Oral Health News

September 2018

Oral health screening vs. dental exam

No, an oral health screening is not the same as a dental exam. Both dentists and dental hygienists can perform oral screenings. During a screening, a small mouth mirror and flashlight are used to look for any signs of dental disease - dark spots or holes in teeth (possible cavities), red swollen gums (possible gingivitis), a squishy bump on the gum (possible abscess) or other signs that something may be wrong. The screener simply looks at the parts of the mouth. If signs of disease are noted, the screener makes a referral for an exam.

While dental hygienists can help collect information for an exam, only a dentist may perform a dental exam. The hygienist may take a health history, perform an oral cancer screening, measure gums, record bleeding points or note areas of concern. The dentist then uses this collected information along with other tools to make a diagnosis. The dentist looks at the parts of the mouth, uses hand instruments to feel the teeth and may use other tools, such as x-rays, lasers, special lights or dyes during the exam. If signs of disease are noted, the dentist diagnoses disease and creates a plan for treating it.

Why get a screening if my child already sees the dentist?

During the 2018-2019 school year, Cass County Dental Clinic, Cass Community Health Foundation and over 100 volunteers will screen approximately 5,000 students throughout Cass County and Grandview. It is important for all students to be screened to get a clear picture of the oral health of each school/district!

Our screeners collect information that answers these questions:

  • Is the child doing a good job brushing and flossing?
  • Does the child have fillings or crowns? Or have they had teeth pulled?
  • Do molar teeth have sealants to help prevent cavities?
  • Does the child need to be referred for a full exam?

If students who see a dentist regularly are not screened then the oral health picture for the school will look much different than if all students are screened.

If you have any questions about the dental screening program, please contact Katie at 816-276-4812 or katie@casscommunityhealth.org.