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What Is a New Patient Exam?

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New Patient Exams

When patients visit a new dentist for the first time, or any medical practice, they’re introducing themselves. Our team needs to get to know more than your name to offer care. New patients might expect to fill out a new patient form before sitting in the dentist’s chair, but what happens after the initial meet and greet?

Before moving on to routine dental cleanings, new Symmetry Dental patients can expect a new patient exam. The good news is it’s not a written exam, and patients won’t be tested on dental trivia. Instead, it’s a chance for our team to learn about your dental health. Then, we can personalize our care for your unique dental hygiene and treatment needs.

So what can patients expect during a new patient exam?

What to Expect at a New Patient Exam

At a new patient exam, dentists evaluate the health of the patient’s entire oral system, which includes much more than your teeth! New patients can expect dentists to examine:

  • Bone health (face, jaw, mouth region)
  • Gum health
  • Jaw, joints, & muscles
  • Medical history
  • Neck (glands & lymph nodes)
  • Teeth position & bite
  • Soft tissues (throat, tongue, mouth, lips)

Regular dental exams also check many of the same areas and tissues, but a new patient exam provides a baseline. By knowing where the patient started, dentists have a point of comparison when changes occur.

Oral Cancer Screening

Dentists check soft tissues as part of an oral cancer screening. Oral cancer can be successfully treated when detected early. Dentists examine the inside of the mouth (and lips) for signs and symptoms, including changes to tissue texture, colour, and sensitivity. Our dentists will also examine tissues outside the mouth, including around cheeks and throat, to feel for abnormal lumps.

Gum Disease

Gum disease (periodontal disease) typically develops slowly, and patients may not know they have it until symptoms progress. The condition is reversible when treated early enough, but it can cause:

  • Cavities
  • Changes to bite/alignment
  • Gum swelling, bleeding, or pain
  • Receding gums
  • Tooth loss
  • Bad breath or bad taste

Gum disease also increases the risk of heart disease, respiratory disorders, and strokes. Therefore, dentists check for indications of gum disease to help patients implement treatment before the disease causes irreversible damage.

Evaluating Previous Dental Work

Like your natural teeth, restorative services (including fillings, crowns, and bridges) can wear over time or degrade because of plaque and tartar. Therefore, dentists check any previous dental work during a new patient exam. The exam also helps our dentists determine whether repair or replacement is necessary.

A female dentist checking a male patient's teeth.

Diagnostic X-Rays

Dental x-ray exams, also known as radiographs, are pictures of the teeth, bones, and soft tissues. X-rays provide a more in-depth look to help our dentists diagnose issues affecting the teeth, mouth, and jaw, including cavities and bone loss.

X-rays can also help with treatment planning. The images offer more information about dental health problems below the surface of gums, teeth, and other oral structures.

New patients take x-rays to provide dentists with accurate, up-to-date pictures of oral structures for reference. It can also be crucial in monitoring oral health changes.

Do New Patient Exams Include A Dental Cleaning?

Routine dental visits include a dental exam and a cleaning in a single appointment. However, a new patient exam thoroughly evaluates your oral health and does not leave time for a dental cleaning. Therefore, if you’re due for a cleaning, you’ll need to book another appointment after the new patient exam.

After the Exam

After the dentist has completed the examination and learned about your medical history, the dentist will explain their findings and discuss a treatment plan. During this discussion, patients can ask questions about their oral health. Then, with input from the patient, the dental team can develop a personalized plan for the patient’s dental health, comfort, and aesthetics. 

Some common topics discussed after a new patient exam may include:

  • Bite or alignment problems
  • Gum disease or tooth decay
  • Jaw or joint concerns
  • Preventative treatment options

After the new patient exam, the dentist can understand the patient’s unique dental health needs and recommend a plan based on their lifestyle. 

One example is treatment for bite or alignment problems. A patient with crooked teeth or bite misalignment might benefit from orthodontic treatment, such as Invisalign. Teeth position and bite issues affect the function and appearance of teeth. The dentist can develop an orthodontic treatment plan that works best for the patient based on their health and comfort level.

Oral health care is a personalized service. New patients are encouraged to discuss treatment concerns with their dentist. A good relationship between a patient and a dentist begins with the first appointment. We’re your partners in oral health care, so we welcome patients to talk openly about concerns and ask questions.

Make Us Part of Your Team!

Our dental team is passionate about oral health, and we’d love to share that passion with new patients! Symmetry Dental strives to encourage a partnership, ensuring our patients feel informed about their dental decisions and are comfortable asking questions about their oral health.

We’d love to meet you! Book an appointment today with our Calgary dentist to meet your new team.

When patients visit a new dentist for the first time, they embark on a journey of oral healthcare that extends far beyond the mere acquaintance of names. Beyond the customary new patient forms, a pivotal phase awaits those at Symmetry Dental – the new patient exam. It’s important to clarify that this isn’t an academic test; patients need not worry about dental trivia. Rather, this is an opportunity for the dental team to delve into the unique landscape of their oral health, paving the way for personalized care tailored to individual needs. So, what unfolds during this crucial new patient examination? At this juncture, dentists embark on a comprehensive evaluation of the patient’s entire oral system, a realm far more encompassing than just teeth. Here’s what new patients can anticipate during this thorough examination: Bone Health (Face, Jaw, Mouth Region): The foundation of a healthy smile rests upon strong bones in the face, jaw, and the surrounding mouth region. Dentists scrutinize these vital structures, ensuring they provide adequate support and alignment for overall oral health. Gum Health: The health of the gums is a cornerstone of oral well-being. Gum disease, if left unaddressed, can wreak havoc on the entire oral cavity, leading to issues like cavities, changes in bite and alignment, gum swelling, bleeding, pain, receding gums, tooth loss, bad breath, and a foul taste. Beyond this, gum disease also poses systemic health risks, including the potential to increase the risk of heart disease, respiratory disorders, and strokes. Dentists diligently examine the gums, aiming to detect early signs of gum disease to initiate timely intervention and avert irreversible damage. Jaw, Joints, & Muscles: The intricate web of the jaw, its joints, and the supporting muscles plays a crucial role in oral function and comfort. Dentists assess these components to ensure they are in harmony, allowing for optimal chewing and speaking abilities. Medical History: A patient’s medical history is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Dentists take the time to understand a patient’s overall health, as certain medical conditions and medications can have profound implications on oral health and dental treatment choices. This holistic approach ensures that oral care aligns seamlessly with a patient’s overall well-being. Neck (Glands & Lymph Nodes): Beyond the confines of the oral cavity, dentists extend their examination to the neck, probing for signs of abnormal lumps or swelling in glands and lymph nodes. This is an essential step in monitoring potential issues that could affect both oral and systemic health. Teeth Position & Bite: The arrangement of teeth and the alignment of the bite are pivotal aspects of oral health. Dentists evaluate these elements, as misalignments or irregularities can lead to problems like bruxism, jaw pain, and even difficulties with chewing and speech. Soft Tissues (Throat, Tongue, Mouth, Lips): A comprehensive examination encompasses the soft tissues within the oral cavity. Dentists scrutinize the throat, tongue, mouth, and lips, searching for any anomalies or irregularities in texture, color, and sensitivity. These observations are integral to an oral cancer screening. Oral Cancer Screening: As part of the examination, dentists perform an oral cancer screening, a life-saving practice that is both meticulous and vital. Oral cancer, when detected in its early stages, is highly treatable. Dentists thoroughly inspect the inside of the mouth, including the lips, for any signs or symptoms of concern, such as changes in tissue texture, color, or sensitivity. They also extend their examination beyond the confines of the mouth, scrutinizing the cheeks and throat for any abnormal lumps that may signal a potentially life-threatening issue. The significance of this new patient exam cannot be overstated. While routine dental exams touch on many of these areas and tissues, the new patient exam serves as a crucial baseline. It provides a starting point, enabling dentists to track and compare any future changes in a patient’s oral health. Furthermore, it acts as an early warning system for conditions like gum disease and oral cancer, where early detection can make a world of difference in outcomes. In summary, the new patient exam at Symmetry Dental is not just a cursory introduction but a comprehensive journey into the patient’s oral health. It encompasses the entirety of the oral system, from bones to soft tissues, and extends its vigilance to the neck. This meticulous examination is the first step in crafting a personalized approach to oral healthcare, where prevention and early intervention are the cornerstones of a healthy smile and a healthier life. Patients can rest assured that this examination is not just a formality; it’s a proactive measure that places their well-being at the forefront of dental care. Regular dental exams are a fundamental component of maintaining good oral health, and they serve a variety of essential purposes. While these routine appointments are primarily aimed at preventing dental issues and maintaining healthy teeth and gums, they also play a crucial role in early detection and prevention of more serious conditions, such as oral cancer. This article explores the significance of regular dental exams and oral cancer screening, highlighting the importance of new patient exams in establishing a baseline for future comparisons. Regular Dental Exams Dental exams, which are typically recommended every six months, involve a comprehensive assessment of your oral health. They are conducted by dental professionals, such as dentists and dental hygienists, and encompass various aspects of your mouth, teeth, and gums. During a regular dental exam, the following key components are evaluated: Teeth: The condition of your teeth is assessed for signs of decay, damage, or cavities. Any existing dental work, such as fillings, crowns, or implants, is also inspected for integrity. Gums: Dentists check the health of your gums to detect early signs of gum disease or gingivitis. This includes assessing gum color, texture, and any signs of inflammation. X-rays: Dental X-rays may be taken to provide a more detailed view of your teeth and jawbone, allowing dentists to identify problems that may not be visible during a visual examination. Plaque and Tartar: The presence of plaque and tartar is examined, and dental professionals perform a thorough cleaning to remove these harmful deposits. Oral Hygiene: Your oral hygiene practices are discussed, and you are provided with guidance on proper brushing, flossing, and other oral care techniques. New Patient Exams and Baseline Data New patient exams are particularly significant because they establish a baseline for the individual’s oral health. When a patient visits a dentist for the first time, a comprehensive evaluation is conducted, similar to a regular dental exam, but with the additional focus on gathering detailed information about the patient’s oral health history and any existing dental issues. This baseline data serves as a point of comparison for future visits. By knowing where a patient started, dentists can more effectively track changes and developments in their oral health. This allows for early detection of potential problems and provides a reference point to measure progress. For example, if a patient had a small cavity during their first visit, the dentist can monitor its growth or improvement during subsequent visits. This baseline data helps in formulating personalized treatment plans and addressing issues in their early stages, preventing them from escalating into more severe conditions. Oral Cancer Screening Oral cancer is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that affects the tissues of the mouth and throat. Early detection is critical for successful treatment and improved outcomes. During regular dental exams, oral cancer screening is an integral component of the evaluation process. Oral cancer screenings involve a thorough examination of the oral tissues, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, throat, and the roof and floor of the mouth. Dentists and dental hygienists are trained to identify potential signs of oral cancer, which may include: Unexplained sores or lesions that do not heal. Red or white patches in the mouth. Lumps or thickened areas in the oral tissues. Difficulty swallowing or speaking. Persistent hoarseness or changes in voice. Swelling or numbness in the mouth or throat. During an oral cancer screening, patients are often asked about their medical history, lifestyle factors (such as tobacco and alcohol use), and any family history of cancer. Dentists use this information to assess the individual’s risk factors and determine the need for further diagnostic tests, such as biopsies or advanced imaging. Conclusion Regular dental exams are not limited to maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. They also encompass crucial aspects of oral health, including oral cancer screening. New patient exams play a significant role in establishing a baseline for future comparisons, enabling dentists to detect changes and developments early. Through routine dental visits and proactive oral cancer screenings, individuals can protect their overall health and well-being, ensuring that any potential issues are identified and addressed promptly. So, the next time you schedule your regular dental checkup, remember that it’s not just about your teeth – it’s about safeguarding your overall oral health.

Dr. Saleema Adatia, Calgary dentist

Written by Dr. Saleema Adatia

Dr. Saleema Adatia earned her Doctorate of Dental Medicine (DMD) from Tufts University in 2006. Since then, she’s been committed to serving her patients’ needs with the utmost passion. Dr. Adatia has owned and operated Symmetry Dental since 2013 and has integrated high-quality services with friendly care into the philosophy of the practice.

With a goal of providing the best patient care possible, Dr. Adatia ensures that her practice stays up to date with the latest dental technologies and techniques. Her personal passion for dentistry stems from a desire to create a positive impact on each patient’s quality of life. Whether that means treating people’s pain or restoring function and beauty to their smiles, the goal is always the same: to help make patient’s lives just a little bit better by working together in harmony.

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