The general assessment and extra oral examination of the dental patient can identify undiagnosed or undisclosed medical conditions, such as malignancies, endocrine conditions and signs indicating raised cardiovascular or cerebral vascular risk. This knowledge may influence dental treatment, and could impact the morbidity and mortality of the patient. This article gives an overview of the general and extra oral examination of the dental patient.

What is a Dental (Oral) Exam?

An oral exam, commonly referred to as a dental checkup, is the process used by dentists to carefully review your oral health.  Oral exams typically involve the entire mouth, as a component of a first-time visit or a regular 6-month check-up.  Oral exams can also be used to identify a specific issue in one particular area of the mouth, such as pain, swelling, broken teeth, or other dental problems.

What are the steps of an Oral Exam?

    There are four main categories of oral exams:

  • Comprehensive Oral Evaluation: A comprehensive oral exam is needed for patients who are seeing a new dentist for a checkup for the first time, or if it has been some time since the last visit.
  • Regular (Periodic) Oral Evaluation: Regular exams are a part of the 6-month dental check-up process.  A periodic oral exam is a complete update of already existing information for established patients who regularly visit the office.  A periodic exam may or may not include X-rays, depending on when they were last taken, if the dentist observes an issue that may require an x-ray, or if the patient comes in for a checkup with pain or other symptoms.