Yet prophylaxis (a dental cleaning) is only part of the equation when it comes to our overall health. In fact, the mouth is often considered a window to the rest of the body because many other illnesses first present themselves as changes within the mouth. As a result, if your dentist considers your mouth to be exhibiting signs of periodontal disease, or if you smoke, have diabetes, or other high-risk conditions, a comprehensive periodontal dental exam may be recommended. This exam is also recommended if you have had a substantial change in your health history since your last regular visit, or if you have not been to your regular dentist in more than three years.
During a comprehensive periodontal examination, your dentist will perform a visual examination, as well as a more detailed dental examination using bitewing or 360° panoramic X-rays, and sometimes an intra-oral camera to detect:
Weaknesses in already installed crowns, fillings and bridgework
Gum or bone recession
Teeth deterioration due to abnormal bite, bruxism or TMJ
Additionally, full mouth probing and detailed charting are conducted.
Your dentist will also perform a visual and digital examination of lymph nodes throughout the face and neck looking for any abnormalities, pain, or flexibility within the nodes that could be markers for disease.
Likewise, a similar examination of your lips, gums, tongue and other internal mouth surfaces will be conducted, again looking for various signs of illness or disease.
Since the comprehensive dental exam is designed to set a baseline of your health and to catch any early signs of serious illness that may be otherwise undetected, your dentist will be on the lookout for the following illnesses: