The OPTISMILE Podcast 16 – The Ultimate Guide to Dental Check-Ups

Introduction (0:09 – 1:16)

Host: Eon Engelbrecht

Guest: Dr. Clifford Yudelman, OptiSmile

Eon Engelbrecht welcomes listeners to the “Save Your Money, Save Your Teeth” podcast, where dental health meets financial savvy. Each week, Eon and Dr. Clifford Yudelman explore practical dental advice and insights. This episode focuses on the ultimate guide to dental check-ups.

Importance of Prevention (1:16 – 2:09)

Dr. Yudelman explains why prevention is better than cure in dental health. Regular check-ups help detect issues early, preventing costly treatments and promoting proactive dental care. Learn more about the Benefits of Regular Dental Check-Ups in Cape Town.

Cost Savings from Regular Check-Ups (2:10 – 3:45)

Dr. Yudelman discusses how early detection saves money. Small cavities can be managed with preventive advice, avoiding costly treatments like root canals or extractions. The principle of “a stitch in time saves nine” applies here, emphasising the importance of addressing minor issues early.

Frequency of Dental Check-Ups (3:46 – 4:48)

Dr. Yudelman recommends scheduling a check-up every six months. For those without high-risk factors, an annual check-up may suffice, especially if all previous treatments are up to date. Regular check-ups allow for timely intervention and tailored advice. Regular cleanings are essential for maintaining oral health. Discover our Affordable Dental Cleaning and Polishing Services.

Components of a Thorough Dental Examination (4:49 – 8:42)

Dr. Yudelman details what to expect during an initial dental exam, especially for new patients or those returning after a long absence. At OptiSmile, these exams include a comprehensive assessment of teeth, gums, and soft tissues, using diagnostic tools like X-rays and photographs. The process involves co-discovery, where the patient and dentist review the findings together, fostering a collaborative approach to dental care.

Quick Check-Ups vs. Comprehensive Examinations (8:43 – 10:03)

Dr. Yudelman distinguishes between brief visual exams and thorough initial examinations. Quick check-ups are suitable for routine follow-ups, while comprehensive exams are essential for new or returning patients after a long period.

Preparing for Dental Check-Ups (10:04 – 12:28)

Dr. Yudelman offers advice for patients preparing for their check-ups. He emphasises the importance of maintaining consistent oral hygiene and bringing a list of concerns or questions. Updated medical history and recent dental records are also crucial for a productive visit.

Benefits of Early Intervention (12:29 – 12:57)

Aside from less extensive and costly treatments, early intervention helps maintain overall well-being by preventing related health issues.

Addressing Cost Concerns (12:58 – 14:05)

Preventive care leads to long-term savings, as early detection of issues prevents expensive treatments later on.

Post-Check-Up Advice (14:06 – 15:28)

To maintain good oral health after check-ups, consistent daily oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular follow-up appointments are key to preventing significant dental issues.

Modern Dental Technology (15:29 – 17:17)

Modern dental technology has improved the effectiveness and efficiency of routine check-ups. Tools like intraoral scanners, digital X-rays, and AI software enhance preventive care and patient education. Explore our use of Modern Dental Technology in Cape Town

Conclusion and Next Episode Teaser (17:18 – 19:06)

Eon Engelbrecht wraps up the episode, thanking Dr. Yudelman for his insights. He teases next week’s episode on the power of professional cleanings and encourages listeners to subscribe for more discussions. The episode ends with a call to action, inviting listeners to visit OptiSmile’s website for articles and to book appointments.


Welcome again to “Save Your Money, Save Your Teeth,” the go-to podcast where curiosity meets dentistry straight from the experts. I’m Eon, and every week, I chat with Dr. Clifford Yudelman, taking a deep dive into the world of dental care from a consumer’s perspective. Whether you’re looking to brighten that smile or protect your wallet, we’ve got you covered with practical advice and the latest insights.

Stick around as we uncover the secrets to maintaining both your dental health and also your finances. Today we present to you the ultimate guide to dental check-ups with Dr Yudelman. How are you, doctor?

I’m good, thanks. How are you doing today? I’m great, thank you.

It’s really nice to talk to you again today about the ultimate guide to dental check-ups. So, doctor, why is prevention better than cure when it comes to dental health? And also, how does a routine dental check or check-up play a crucial role in this?

Thanks for that question. Regular check-ups help us detect issues early and prevent them from becoming more serious. Because of the theme of our podcast, “Save Your Money, Save Your Teeth”, it’s also more costly to treat if they are more serious.

Then, preventive care such as cleanings and, in some cases, fluoride treatments will maintain your oral health and avoid decay and gum disease. And the last one is establishing a routine with your dentist, building up a relationship that promotes proactive rather than reactive dental care. If you go to your dentist regularly and you do get a problem, it’s not as scary, and they know your mouth.

But if you only go every three, four, or five years when you have a problem, then it’s going to cost you more, and also, you won’t really know your dentist that well.

Okay. And how does having regular dental check-ups save patients money in the long run? Can you maybe provide some examples of how early detection actually prevented more costly treatments?

Yes. I mean, in the case of early detection of cavities or gum disease, if we find a cavity very early, we might be able to give you preventive advice and dietary advice and show you how to keep the area clean. There are ways that we can actually arrest or stop cavities to prevent getting a filling.

We did a whole podcast on fillings. We’ve also done one on gum disease. But if you find the cavity and it’s small enough to be able to get a small filling, it’s going to be less costly.

If it’s a larger cavity and it’s already going into the nerve, then you’re going to be looking at much more expensive things and expensive and extensive things like root canals, which we’ve spoken about, or in some cases, even extractions. And then you’ve got a biologic cost, you’ve got a missing tooth, or maybe even the cost of an implant. So, a stitch in time saves nine, is the saying, and that’s true also with dental, identifying and addressing minor issues early on, reducing the risk of developing complex problems, and preventive treatments such as regular cleanings, which we’re going to talk about on next week’s podcast are much less costly than having major gum disease treatment, or as we were saying, root canals and crowns and things like that.

Doctor, how often should someone schedule a routine dental check-up to maintain optimal oral health and also prevent problems from arising?

So, it’s generally recommended to have a check-up every six months. Some people with very high-risk factors may need to come in more frequently. At OptiSmile, that’s fairly rare.

It’s more common for us to see patients on an annual basis. They may come in for a cleaning every six months, but if they’ve had all their treatment, if they need treatment, or they didn’t need treatment last time, then we find often that a check-up every 12 months may be all that’s needed, especially someone who doesn’t have medical aid. There’s no need to pay for a full dental check-up every six months because not a lot can happen in six months, especially if it is all fixed up.

Regular check-ups allow for timely intervention and also tailored advice to maintain your oral health.

Okay. And what are the main components of a thorough initial dental examination, especially for patients who haven’t visited a dentist in a long time?

So, that’s a great question because it will vary from dentist to dentist. And I can speak from my example at OptiSmile and some other dentists that I know. We book at least an hour, sometimes up to an hour and a half. In some cases, we may have done a 20 or 30-minute free video consultation with a patient to discuss their problems.

So, you’re probably wondering what we do in an hour or hour and a half. It includes checking the teeth, the gums, and the soft tissues. We have diagnostic tools.

We’ve spoken about X-rays to help us find problems that are not visible during the visual exam. And we go over someone’s medical and dental history. We ask people to rate certain things, like how white or yellow they think their teeth are.

How straight do you think your teeth are? How clean do you think your teeth are? We’ve got quite a different new patient questionnaire that helps people identify things that they might be concerned about themselves.

The way we do it, the way I do it at OptiSmile, is by using something called co-discovery. So, after we’ve shown the patient around the practice, they come into my room, and I sit, I don’t lie them back right away. I spend anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, sometimes even longer, talking to the patient.

Then, I’ll take some photographs of the patient just smiling and then use retractors. At that point, I’ll lie the patient down, and we’ll take some pictures inside the mouth using a mirror and a digital SLR, a big camera with a double flash that we use to take pictures of the top and bottom. And then, while I’m uploading those onto the computer, my assistant will take X-rays and panoramic X-rays for the patient.

I will then look at if the patient has any problems that require us to do a CBCT or a 3D x-ray. I’ll tell my assistant to go ahead and take that x-ray there and then at no extra charge. When the patient comes back into the room and sits side by side with me, we look at the X-rays and the photos together while my assistant makes notes.

Now, at this point, I haven’t even looked in the patient’s mouth, but we’re looking to see the photos and the X-rays together. It’s called co-discovery. We’re discovering what’s going on and what the patient might have told us. They had sensitivity on the upper right.

And then, we focus on that area. And the patient can often see a broken filling or a cavity or a crack at the same time as myself. With co-discovery comes co-diagnosis, where we can start discussing different options, like what happens if you leave that cavity alone or what happens if you just get a filling when maybe something more extensive is needed.

So before I even look in the patient’s mouth, they have a very good understanding of not only the problems but also what’s going on there, and they start owning the problems. They also start getting an idea of the different options. So I’m not just putting them in the chair and looking in there and saying, you need three fillings and extraction and a crown, make an appointment.

That’s a very important appointment for building up a relationship. I think a lot of modern dentists do it this way or similar. If you’re in a practice or if you find yourself in a practice that’s purely very budget or low cost or it’s medical aid, you may not get an hour, hour and a half and all of the X-rays and the photos.

So yeah, that’s a thorough initial dental exam.

Okay. And then, doctor, what is the difference between a quick check-up, where the dentist spends like only five to 10 minutes, and a more comprehensive examination? When is each type of check-up actually appropriate?

Oh yeah. Good. That goes on from the previous one.

So the exam that I mentioned before, we obviously don’t do that every six or 12 months. That’s always just for a new patient who hasn’t been in, or if we saw someone who had gone and lived overseas and now come back or perhaps gone elsewhere or hasn’t. In many cases, people feel their teeth are in good shape, but they aren’t.

I’ve been in for three, four, and five years, which is actually quite common, believe it or not. Then, we’ll go through the whole initial exam again. But say you were just in six or 12 months ago, and you’ve had your teeth all fixed, and there’s no ongoing problems.

After the hygienist cleans your teeth, we’ll just have a brief visual exam to look at things that we had identified before that we wanted to keep an eye on. It’s much shorter. In many cases, we don’t even charge for it.

If a patient in between visits has a little rough spot, they want us to have a quick look at something, and it’s five or 10 minutes. It’s just in and out, and it’s not the same as an initial examination and co-discovery, which we just discussed.

[EON ENGELBRECHT E-RADIO] (10:04 – 10:12)
Any advice for patients who prepare for their dental check-ups to ensure that they get the most out of their visit, doctor?

Well, yeah, if you haven’t been brushing and flossing nicely, I don’t think you can book an appointment for Friday and today is Monday. Between Monday and Friday, you can go and start brushing and flossing like crazy, but your gums take a little bit longer than that to heal. If you do want to fool the dentist into thinking that you’ve been good with your brushing and flossing, you need about two weeks ahead, but otherwise, don’t change anything you’re doing before you come in.

If you haven’t been brushing and flossing and you give it a good go, your teeth could look all red and puffy, and the dentist will know that you only just brushed properly that day or just bought a new toothbrush, so don’t try and fool us. On the other hand, if you want to put your best foot forward, get stuck about two weeks ahead, and your gums should look a lot better than they are now. Sometimes, patients forget about the fact that they got food that’s getting stuck on the upper left or the lower right or, oh, this tooth was sensitive, so make a list.

You just put a list on your phone or on a piece of paper. Think about what you actually want from your dental visit. If you have cosmetic concerns, ask your friends or your family what they think of your smile so you can get some other opinions so that it’s not just the dentist offering their own advice.

The dentist might look at you and say, oh, your teeth are so yellow. In the meantime, it hasn’t bothered you before, so I don’t usually do that to patients. One should always make sure the dentist gets your updated medical history, especially any medication that you’ve been taking, and if you have been to another dentist recently, bringing your recent dental x-rays or dental records is very, very helpful. Sometimes, we see fillings that don’t look very good, and then we might say, oh, that filling looks old. It needs replacing. In the meantime, maybe you got it done two months ago elsewhere, and then it’s a bit embarrassing.

Not that we want to cover up for what another dentist has done, but we could at least be a little bit more professional about saying that it looks like maybe that wasn’t such a great job without insulting the previous dentist.

[EON ENGELBRECHT E-RADIO] (12:29 – 12:39)
So, obviously, these routine check-ups help identify potential dental issues early. What would you say are the benefits of early intervention, doctor?

So, aside from some of the things I said earlier about less extensive and less costly treatments, just monitoring and improving your general oral health will contribute to overall well-being and can prevent other related health issues.

[EON ENGELBRECHT E-RADIO] (12:58 – 13:08)
What are some of the common concerns or questions that patients have about the cost and also the necessity of regular check-ups? How do you address these concerns?

So, we touched on that in a previous podcast. Long-term savings of preventive care definitely make up for the cost of having your check-ups, especially if you’re just doing an annual check-up. If you find a problem, say you have a cracked filling, and all it needs is another filling, and you’re going to spend a couple of grand, a couple of thousand rands, depending on where you go, maybe a thousand rand, 900 rands, depends on the dentist.

Then you’ve paid for the cost of the examination there and then. But if you leave it for another year and under the crack, you develop a cavity that goes into the nerve, then you’re at a point where you could spend five or ten or more thousands on getting a root canal and a crown. So, missing check-ups or not getting them at least annually is going to cost you more in the long run.

[EON ENGELBRECHT E-RADIO] (14:05 – 14:15)
What advice do you give patients after their check-ups to maintain good oral health and also avoid more significant issues down the line?

So, of course, we’re going to encourage consistent daily oral hygiene, such as brushing twice a day and flossing every night before you go to bed. We’re going to talk about diets. If we see erosion, people who are eating a lot of acidic foods, things that we’ve covered in our previous podcasts, limiting sugary snacks and the frequency of those things or, in the case of someone with gum disease, maybe recommending a medicated toothpaste to use in a specific way and making them a check-up and a cleaning for their following appointment.

Once you get into a routine, it’s much easier. Also, if we know that a patient’s going to come back in six or 12 months, we can monitor and keep an eye on things. If we’ve got a patient that we saw two or three years ago, and there were a few problems starting, and now they come back and they are way worse, and it led to extensive treatment, then we may be more aggressive in recommending other smaller things be treated because we might not see them for another three years.

But if it’s somebody who’s coming in regularly, you’ve got a better idea of how fast or slowly things are getting worse or, in some cases, getting better.

[EON ENGELBRECHT E-RADIO] (15:28 – 15:40)
Doctor, finally, how has modern dental technology improved the effectiveness and efficiency of routine check-ups, and how does it contribute to preventative care?

That’s a great question. We at OptiSmile we’re very big on all of our technology. Most of the patients at the examination get an intraoral scan with an iTero, a 3D scanner.

The scanner has NIRI, near-infrared imaging, and HD photos, and the scan has a very high definition. It does something called time-lapse. If someone’s got some recession or erosion or they’ve got wear on their teeth from grinding, it will superimpose today’s scan with your scan from a year ago, and it does sort of heat map, and it will show us if the gum is receding further or if you’re wearing away your teeth further. These days, all of our X-rays are digital, and we run them through something called the Diagnocat, which is an AI software that helps us to find things that we might otherwise miss that marks the X-rays with a red, not a red X, like a red tooth and we click on the tooth, and it points out, have you seen this or have you seen that?

For patients that have a lot of cavities and come in regularly, these are not modern dental technologies, but there are new toothpaste and different things that patients can do, as well as educate the patient. We take very high-definition photos, and we show the patient the actual problem. I mean, all of these technological things help the patient understand and help them get treatment when it’s needed. They also help them see how they can avoid treatment by doing preventive things.

[EON ENGELBRECHT E-RADIO] (17:17 – 17:28)
And that wraps up today’s episode of “Save Your Money, Save Your Teeth”. As always, a big thank you to you, Dr Clifford Yudelman, for sharing your expertise with us.

Thank you, and thanks for having me on. I look forward to speaking with you next week about dental cleanings.

[EON ENGELBRECHT E-RADIO] (17:36 – 18:06)
Yes, looking forward to that, the power of professional cleanings next week. Don’t miss it. Also, remember, while we strive to provide valuable insights, always consult with your own dental professional for advice tailored to your personal health.

Don’t forget to subscribe for more enlightening discussions, and join us again next week as we continue to explore the fascinating intersection of dental health and financial savvy. Until then, keep smiling and taking great care of your teeth.


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Disclaimer: The content provided in this podcast, “Save Your Money Save Your Teeth” on Medical Mondays, is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to serve as dental or medical advice. The insights and opinions expressed by Dr. Clifford Yudelman and any guests are designed to foster a better understanding of dental health, preventive measures, and general well-being, but should not be interpreted as professional dental or medical recommendations. Dr. Clifford Yudelman does not diagnose, treat, or offer prevention strategies for any health conditions directly through this podcast. This platform is not a substitute for the personalized care and advice provided by a licensed dental or healthcare professional. We strongly encourage our listeners to consult with their own dental care providers to address individual dental health needs and concerns. The information shared here aims to empower listeners with knowledge about dental health but must not be used as a basis for making health-related decisions without professional guidance. Your dental care provider is the best source of advice about your dental and overall health. Please always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified health professionals regarding any questions or concerns about your dental health.

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