Dental charting is a process
in which your dental healthcare professional lists and describes the health of
your teeth and gums. It is also called periodontal charting. The charting is
usually done at regular dental checkups. It is a graphic method of organizing
information about your dental health. After your hygienist creates or updates
your dental chart, you should follow up by taking the advice you are given and
by coming back for regular check-ups and charting.
What Is Dental Charting?
A dental chart is a
graphical tool for organizing all the important information about your teeth
and gums. Your dental chart is typically made by your hygienist, who checks out
the inside of your mouth with tools and with his or her hands. By investigating
your mouth in this way, your hygienist gets information about your teeth and
gums, and then makes notes on the chart about any important information that
needs to be recorded.
Conditions and issues that
may be described in your dental chart include areas of decay on your teeth,
cavities, missing teeth, the depths of your gum pockets, abnormalities in your
teeth (such as rotations, erosion or abrasions in your teeth or enamel), damage
to your teeth, or the presence of prosthetic teeth. Your hygienist will also record
information about the attachment of your teeth to the gums, as well as any
movement in your teeth and any bleeding in your gums.
The chart your hygienist
produces can take a variety of forms, but it is a graphical, or a pictorial,
representation of your mouth and shows every tooth. It also includes spaces for
making shorthand notations regarding the state of your teeth and gums. If you
see your chart, you probably will not understand what the symbols and notations
Reasons for Dental Charting
Your hygienist or nurse
creates a dental chart of your mouth because it is a good way of organizing the
important information about your dental health. The information that your
dentist needs to know in order to assess your dental health can be kept in one
place and in a simple format by creating this chart. It should be updated every
time you have a dental checkup so that your dentist can track the progress of
your dental health.
Benefits of Dental Charting
There are many benefits to
creating a dental chart of your teeth and gums. The benefit for your healthcare
providers is that they are able to keep an organized and easy-to-read record of
the state of your mouth. They can refer back to this chart at future visits and
update it to keep an accurate record of what is happening in your mouth.
For you, the benefit of
having a dental chart made and updated is that your dentist is able to keep a
good record of your health issues. This means that he or she can give you the
best care possible and track your progress if you have issues that require care
or treatment. The chart gives both you and your dentist a point of reference so
you can see if you are making improvements in your dental health.
What to Expect During a Dental Charting
If you are making a first
visit to a new dental office, you can expect that your hygienist will perform a
complete dental charting of your mouth. At subsequent visits, you may only need
a brief check of your mouth and an update of your chart. If you have problems
that require treatment, you may need to get a full charting at your next
checkup to track improvements.
Your hygienist will begin by
counting and numbering your teeth on the chart. Any notable issues you have can
then be easily assigned to the appropriate tooth and marked with shorthand
notation on the chart. Once your teeth are numbered, your hygienist will
examine your teeth. He or she may probe your gums to test the depths of your
gum pockets and use a tool to check the tops of your teeth for decay.
After your charting is
complete, your hygienist will conduct a cleaning, and then your dentist will do
an examination. If there is anything of concern marked on your chart, your
dentist will investigate it more thoroughly.
Following Up After a Dental Charting
After a regular checkup at
your dentist’s office and a dental charting, your dentist will tell you what
you need to do next. If there are issues of concern, your dentist will either
give you things to do at home, such as regular flossing, or will schedule another
appointment for a needed procedure—for example, a filling for a cavity.