An exam by any other name…Is not an exam.
A typical dental exam checks your teeth for cavities and your gums for disease and stops there. It doesn’t include examining your jaw joints and their impact on your dental health and your overall health. This more comprehensive dental exam is important in “orthopedic dentistry,” which ensures your jaw joints are balanced.
An “orthopedic dentistry” exam notes the teeth position and function of your teeth and their supporting structures; an analysis of how your teeth fit together when you bite down; an examination of your chewing and speech — and the movement of your jaws and joints and how they impact all of the above.
Taking the exam even further, the experience of the practitioner determines how much he/she is able to detect. Usually, a dentist doesn’t see much beyond what he or she can treat. At Artistic Dentistry, we treat nearly any dental situation — from root canals to orthodontics to cosmetics to identifying the “mysterious” reason for a tooth problem. In short, the scope of responsibility your practitioner is willing to take depends upon his/her knowledge.
Your teeth and mouth tell a story. Your mouth, gums and jaws indicate much about your overall health. Aside from your dental condition — I can sometimes detect conditions like osteoporosis, leukemia, cancer and even bulimia.
A young woman came to me with tonsils that had been swollen for fifteen years. She had regular dental care while growing up and five years of orthodontics. Neither her dentist or her orthodontist had suggested she see a specialist about the swollen tonsils. I queried her about a list of symptoms I suspected she was suffering from, including chronic fatigue. Wide-eyed, she sat up in my chair and asked “how do you know all this about me?” I immediately referred her to a surgeon who diagnosed that her condition as life-threatening.
A man came to me after spending $50,000 on cosmetic dental treatment. The doctor overseeing the case only performed cosmetic procedures and had referred him to several specialists to perform various phases, such as root canals, extractions, etc. After two years of treatment and expense, the patient still had lower crooked teeth. Why? The specialist overseeing his case didn’t perform orthodontics and told this patient he didn’t need it. After spending $50,000 to rehab your mouth, wouldn’t you want straight teeth? In our office, the steps of his treatment program would have been put in a sequential order that would have included orthodontics at the correct stage.
A dentist with multi-disciplinary skills sees beyond a limited set of procedures. So, the next time my staff in St Louis calls to get you scheduled for your cleaning and exam, you should know that this is one of the most important visits to the dentist you can make. If you value the health of your mouth and plan to keep your teeth for a lifetime, then we’re both on the same page.