U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Indian Health Service: The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives
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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention - Leading the effort to treat and prevent diabetes in American Indians and Alaska Natives


Quick Guide Cards

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How To – Oral Examination

Oral Examination – Click to play video
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NOTE: Access to this information is not restricted; however, the information found here is intended for use by medical providers. Some videos contain graphic images. Patients should talk with their medical providers about any specific concerns.

  • Know the dental clinic policy for:
    • How patients gain access to the dental clinic.
    • Patients with any toothaches.
    • How to make appropriate referrals.

Equipment

  • Tongue blade
  • Light source
  • Gloves not required

Questions to Ask:

  • Are you having any mouth pain, including when eating?
  • Do you have any concerns about your teeth or mouth?
  • What is your usual oral care routine (brushing, flossing, etc.)
  • If you wear dentures do you use them? If not, why?
  • When was your last dental exam?
  • Do you smoke or use oral tobacco?
    • If a patient smokes or uses oral tobacco, refer for tobacco cessation.
    • Tobacco use is a significant risk factor for gum disease.

Oral Exam Step

  • Have patient remove any dentures or partial dentures.
  • Have the patient open their mouth and then retract cheeks.
  • Look:
    • At the teeth for cavities, cracks, and chips.
    • For any obvious loose teeth.
    • For heavy tarter buildup, often seen on the tongue side of the lower front teeth.
    • At soft palate, hard palate, cheeks, and tongue.
    • At the right and left sides, comparing normal structures to abnormal, such as lumps, red spots, whitened areas, ulcerations.
    • For dry mouth (lack of salivary flow).
    • For gums that are firm and pink and fill the space in between the teeth.
      • Gum infections can look like swollen red gums, can have a purple hue and may be swollen. You may even notice some milkiness from suppuration.
    • For very long teeth where the roots are exposed.
      • This is evidence of previous history of gum disease.
  • If a patient uses oral tobacco:
    • Examine gums and oral mucosa where patient places tobacco.
  • Refer:
    • Annually for routine dental examination.
    • As needed for evaluation of oral health problems.
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Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention | Phone: (505) 248-4182 | Fax: (505) 248-4188 | diabetesprogram@ihs.gov