You’re at the dentist office and due for a dental checkup.  What does a dental checkup entail?  It is an evaluation of your dental, periodontal, and medical history.  Its comprehensiveness depends on if you are in as a completely new patient or if you are an established patient and are in the for a 3, 4, or 6 month cleaning re-care appointment, or if it’s an isolated dental issue.

The New Patient Exam

At a new patient dental checkup, the dentist will evaluate your health on three levels: medical, dental, and periodontal.  The reason we do this is so we can better understand and get to know you as a whole person.

For your medical history, the dentist will check to see what type of medications, if any, you may be currently taking.  The dentist may also ask:

  • If you have any known allergies to food or medicine.
  • If you are pregnant or may be pregnant.
  • If you have any known or prior heart, liver, kidney, bleeding, breathing, or any other systemic involvement.
  • Any prior reaction to dental anesthetic or dental material
  • As part of your dental check up measure your blood pressure and pulse to see if you are hypertensive and at risk for stroke.

For your dental history, we initially take a full mouth series dental x-rays, which is composed of 18 periapical and bitewing films.  These images allow the dentist to evaluate:

  • Your dentition for presence of tooth decay / cavities
  • The health of the bone supporting your teeth
  • Presence of existing tooth or gum related infections
  • Your soft and hard tissue as part of oral cancer screening
  • The presence, if any, of wisdom teeth (third molars) to see if it needs to be addressed by an oral surgeon
  • Your maxillary sinus, jaw, nerve canals, temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and soft tissue for any abnormalities

For your periodontal history, the dentist and/or dental hygienist will do a comprehensive full mouth periodontal probing and charting.  The periodontal charting, along with digital x-rays, allows the dentist and/or dental hygienist to determine how healthy your gums are and what type of dental cleaning is best suited for you.

dental checkup at Bellevue dentist

Dental Checkup

Each tooth has 6 periodontal pockets to measure.  A healthy pocket is 3mm or less, and suggest the gum and supporting bone is healthy and a good level.  Pockets 5mm or more suggest the supporting bone has gum and bone disease; such measurements may signify periodontal disease and may require a thorough deep cleaning.  The dental hygienist may also recommend additional time spent on brushing and/or flossing to help address the cause of periodontal involvement.

The Recare Hygiene Exam

Once the new patient exam is done, the dentist and dental hygienist will follow up with the findings, typically every 6 months at your dental checkup exam and cleaning appointment.  Be sure to inform your dentist of any changes in your medical history.  Your gums may be reassessed every 4, 6, or 12 months depending on the gum health.   X-rays are typically updated once a year with four bitewings and two anterior peri-apical x-rays to check for tooth decay.

The Limited Dental Check up Exam

The limited exam is done if there is a specific dental issue that is causing you discomfort.  There may an isolated tooth or area that is causing discomfort and pain, so this type of dental checkup is more focused and isolated.  One or two digital x-rays may be taken to check for presence of:

  • Tooth decay
  • Gum and/or tooth related infection
  • A tooth filling or dental crown that may be broken or defective
  • Localized bony defect

After this limited exam is done, your dentist can then recommend any appropriate emergency dentistry treatment to help resolve your pain and discomfort.

Not sure why type of dental checkup you need?

If you are not sure what type of dental check up you may require, feel free to ask!  Your gentle family Bellevue dentist will help you determine what type of exam best suite your needs.

From the desk of your local dentist office,

Peter Chien, DMD, MPH

(425) 614-1600