You probably don’t think much about the purpose of a dental exam. Perhaps your experiences have consisted of an “adequate” cleaning by a dental hygienist and a quick peek in the mouth by the dentist to ensure you don’t have any cavities. A dental exam – at least if done right – is much more than mere minutes with the dentist. If your last visit with the dentist was short and sweet, consider this a cautionary tale of why being thorough matters. 

So, what is a thorough dental exam, you ask? A thorough dental exam involves a whole lot of looking and a little Q&A between you and your dentist. And while we cannot attest to what other Bend, Oregon, dentists are doing, we can share what Dr. Andy Engel is doing. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.

Importance of a Medical History and a Thorough Dental Exam

This one is pretty benign, but knowing your medical history helps drive Dr. Andy’s questions. And he’s listening intently to what you have to say. Not because he’s nosey with some of his questions—such as the ones about your diet and sleep habits—but because what you say is a clue that is often overlooked. For example, if you have a lisp or whistle when you make certain sounds, Dr. Andy’s got a neat little clue about something that may be going on with the shape of your mouth. These clues help him understand the root or underlying cause of any issues you may be having. Root cause? What? This is the dentist’s office, right? Yes, my friend, you are absolutely right. 

A Great Bend, Oregon Dentist Uses Root Cause Medicine

Root cause medicine is as applicable to dentistry as it is to any other facet of medicine. Symptoms are like little breadcrumbs that are dropped on the Good Dog Trail – good as long as they stick around long enough to allow you to discover why they’re happening in the first place. Have you been to Good Dog Trail? Great place. Lots of happy dogs. Lots of happy dogs that will happily eat all the breadcrumbs you left on the trail, so you end up lost and hungry. Okay, maybe that was a little dramatic. Our point is that treating symptoms is a Band-Aid. The best dentists take the time to identify why issues are happening and then work with you to devise a plan to fix the issue. Recurrent problems quite frankly stink. We aim to make them go away for good.

Here’s a great example. In talking to Dr. Andy, you shared that you have chronic headaches and have had them for many years. You’ve considered Botox to help but realize that it is just a temporary solution. Dr. Andy thoroughly inspects your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and bite (the way your teeth come together when your mouth is closed) and discovers you have a misaligned bite. You are shocked by this because you wore braces for five horrendous years during middle and throughout high school (senior year pictures are no fun in braces!). Your teeth are straight, for goodness sake. But after a little heart-to-heart, you confirm his suspicions – your teeth were pulled as a teen (like many of us 40 and 50-something-year-olds had), which changed the shape of your mouth when it was still developing. The solution – adult orthodontics. Joy! 

Let’s get back on track. During your exam, Dr. Andy will ask lots of questions. He usually waits until his tools are out of your mouth so you can answer coherently. He will look at any X-rays he has, check your TMJ and lymph nodes, and evaluate your skeletal and muscular structure to see if there are signs of temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) or nerve issues. He will also assess your gum, tongue, and cheek tissue health, bone health, jaw alignment, bite functionality, wear patterns, and contours and evaluate any prior work you’ve had done, such as a crown or root canal. Next, he will look at the aesthetics of your mouth and do an oral cancer screening. Based on his findings, he will ask more questions – again – to get to the root cause of any issues he identified during the exam. Maybe he noticed you are wearing down a few of your molars in the fourth quadrant (that means the bottom right side of your mouth). He then asks if you wake up with headaches, to which you say, “By golly, yes!” He discovers you are clenching your teeth at night and discusses wearing a night guard to protect your teeth from further damage. That’s root cause medicine, my friend! 

The moral of the story is that if your dentist is in and out of your exam in five minutes flat, they are not taking enough time to examine your oral health thoroughly. Going to the dentist isn’t quite a marathon, but it is definitely not a sprint. A thorough dentist is a proactive dentist, and taking the time to identify issues before they become a problem saves you time and money on expensive dental treatments down the line.  

If you are looking for a family dentist in Bend, Oregon, we invite you to discover why Dr. Andy has so many 5-star reviews. Call us and discover what makes Living Dental Health one of the best dentists in Bend, Oregon. And there are a lot of dentists in town.

Living Dental Health