8 things you might not know your dentist is doing in your mouth

A dentist with silver forceps and a necklace of large teeth, extracting the tooth of a seated man. 1360-1375

It’s no secret that your dentist works to keep your teeth clean during a routine checkup, but that’s far from the only thing they do when gazing into a patient’s mouth. Here are eight things you might not know your dentist is doing, in addition to the scraping and polishing.

1. Checking the gums

Dr. Vinh Trinh, of Three Creek Dentistry in Derwood, will commonly check a patient’s gums for bone loss, pocketing, bleeding, swelling, pus or other signs of gum disease.

“It is common to see at least some bleeding/inflammation of gums and usually means the patient needs more thorough flossing and brushing,” Trinh said in an email.

2. Examining the tongue

Trinh will also look over a patient’s tongue, searching for lumps, bumps or abnormal discoloration, he said.

“When it comes to any findings on the tongue, potential diagnoses are extremely vast and treatment is wide ranging, as the problem could stem from other health issues as well,” said Trinh.


3. Looking over the salivary glands

The salivary glands are another spot that Trinh said he typically goes over. He checks for swelling that could be from a blocked salivary gland, or from other abnormalities. Sometimes, massaging them with a warm compress can help to unclog a blocked salivary gland, though surgery may be needed in other cases.


4. Checking for bad breath

Trinh pays attention to a patient’s breath during a checkup. Causes of bad breath include poor oral hygiene, diet and medications. Staying hydrated and improving one’s oral hygiene are common treatments for bad breath, he said.


5. Search for oral cancer

All new patients of Trinh’s receive an oral cancer screening, as does everyone receiving a routine exam. Signs he looks for include growths in the mouth or abnormal discolorations.

6. Examining the tonsils

For those possessing tonsils, Trinh will check them for inflammation or swelling, he said. Treatments can be as simple as rinsing with warm salt water. More severe cases, though, can require a specialist to address.

7, Checking for sinus infection

When checking for sinus infections, Trinh needs to take x-rays to determine if an infection from a tooth is extending into the sinus. If this is the case, a root canal or a tooth extraction is often necessary.


8. Looking for malocclusion, or teeth misalignment

Some signs of malocclusion are misaligned teeth or jaws that have an improper bite, Trinh said. Orthodontics is a common treatment, though surgery may be needed for severe cases.

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