Diagnostic Dental Visits: What Are They & Who Needs Them

August 15, 2017 / Sergio Rauchwerger

Your first appointment in our dental office is generally considered a diagnostic visit. Although not every office operates this way, we find that it allows us to provide you with a higher standard of care than you might otherwise receive. If youre not familiar with the concept, thats ok. This page will walk you through exactly what to expect and why its so important to schedule a diagnostic visit first.

What is a Diagnostic Dental Appointment?

A diagnostic dental appointment is a visit in which only procedures needed to provide you with a comprehensive diagnosis are completed. It does not include a cleaning or any work necessary to restore your teeth.


To be clear, this page discusses non-emergency visits. If youre experiencing any kind of dental pain or emergency, the process is a little different because we focus on the tooth or teeth causing pain first, and then move into a comprehensive diagnostic appointment at a later date. If youre in pain, call us at 561-798-7807 now, and revisit this information later.


What Are the Benefits of Diagnostic Visits?


Better Care: Setting aside this block of time allows us to provide you with better care overall because we can then tailor all appointments to your true needs. This is highly important in situations where periodontal disease is present, as therapeutic treatment is necessary to help restore gum health. A traditional cleaning wont be enough to help.


Rapport: Building a relationship with the doctor and staff is important. We appreciate the trust youre placing in us and want to make sure theres time to address all your questions and concerns. Moreover, dental anxiety is a huge barrier to treatment for some people. Having this time with the doctor gives you a chance to get to know him and become comfortable in the office before starting treatment.


Education: We pride ourselves on being partners in your care. For this reason, we spend additional time explaining any findings to you in a simple jargon-free way, and we work with you to decide which treatment options are best. Whether you want to replace a missing tooth or need a filling done, there are almost always options, and we want you to be able to make educated decisions about your care.


Time: Your time is valuable, and we recognize that. We cant accurately schedule for the unknown and we dont know what anyones needs are before they have a comprehensive exam. By blocking out just the time we do know youll need, we can stay on schedule and keep wait times to a minimum.


What Procedures Are Done in a Diagnostic Dental Appointment?


Comprehensive Exam

The comprehensive exam is the mainstay in an initial appointment. During this time, the dentist will review your records, examine your oral health, check your x-rays, and address any concerns you have.


In order to perform a thorough diagnosis, our office takes a series of 18 x-rays referred to as a full-mouth series or FMX. Each individual film captures a different area, so the doctor can see what’s happening with all your teeth from the top to the roots, and also between teeth.

Periodontal Probing

Probing allows the dentist to gain a clear understanding of your gum health. During this procedure, a small measuring tool is placed at your gumline to check for pocketing, and a pocket depth is recorded. Some slight pocketing is normal, but the greater the pockets, the easier it is for food to become impacted and for germs to thrive inside, so you want to target smaller numbers. Healthier gums will register as a one or two. Gums with inflammation and gingivitis may receive about a three. A four or above typically indicates the presence of periodontal disease.


Each tooth will be measured in several places and the numbers recorded. This way, your gum health can be tracked through the years and the effectiveness of treatment can be monitored. For example, you may hear that you have a couple of fours on your molars. Thats common because people have a hard time getting back there to clean. However, if youre diligent at home and with follow-up care, you may hear those fours become threes or twos. If you are diagnosed with periodontal disease, therapeutic treatment will be necessary to help restore your gum health, but youll be able to follow along with your progress and know if improvements still need to be made or when youre on the right track.

Oral Cancer Screening

Cancer screenings happen so quickly, its easy to overlook that its being done. Youll recognize it because this is when the dentist asks you to stick out your tongue. He may also feel your neck and jaw. Oral cancer is insidious and moves quickly, so having this fast check done at your dental appointments helps to ensure that testing and treatment are done promptly if anything abnormal is detected.

Other Diagnostic Tests

Sometimes, the initial findings are inconclusive or the dentist needs to take a closer look at something. The office may discuss additional procedures with you, such as x-rays to show a specific tooth or a biopsy.  

Treatment Plan

At the end of the visit, the dentist will discuss his findings with you, and you will be provided with a treatment plan. This document will include any further treatments that are necessary to restore your oral health, as well as possible alternate solutions, and occasionally any cosmetic work youre a candidate for or that youve asked about. You can treat this as a guide to help you prioritize and budget for any work you need done. If it has been a while and your needs are extensive, dont worry about trying to do it all at once. Our staff understands that wellness can be a journey, and it can take some time for you to reach your goals. Were here to support you through the process.

Book Your Diagnostic Dental Visit Today


Whether youve been receiving regular care at another office or havent seen a dentist in years, first visits in our office are always diagnostic in nature, though well gladly work in other procedures if our schedule allows. If youd like to see what a difference this dedication to providing optimal care makes, wed be honored to be your chosen dental health partners. Call us at 561-798-7807 or contact us online to book your appointment today.

Diagnostic Dental Visits: What Are They & Who Needs Them - Smile Designs LLC - Wellington Florida