A comprehensive dental exam will be performed by your dentist at your dental visit, your teeth are cleaned and checked for cavities. Additionally, there are many other things that are checked and monitored to help detect, prevent, and maintain your dental health.
Knowing the status of any current medical conditions, new medications, and illnesses, gives us insight to your overall health and also your dental health.
“Check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer."
Oral Cancer Exam
According to research, new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year. Many of these cases result in the death of the patient. The good news is that oral cancer can easily be diagnosed with an annual oral cancer exam, and effectively treated when caught in its earliest stages.
Oral cancer is a pathologic process which begins with an asymptomatic stage during which the usual cancer signs may not be readily noticeable. This makes the oral cancer examinations performed by the dentist critically important. Oral cancers can be of varied histologic types such as teratoma, adenocarcinoma and melanoma. The most common type of oral cancer is the malignant squamous cell carcinoma. This oral cancer type usually originates in lip and mouth tissues.
There are many different places in the oral cavity and maxillofacial region in which oral cancers commonly occur, including:
- Salivary Glands
- Oropharyngeal Region (throat)
Reasons for oral cancer examinations
It is important to note that around 75% of oral cancers are linked with modifiable behaviors such as smoking, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption. Your dentist can provide literature and education on making lifestyle changes and smoking cessation.
When oral cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages, treatment is generally very effective. Any noticeable abnormalities in the tongue, gums, mouth or surrounding area should be evaluated by a health professional as quickly as possible. During the oral cancer exam, the dentist and dental hygienist will be scrutinizing the maxillofacial and oral regions carefully for signs of pathologic changes.
The following signs will be investigated during a routine oral cancer exam:
- Red patches and sores– Red patches on the floor of the mouth, the front and sides of the tongue, white or pink patches which fail to heal and slow healing sores that bleed easily can be indicative of pathologic (cancerous) changes.
- Leukoplakia– This is a hardened white or gray, slightly raised lesion that can appear anywhere inside the mouth. Leukoplakia can be cancerous, or may become cancerous if treatment is not sought.
- Lumps– Soreness, lumps or the general thickening of tissue anywhere in the throat or mouth can signal pathological problems.
Oral cancer exams, diagnosis and treatment
The oral cancer examination is a completely painless process. During the visual part of the examination, the dentist will look for abnormality and feel the face, glands and neck for unusual bumps. Lasers which can highlight pathologic changes are also a wonderful tool for oral cancer checks. The laser can “look” below the surface for abnormal signs and lesions which would be invisible to the naked eye.
If abnormalities, lesions, leukoplakia or lumps are apparent, the dentist will implement a diagnostic impression and treatment plan. In the event that the initial treatment plan is ineffective, a biopsy of the area will be performed. The biopsy includes a clinical evaluation which will identify the precise stage and grade of the oral lesion.
Oral cancer is deemed to be present when the basement membrane of the epithelium has been broken. Malignant types of cancer can readily spread to other places in the oral and maxillofacial regions, posing additional secondary threats. Treatment methods vary according to the precise diagnosis, but may include excision, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
During bi-annual check-ups, the dentist and hygienist will thoroughly look for changes and lesions in the mouth, but a dedicated comprehensive oral cancer screening should be performed at least once each year.
If you have any questions or concerns about oral cancer, please ask your dentist or dental hygienist.
Check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.
All tooth surfaces will be checked for decay with special dental instruments.
Check current fillings, crowns, etc.
“Essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions."
Dental radiographs (x-rays) are essential, preventative, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam. Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan. Without x-rays, problem areas may go undetected.
During your consultation we can also perform an x-ray to help identify any potentially harmful conditions that may be in the early stages of development, such as decay. It is essential to detect underlying issues before they become severe and complex to treat.
By assessing the health of the teeth, gums and soft tissues externally and internally with an x-ray we can ensure that your smile is healthy.
Our state of the art Digital X rays technology allows high resolution which means better image and considerably less radiation exposure. As a result we get better image and less repetition of x rays.
Dental x-rays may reveal:
- Abscesses or cysts.
- Bone loss.
- Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors.
- Decay between the teeth.
- Developmental abnormalities.
- Poor tooth and root positions.
- Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line.
Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and your teeth!
ABOUT XRAY IMAGING
An x-ray image, or radiograph, is produced when a very small amount of radiation passes through the body and strikes a sheet of sensitive film or a detector placed on the other side of the body. The ability of x-rays to penetrate tissues and bones varies according to the composition and mass of what is being imaged. Your teeth, which contains calcium, absorbs most of the radiation and results in white images on the x-ray film. Low mass organs such as the lungs, which are filled with air, allow nearly all x-rays to pass through and strike the film or detector resulting in a black image. You will not feel any discomfort during the procedure.
Are dental x-rays safe?
We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. You will be exposed to a very small amount of radiation when you receive an x-ray. The amount of radiation exposure from a full mouth series of x-rays is equal to the amount a person receives in a single day from natural sources.
Dental x-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered safe. Dentists take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation when taking dental x-rays. If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be, you should tell your doctor or radiographer before the test is performed, as special precautions may have to be taken.
These precautions include using lead apron shields to protect the body and using modern, fast film that cuts down the exposure time of each x-ray. At Spring Orchid Dental, we use advanced digital x-ray equipment to ensure you are exposed to the minimum amount of radiation needed to obtain adequate images.
How often should dental x-rays be taken?
The need for dental x-rays depends on each patient’s individual dental health needs. Your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend necessary x-rays based on the review of your medical and dental history, dental exam, signs and symptoms, age consideration, and risk for disease.
A full mouth series of dental x-rays is recommended for new patients. A full series is usually good for three to five years. Bite-wing x-rays (x-rays of top and bottom teeth biting together) are taken at recall (check-up) visits and are recommended once or twice a year to detect new dental problems.
Who will perform the xrays examination?
The examination will be performed by our qualified dental staff who were trained in the taking of x-rays and other diagnostic dental images.
Are there any side effects to xrays ?
Side effects from general or dental x-rays are incredibly rare. During your examination you will be exposed to a very small amount of radiation. The benefits of detecting disease are believed to far outweigh any potential risks from receiving such a small dose. Spring Orchid Dental have rigorous protocols to ensure that the radiation dose given is the lowest possible dose to produce diagnostic quality images.
How long will the xrays examination take?
General and dental x-rays are typically very simple procedures and most examinations would be completed within 10 – 15 minutes. In most cases you do not have to make an appointment to have a general x-ray but depending on how busy the clinic is, you may have to wait before having your examination. In some instances you may need to make an appointment for a dental x-ray.
When is the best time to have the xrays examination?
As there is little or no preparation required for general or dental x-rays they can be performed at any time during normal clinic hours.
Orthopantomograms, better known as OPGs provide a panoramic or wide view x-rays of the mouth which displays all the teeth of the upper and lower jaw on a single film. It demonstrates the number, position and growth of all the teeth including those that have not yet surfaced or erupted. It is different from the small close up x-rays dentists take of individual teeth.
An OPG may also reveal problems with the jawbone and the joint which connects the jawbone to the head, called the Temporomandibular joint or TMJ. OPGs can be used for a variety of purposes from assessment of impacted wisdom teeth, checking development of teeth in children, planning of orthodontic treatment, for a general overview of the teeth and the bone which supports the teeth, and as general screening as part of your dental check‐up.
You may be asked to remove jewellery, eyeglasses, and any metal objects that may obscure the images. You will be asked to stand with your face resting on a small shelf and to bite gently on a sterile mouth piece to steady your head. It is important to stay very still while the x-ray is taken. You will not feel any discomfort during the procedure.
The scans are quick, simple, and require no preparation. The OPG rotates once around your head, taking just 10 seconds to complete the scan. All you are required to do is remain still for the duration of the scan.
The images are viewed and interpreted by our dentists and results can be collected 2‐3 working days after the scan, or alternatively you may take an image back to your referrer unreported. If you choose to take the image with you, a report will be sent to your doctor electronically.
Please bring any previous imaging with you on the day of your examination. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask us!
Designing your personalized treatment plan
After the oral examination, any treatment recommendations will be discussed, and rationale given to support these.
Sometimes you may require comprehensive dental care, involving several stages or complex treatments. All of our dentists will happily provide a comprehensive treatment plan which details the proposed care of your mouth.
When available, options will be discussed with you and will be given in written form. We’ll also provide item numbers and explain the price of the proposed intervention, making it clear from the outset how much any dentistry treatments are likely to cost, so there are no surprises later on.
All of this will help patients to make an informed decision about their dental care plan, and direct us in our delivery of service. If the treatment plan changes at any stage, the fees will be adjusted accordingly, and the patient informed, so there’s complete transparency all the way.
Health rebates for dentistry treatments
To assist our patients in claiming health rebates for treatment, we provide a printed copy of their dental treatment plans at the initial dental consultation. This can then be passed on to their health insurance company so the gap in payment can be worked out, along with the balance that needs to be settled.
Although our dentistry fees are subject to change on an reasonable basis, once we’ve agreed on a cost, this will remain the same within a specified period. As long as the fee still applies to your current oral condition, we will always honour it.
If funding your dental treatment becomes difficult, you may like to consider a payment plan. You can find information about
Review and recommend oral hygiene aids as needed (electric dental toothbrushes, special cleaning aids, fluorides, rinses, etc.).
Your eating habits play a very important role in your dental health