Dental Exams in Bethesda & Chevy Chase, MD

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Regular dental exams are the foundation of any proper dental treatment and are crucial for maintaining good oral health. In fact, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends visiting a dentist at least twice a year for a comprehensive dental exam. Chevy Chase preventive dentist Dr. Despina Markogiannakis and her team offer comprehensive dental exams to understand and protect your smile. We’ve provided a complete guide to dental exams at Smiles of Chevy Chase, including why regular dental exams are important and what to expect during your visit.

What is a Dental Exam?

A dental exam is a comprehensive check-up of your oral health. While many dentists recommend visiting at least twice a year for a comprehensive dental exam, your dentist may suggest more frequent exams based on your individual oral health needs. During a dental exam at Smiles of Chevy Chase, Dr. Markogiannakis will examine your teeth, gums, and mouth to look for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health issues.

Why are Dental Exams Important?

Regular dental exams are important for several reasons, including:

  • Early Detection of Oral Health Issues: Dental exams allow Dr. Markogiannakis to detect oral health issues in their early stages, which makes them easier to treat and can prevent them from becoming more serious.
  • Saves You Time & Money: The early detection provided by dental exams potentially allows you to skip the need for more costly and time-consuming procedures in the future.
  • Prevention of Tooth Decay and Gum Disease: Regular dental exams can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease by allowing your dentist to identify early signs and provide appropriate treatment.
  • Oral Cancer Detection: Oral cancer exams are an important part of dental exams because early detection can greatly improve the chances of successful treatment.

What To Expect During a Dental Exam

Here's what you can usually expect during your routine dental exam at our Chevy Chase dental office:

Review of Your Medical History

Dr. Markogiannakis, your Chevy Chase preventive dentist will review your medical history to identify any health conditions that may affect your oral health.

Examination of Your Teeth

Your dentist will examine each tooth individually to check for decay, cavities, and other issues.

Examination of Your Gums

She’ll examine your gums to check for signs of gum disease, such as redness, swelling, and bleeding.


Dr. Markogiannakis may take digital X-rays to check for cavities and other issues that aren’t visible to the naked eye.

Oral Cancer Screening

Dr. Markogiannakis will also perform an oral cancer screening to check for any possible signs of oral cancer, such as lesions or sores.


If Dr. Markogiannakis doesn’t identify any issues, then the only follow-up would be to continue a proper regimen of dental health along with attending annual dental exams and bi-annual dental cleanings. If Dr. Markogiannakis does see something that needs to be addressed, she’ll discuss your options and schedule a treatment.

Oral Cancer Screenings

Oral cancer screenings are an important part of dental exams at Smiles of Chevy Chase. Oral cancer is classified by any abnormal growth of cells in the mouth, including the gums, jawbone, lips, tongue, throat, and salivary glands. During an oral cancer exam, Dr. Markogiannakis will examine your mouth for any signs of oral cancer, such as lesions, sores, or lumps. If she detects any signs of oral cancer, she may recommend further testing or recommend you to a specialist such as an oncologist.

Oral Cancer Screening Methods

There are numerous methods for oral cancer screenings that Dr. Markogiannakis can use during your dental exam. Common methods for oral cancer screenings include the following:

  • Visual Exam: Your dentist will visually examine the inside of your mouth, including your lips, tongue, cheeks, palate, and gums, looking for any abnormalities like sores or patches of discoloration.
  • Physical Palpation: Your dentist will feel the tissues in your mouth and throat for any lumps, bumps, or other abnormalities.
  • X-Rays: Dental X-rays can help detect any abnormalities in the bones of your jaw, such as cysts or tumors.
  • Biopsy: If your Chevy Chase dentist sees any abnormalities during the exam, she may take a tissue sample for further analysis known as a biopsy.
  • Brush Biopsy: This involves gently scraping cells from the surface of the suspected lesion to be analyzed under a microscope.
  • Fluorescence Staining: This involves using a special light to detect changes in cells that may indicate cancer.
  • Salivary Diagnostics: This is a newer technique that involves testing the saliva for certain biomarkers that may indicate the presence of cancer.

Risk Factors For Oral Cancer

It's important to note that anyone can develop oral cancer, regardless of age or lifestyle habits. However, certain factors can increase the risk of developing oral cancer, including:

  • Age: The risk of oral cancer increases as you get older, with most cases occurring in individuals over the age of 40.
  • Sun Exposure: Prolonged exposure to the sun can increase the risk of lip cancer.
  • Poor Diet: A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of oral cancer.
  • Weakened Immune System: People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy, may be at a higher risk for oral cancer.
  • Tobacco Use: Tobacco use, including smoking and smokeless tobacco, is one of the most significant risk factors for oral cancer. Smokers are six times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-smokers.
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Heavy alcohol use, particularly when combined with tobacco use, significantly increases the risk of oral cancer. Those who consume three or more alcoholic drinks per day have a higher risk of developing oral cancer.
  • A History of HPV Infection: Certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) have been linked to oral cancer. People who have a history of HPV infection, particularly in the mouth or throat, may be at a higher risk for oral cancer.
  • HPV Vaccination Status: The HPV vaccine can protect against several strains of the virus that have been linked to oral cancer. People who have been vaccinated against HPV may have a lower risk of developing oral cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are dental exams covered by insurance?

In many cases, dental exams are covered by dental insurance. However, coverage can vary depending on your insurance plan and the specifics of your policy. It's important to check with your dental insurance provider to understand what is and isn’t covered under your plan. If you don’t have dental insurance, we offer flexible payment options and financing plans to help make dental care more affordable.

Is a dental exam painful?

Dental exams should not be painful, but some patients may experience discomfort during certain parts of the exam, such as when X-rays are taken. If you feel any pain during the exam, be sure to let your dentist know so they can address the issue.

How long does a dental exam take?

The length of a dental exam can vary depending on your individual oral health needs. However, most dental exams typically take around 45 minutes to an hour to complete. Your dentist will give you a better idea of how long your exam will take during your appointment.

What should I do to prepare for my dental exam?

To prepare for your dental exam, make sure to brush and floss your teeth before your appointment. It's also helpful to bring a list of any medications you are currently taking and any questions you have for your dentist. This will help ensure that your dental exam is as thorough and efficient as possible.

Call & Schedule Your Dental Exam at Smiles of Chevy Chase

Dental exams are an essential part of maintaining good oral health. By visiting the dentist regularly for dental exams, you can prevent tooth decay and gum disease and catch any oral health issues in their early stages. Award-winning Chevy Chase dentist Dr. Despina Markogiannakis provides comprehensive dental exams to patients in the greater Washington area, including Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Somerset, and Forest Hills, MD.

If you’re due for a dental exam, schedule a consultation with Dr. Markogiannakis by dialing 301-652-0656. You can also fill out the contact form in the upper right-hand corner of the page, and one of our friendly team members will get back to you shortly.

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