Dental Exams & Dental Checkups
There’s a common misperception that dental care is a luxury, and it’s time to set the record straight. Regular dental exams (aka “dental checkups”) are just like regular medical exams and physicals – both are preventive measures to help you stay healthy in the long run. What’s more, your oral health and overall health are inextricably intertwined: Gum disease has been linked to diabetes, pregnancy has been linked to tooth loss and stress may cause TMJ, dry mouth syndrome and other dental problems.
The best way, if not the only way, to protect yourself against dental health disasters is to stay on top of your dental exams/dental checkups. The ADA recommends a checkup at least once every six months.
Tuning Up Your Teeth
We tune up our cars because we’re told that maintenance can improve performance and even increase longevity. This is a great analogy for dental exams/dental checkups; just like our cars, our teeth need tuneups, too. Regular exams/checkups allow your dentist to monitor the health of your teeth, treat problems and even catch problems before they start or get worse. In the long run, these “tuneups” can result in your teeth lasting a lifetime!
A standard dental exam for adults typically involves checking for dental problems that can range from cavities, gum disease and tooth root decay to broken teeth, enamel erosion and bite problems like TMD. If it’s been longer than year since you’ve seen a dentist, you’ll get a complete set of X-rays, too. Either your dentist or a dental hygienist will give you a professional dental cleaning to remove plaque or tartar buildup. And finally, your dentist will design a dental treatment plan for you based on what he or she finds during your dental exam.
Dental exams/dental checkups are basically the same for kids and teenagers. Once your child is old enough, your dentist or dental hygienist may also show your child how to brush and how to floss properly as part of the exam. This is a great way to reinforce that dental care and oral hygiene are an integral part of your child’s life.
Finding a dentist who caters to kids and has a gentle chair side manner is something to consider. A pediatric dentist or dentist who practices family dentistry has the training and experience to make dental exams and checkups comfortable and even fun for kids. You may also want to find a dentist who offers activities such as toys, movies and books as well as certain amenities like pillows and blankets.
Skipping Exams Is Tempting, but Costly
It’s understandable that you might be tempted to skip regular dental exams/dental checkups when the economy is bad or if you’re experiencing a financial crunch. But brushing and flossing aren’t enough to keep your dental health in tip-top shape. And the fact is putting professional dental care on hold can result in serious dental problems later – and treatments that are much more costly.
If you have dental insurance, be sure to take advantage of the benefits. Standard coverage usually includes preventive care – dental exams and checkups – as well as X-rays and basic restorative treatments like a tooth filling. Talk to your dental insurance provider to get all the details; knowing what’s covered and what’s not can be the difference between incurring extra costs and avoiding them. In addition, talk to your dental office’s administrator prior to your visits to get an estimate of costs so that you can determine your out-of-pocket expenses (if any).