know this, and maybe you’re right. But, just in case you want a bit of insight into how your dentist thinks, or you want to fully understand your dental insurance claims…
An initial dental exam is the exam that you get from your dentist the first time you visit the office, provided you aren’t having a serious problem that requires focusing on one tooth or area (that’s a limited exam or an emergency exam). Your dentist spends a bit more time on your first exam, because she is seeing your teeth for the first time. There is usually a detailed written record made of the condition of your teeth, gums and other soft tissue in your mouth. Radiographs (X-rays) provide basis information and are often taken at this appointment. We go a step further in our office and take individual, digital photos of each tooth and a smile photo. We also take a bacterial plaque sample for microscopic examination, and use a laser cavity detection device to find cavities in the grooves of the teeth, often before they can be seen in the x-rays. Your dentist may follow up with a treatment plan, if there is work that needs to be done.
After your next routine dental cleaning (usually 6 months later), you may have an annual dental exam, also known as a periodic exam. Your dentist already knows your mouth, and is looking for any changes associated with your teeth or oral tissues. Follow-up records might be taken periodically at this semi-annual appointment. You may also be reminded of any remaining dental work that was not completed since your last exam.