Your dental exam and x-rays will be performed during your first visit, then every 6-months subsequently. During your exam, your hygienist and dentist will evaluate your entire mouth and look for any issues with the health of your gums and teeth. They will also perform x-rays. If you’ve had any previous bridges, crowns, or fillings placed, they will be checked. If you have been experiencing any discomfort or pain, you’ll want to mention this to your dentist during the exam. Once the exam is complete, your dentist will speak with you about any issues they found during the exam and/or with the x-rays. They can answer questions and schedule any follow-up appointments you may need.

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Your dental exam is your first line of defense. During your exam, your dentist is able to catch early signs of issues like cavities and/or gingivitis. If these conditions are caught early enough, they can be easily resolved with little pain.

There are four main categories of oral exams. These include:

Regular Oral Exam

Regular oral exams (or check-ups) are performed every 6 months. During these exams, your mouth is checked for any changes with your gums or your teeth. You may also get an x-ray every other exam. If you have any pain and/or your dentist spots anything that is a cause of concern, they may perform an x-ray during your regular oral exam.

Comprehensive Oral Exam

During your first visit to our dental practice, you can expect a comprehensive oral exam to be completed. If it’s been a while since your last trip to the dentist, you should also expect a comprehensive oral exam.

Limited Oral Exam 

If you are having a dental emergency and are experiencing pain or swelling, you may need to book a limited oral exam. During this exam, your dentist will take a look and try to find the source of the issue. They may also perform x-rays. From there, they’ll discuss options for alleviating your pain and addressing the root cause.

Follow–up Oral Exam 

Once you’ve had a dental procedure, you may require a follow-up exam. This is to ensure that you are healing properly and that you aren’t experiencing pain or new symptoms. Your dentist may check a variety of factors during a follow-up exam. They may be looking for the following: bleeding, inflammation, periodontal pockets, and plaque buildup. Your dentist will also check your mouth, tongue, and throat for any serious conditions like cancer. If you have retainers or dentures, you will need to remove them during your follow-up exam. If you have any questions or concerns, make sure to bring them up to your dentist during your exam.

Oral Exams for Children

It’s best for your child to start seeing a dentist and establishing a positive relationship early in life. Your child can be taken to the dentist when their first tooth emerges. You will want to at least schedule an appointment before their first birthday. From there, they can start a 6-month schedule just like an adult (unless recommended otherwise). Regular oral exams for your child will allow your dentist to make sure their teeth are developing properly, and it will allow your dentist to address any problems.

Dental X-Rays

Dental x-rays are one of the most important diagnostic tools to ensure ongoing dental health. With x-rays, your dentist is able to see issues that aren’t visible with the naked eye. This includes conditions and abnormalities that may be occurring beneath the gumline and below the surface of your teeth. Once these problems have been discovered, they can be addressed. There are a few different x-ray categories, which include:

  • Full Mouth: You will likely need a comprehensive x-ray set or a full mouth x-rays as a part of your comprehensive exam. For a better baseline for your overall oral health, bitewing and periapical (PA) x-rays will be used. Your dentist may also use these images in the future to see if there are any changes.
  • Periapical (PA): Periapical x-rays show a patient’s full tooth—from the root to the crown. These types of x-rays allow a dentist to see any changes like tumors, abscesses, or cysts that are forming in the root and surrounding bone structure or below the gumline.
  • Bitewing: With bitewing x-rays, you bite down on small “winged” pieces. These help to show both your lower and upper back teeth at the same time. Your doctor will use this form of x-ray to see how the teeth touch and line up. Dentists also use these x-rays to better spot infection, bone loss, gum disease, and decay.
  • Limited: Limited x-rays, as their name implies, are not full sets of x-rays. Instead, limited x-rays focus on a specific area of your mouth. Limited x-rays are generally taken after an injury, before a procedure, or during an emergency. These x-rays are a combination of PA and bitewing x-rays.
  • Periodic: Periodic x-rays are also known as “recall x-rays.” They are a combination of periapical and bitewing x-rays and are ordered for checkups.
  • Panoramic: Panoramic x-rays detail the entire mouth, including the teeth, nasal area, jaw, sinuses, and TMJ joints all in one view. They are used for specific treatment or diagnostics. Panoramic x-rays are great for evaluating wisdom teeth or during implant and orthodontic consultations.

Because the latest x-ray equipment is fully digital, the levels of radiation are lower than traditional x-rays. Additional protective measures like shields and screens—along with best practices—limit the exposure to radiation a patient has (often 80-90% lower than standard film x-rays).

The cost of oral exams and dental x-rays

The cost of your dental work will depend on what services are performed. Thankfully, dental insurance can lower the cost significantly—giving you a little extra peace of mind. We will work with you to figure out what your coverage looks like before making any decisions, and we are happy to answer any questions you have about your insurance coverage. We will also maximize your benefits and help to keep your costs low.

Frequently Asked Questions about Oral Exams & X Rays, Indianapolis, Indiana [IN]

How do oral exams look like for pregnant women?

There are virtually no dental treatments—even diagnostic x-rays—that pose any risk for a normal pregnancy. Because of this, expectant mothers should not skip their regular checkup appointments. With the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, women are actually more likely to experience dental issues during this time. By visiting your dentist for your regular appointment, you can catch any issues early on or prevent them. If you are pregnant, please inform our staff before your visit.

Can I use the dental x-rays I have from a different dental office?

Yes, you can transfer x-ray images from one dental office to another, but generally the originals cannot be sent. Because of this, your current dentist will be working with lower-quality copies. It’s best to get new x-rays taken during your initial visit. This way they are current, up-to-date, and easy for your dentist to read.

What if I don’t agree to an x-ray?

While x-rays may not be required, they are definitely recommended. If you have any concerns about having x-rays performed, speak with your dentist. They will help to explain the process to you.