Healthy Smiles: What does an oral exam include?

MANY OF US don’t think twice about the oral exam. Some people just assume that the dentist is only looking for cavities. Well, there’s a lot more to the oral exam than that!

There are a lot of components to the oral exam. In addition to diagnosing cavities, the dentist performs a screening for gum disease and a cancer screening. He looks for lesions all around your mouth and makes sure that everything looks healthy.

Sometimes he can even discover signs of diseases not related to the mouth but that have oral manifestations. Research shows that more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases have oral manifestations, including swollen gums, mouth ulcers, dry mouth, and excessive gum problems.

One category of diseases with oral manifestations is gastrointestinal diseases, like Crohn’s disease. Labial swelling is most often a cosmetic complaint, but it can be a painful manifestation of the disease. Gingival and mucosal involvement may cause difficulty while eating. The pattern of swelling, inflammation, ulcers, and fissures is similar to that of the lesions occurring in the intestinal tract. Other examples are gastroesophageal reflux and chronic liver disease.

Another example is vitamin deficiency. Glossitis may be the first sign of folate or vitamin B-12 deficiency. The tongue appears reddened, and the papillae are atrophic, producing a smooth (or “bald”) appearance.

In addition, the dentist performs an oral exam to screen for oral cancer. It includes an inspection of the mucosa of your mouth and tongue for signs of lesions.

If you have any areas of concern, you should let your dentist know. If you have any questions or would like to make an appointment, call (863) 216-5702.

This column is sponsored by Professional Smiles.


column by DR. JOSE F. LOPEZ

BIO: After following a lifelong dream of dentistry, Dr. Jose F. Lopez graduated from the University of Puerto Rico Dental School in 2001. He established his Davenport, Fla., practice in 2008. He is a member of the American Dental Association, Florida Dental Association, and the Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Lopez is very dedicated to his profession, and his number one priority is providing the highest level of patient care and dentistry in a relaxing and comfortable environment, while maintaining exceptional quality service. For more information or to make an appointment, call (863) 216-5702 or visit

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