When should you visit a dentist for a dental exam? And how much does a dental check-up cost?

Jack Lawrence

Written by Jack Lawrence DMD, Namrita Harchandani DMD, Henry Hackney DMD, Nichole McKenna DDS, Peter March DDS

Inspecting your mouth during dental exams is one of the most important aspects of preventive care. The ADA recommends doing them regularly, however, your dentist is the one who can advise the most accurate intervals for you.

There are three most common types of exams at the dental office. Continue reading to learn how much they cost and how often you should schedule them.

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Periodic oral evaluation

Periodic dental exam

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

If you visit your dental office regularly this is the most common procedure you undergo. According to this study by the Delta Dental Plans Association 58% of Americans have a check-up at least once a year. Such a visit helps make sure you are on top of your oral health game.

Periodic exams are conveniently recommended twice a year. This is true for both adults and children.

Henry Hackney

Henry Hackney, DMD

Visits every 6 months are recommended after initial tooth eruption. Tooth decay is often prevalent in children under six due to nursing, use of bottles, fruit juice intake, etc.

What is going to happen?

When should I schedule a periodic exam?

A periodic exam, as the name suggests, should take place regularly. The ADA recommends one every 6 months. It helps keep things in check and allows you to discuss treatment options with your dentist.

Comprehensive oral evaluation

Comprehensive dental exam

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This dental evaluation is the most thorough. If you haven’t been to the dentist in a long time (or ever) you will probably have a comprehensive exam.

What is going to happen?

Namrita Harchandani

Namrita Harchandani, DMD

A panoramic radiograph and FMX (full mouth series of X-rays) are more than enough information for a comprehensive oral exam.

A treatment plan may be devised. You may also pick your dentist’s brain if you have any queries.

When should I schedule a comprehensive exam?

This type of dental examination is often compulsory for new patients. If you aren’t changing offices you should not be thinking about a comprehensive exam more often than once every 3 years. That is the ADA recommendation for adults and children above the age of two.

You might need one more often, however, if you suffer from certain conditions or diseases, or if you are a smoker. It’s best to discuss your habits and general health with your dentist.

A problem-focused extensive oral exam follow-up might be needed if you have a systemic disease, prosthetic problems, or TMD.

Limited oral evaluation

Limited dental exam

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What is going to happen?

When should I schedule a limited exam?

Dental exam cost broken down

Dental exams cost from $50 up to $250. Here is how much you can expect periodic, comprehensive, and problem-focused exams to cost specifically:

EXAM TYPEAVERAGE COSTCOST RANGE
Periodic$60$50-$150
Comprehensive$100$70-$200
Limited$100$70-$200

An exam may uncover the need for further treatment. Consider that in your budget. Here are common procedures associated with dental exams:

  • full-mouth debridement,
  • dental cleaning,
  • scaling and root planing,
  • oral hygiene instructions,
  • 2D oral or facial photos,
  • panoramic X-rays, and
  • FMX.

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FAQ

No. There is nothing invasive about a dental checkup. In fact, it is one of the few procedures at a dental office that doesn’t even require a local injection or any other type of numbing agent. The biggest part is visual in nature.

The exam itself usually takes 30-45 minutes unless additional procedures are also scheduled or necessary.

X-rays can be conveniently taken during dental examinations. Bitewings, for example, are recommended every year, similarly to a periodic exam. This makes it the perfect opportunity to avoid visiting the dentist more often than necessary.

You can also take advantage of the opportunity to schedule your prophylactic cleaning on the same day.

The ADA recommends a regular periodic exam, or as your dentist suggests. This usually comes out twice a year.

Yes. It is very likely that your dental insurance plan will cover the full costs of the exam. They will only reimburse you for two routine oral evaluations per year, however. If you need more, those will be coming out of your pocket.

To avoid this inconvenience, we recommend dental plans. They are a great way to save up to 60% on all dental procedures. There is no need to collect documents or worry about treatment being medically necessary. You can also use them when your insurance is capped out for the year.

If you are insured you are entitled to a dental exam with no out-of-pocket costs. You can also check at your local dental school whether students are willing to conduct a free dental exam. They need patients to practice on, which gives those with a low-income a great opportunity to save.

References

  1. American Dental Association Statement on Regular Dental Visits - ADA
  2. Dental Radiographic Examinations: Recommendations For Patient Selection And Limiting Radiation Exposure - ADA
  3. Americans Still Wish They Saw Their Dentist More - Delta Dental Institute