Dental Check-Up Procedure Explained - The What and Why?
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Dental Check-Up Procedure Explained – The What and Why?

Ever wondered what your dentist is actually doing during your dental check-up procedure?

It can be a daunting prospect sitting in the dental chair. If I had a pound for every time a patient came into the room and told me they hate me could retire 30 years early. It’s only natural for people to be inquisitive and want to know what’s going on, and this can be difficult when the dentist is speaking another language. Understandably, nerves and vulnerability follow.

With a better understanding of what happens at a dental check-up, you can relax and feel in control.  You will know what to expect and why the dentist is doing what they’re doing – ultimately to keep you fit and healthy!

Let’s explain what goes on in the dental check-up procedure

Health Questions

dental check up procedure

Your dentist isn’t being nosey when they ask about your general health during your dental check-up procedure.

Your body is not a separate entity to your mouth, therefore we need to know about it.

Smoking is linked to gum disease and oral cancer.

Diabetes can cause tooth loss.

Dental and heart problems are intimately tied.

Your medication can also have an impact on what we can prescribe in an emergency. Have a huge abscess and need antibiotics? If we don’t know your tablets then helping is difficult.

Your dentist will ask about your health at every dental check-up.

X-rays and photos

During your dental check-up procedure, your dentist may want to take some x-rays from time to time.

X-rays give us information about your teeth that we can’t see with our eyes, checking between teeth, underneath fillings and crowns or the levels of your jaw bone.

Bare with me here. As a kid, if you were as daft as me you’d have stuck a pin through the outer layer of your skin and noticed no pain. However get it wrong, go too deep and it hurts.

You could have a small hole developing between 2 teeth, not visible to the eye but easily picked up on an x-ray. This can easily be filled before it gets into the deeper layers and causes pain.

So now you know, just because it’s not hurting doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Photos are also incredibly valuable.

They can help you understand the condition of your teeth by showing you cavities or gum disease. We can also compare your mouth over time and monitor problems.

Teeth Check

dental check up chart


Not a rendition of the Jackson 5.

It’s the dental examination chart. Baby teeth are numbered 1-15 and adult teeth 1-8.

At this point in your dental check-up procedure, we’re checking which teeth are there and that they’re all healthy.

Gum Check

The silent assassin.

People often think that because their gums have been bleeding for years it’s normal. Well, it’s not.

Gum disease doesn’t necessarily cause pain, but over many years can progress causing loss of the bone underneath the gums. This bone supports your teeth, and when it’s lost it is very difficult to replace.

Gum disease can lead to bleeding, tender gums, wobbly teeth and ultimately tooth loss.

It’s also the number one cause of bad breath.

Every check-up, your dentist will screen for gum disease.

Cancer Screening

Your dentist doesn’t just look at your teeth.

They’ve spent many years at university and beyond learning the anatomy of the head and neck, knowing where nerves and blood vessels run, where infection can spread and what’s normal and isn’t.

Part of your dental check-up procedure every 6 months or so includes a screening for abnormalities, including cancer.

Your dentist will check all of the soft parts of your mouth, like your gums, tongue, cheeks and roof of your mouth for lumps an bumps. This screening also extends to your neck, lips and jaw.

Jaw Joint Issues

Clicking, creaking and popping jaw joints can be the cause of much irritation.

They can lead to headaches, limited mouth opening and pain.

During the dental check-up procedure, your dentist will place his fingers in front of your ears and ask you to open and close, checking for any potential issues.

They may also feel your temples for your jaw muscles. Think of this as a massage and you’ll get even more value for your money.

Joint issues normally come and go on their own and may take months to do so. But your dentist can give you guidance if they are causing problems.

Prevention and advice

prevention is better than cure

The old saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is never truer than for dental visits. In fact, prevention is a million times better than cure.

At your dental examinations, your dentist will look at your oral hygiene and give you pointers for improvements. It’s impossible to see for yourself so your dentist is trying to help. Just because you can’t see plaque between your teeth doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Your dentist will give you pointers to prevent fillings and gum disease.

They may also spot signs of tooth wear, from things like scrubbing too hard, acidic drinks or grinding and be able to advise you on how to prevent further damage.

This advice is there to help you maintain a healthy mouth and not need further treatment.


No drilling, no filling, no scaling, no drowning. All you have to do is put up with your dentists bad jokes for 15 minutes and you’re out. Bliss.

And What About Your Next Routine Dental Check-Up Procedure

Now you know what’s going on you’ll now sit back and enjoy it.

No, probably not.

But hopefully, next time you’re there you’ll understand more about why and dislike it a little less.


Dr Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS RCPS (Glasg) is a dentist who qualified with honours. Practicing in Bournemouth an Poole, he provides general dentistry and has a keen interest in Invisalign and aesthetic dentistry.