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Do I Need An Orthodontist?

Identifying When a Dentist or Orthodontist is Needed

When do you need a dentist, orthodontist, or other dental professional? The answer depends on the condition and how long it has been present. In general, adults and children should visit a dentist once every six months for a complete oral examination and teeth cleaning procedure. If a dentist finds issues such as cavities or the beginning stages of gum disease, a follow-up visit may be required. Crooked or crowded teeth are among the issues that may indicate the need to visit an orthodontist. Their specialty is the strategic shifting of teeth.

During a general examination, the dentist inspects the gums, teeth, and tongue and may probe certain areas to test for sensitivity or cavities. Teeth are then scaled to remove plaque and tartar buildup before cleaning each tooth with a special instrument and dental paste. If fluoride treatment is recommended, it is applied to clean teeth and the mouth is rinsed. Periodically, the dentist may take X-rays of the teeth and mouth. Current condition and medical and dental history determine the frequency of X-rays.

Dental Check-up - Nashville TN - West Meade Dental

Dental Check-up – Nashville TN – West Meade Dental

Dental X-rays are used to visualize tooth and oral tissue diseases that an examination cannot identify. Dentists use X-rays to help located and treat dental issues at early stages, potentially saving pain, money, and even lives. For children, these X-rays help identify decay, determine whether the mouth has enough space to accommodate incoming teeth, and assess whether primary tooth loss is occurring fast enough to allow the proper emergence of permanent teeth.

An X-ray can verify wisdom tooth development in older children and whether these teeth will be able to emerge through gums. With adults, X-rays are used to reveal areas of decay that are not visible during an oral exam, particularly decay between teeth. An X-ray can identify changes in the root canal or bone due to infection and point out bone loss due to gum disease. Dentists often use X-rays to assist with preparation of dentures, implants, braces, and other procedures.

Most symptoms or issues that pertain to the teeth, gums, and mouth are not emergencies. However, immediate attention is recommended in certain situations. If a permanent tooth is knocked out, visit a dentist immediately because it may be possible to re-implant the tooth. A dental visit should also be scheduled if a tooth is chipped or broken. Retain the piece that broke off and store it in a cool, moist cloth. Treatment will be based on the extent of the chip or break.

If a tooth is knocked out of its correct position or becomes misaligned, use light pressure to try to push it back into place. Bite down on the tooth to maintain the correct position and see a dentist immediately. Treatment may involve splinting the tooth to help it heal. Trauma to the mouth area may also result in lacerations or cuts on the tongue, cheeks, or gums. Apply direct pressure to control bleeding and seek immediate dental or medical attention.

Non-traumatic tooth issues include tooth pain or a toothache resulting from a dental abscess or cavity in or around a tooth. If the gum around the affected tooth swells significantly, fluid drains from the area, or the pain is severe, have a dentist evaluate the situation. Redness or swelling of gums is not usually an urgent situation but since it may indicate infection or gum disease, schedule a dental appointment as soon as is convenient.

Orthodontic treatment is designed to straighten teeth so they sit well with teeth on the opposite jaw. With a good bite, it becomes easier to speak, bite, and chew. There are several signs that it is time to vista an orthodontist:


  • Losing baby teeth earlier or later than is normal
  • Sucking fingers
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Difficulty biting or chewing
  • Teeth that are blocked-out, crowded, or misplaced
  • Teeth that protrude
  • Teeth that do not meet or that meet abnormally
  • Clenching or grinding teeth
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Recessed, protruding, or shifting jaw
  • Jaw that makes sounds
  • Inability to close lips comfortably
  • Biting the roof of the mouth or biting the cheek
  • Facial features disproportionate with the remainder of the face
  • Facial imbalance


Dental treatment helps patients maintain clean and healthy mouths. Orthodontic care is part of comprehensive dental treatment for some patients. It ensures a healthy bite, which is important at any age. Knowing when it is time to visit a dentist or orthodontist and receiving the proper treatment can help teeth last for a lifetime.

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