Every time a patient comes in for a check up at North Creek Family Dentistry, Dr. Cattle performs a head and neck exam. This quick assessment is finished so fast you may not even remember it. However, this exam is absolutely critical to a thorough, holistic check-up. Here are some of the things we are assessing.

The first part of the head and neck exam is the extraoral part, including all the areas outside your mouth. Dr. Cattle checks for any swellings, discolorations, or asymmetry as she feels along the neck and face. We check lymph nodes carefully, as swollen lymph nodes may be a sign of on-going infection draining from the oral cavity, and hard or immobile lymph nodes can be a sign of pathological diseases including cancer. Dr. Cattle feels for the thyroid to check size and symmetry. She checks the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) for popping or pain that can signify a range of issues from bite issues to arthritis or a displaced disc.

During the intraoral part of the exam, Dr. Cattle checks your lips, gum tissues, palate, tongue, and throat. Just as with the extraoral exam, she’s checking for any areas that are swollen, hard, discolored, or asymmetric. Common things we see every day are viral lesions, such as cold sores and canker sores, trauma from burning the tongue or palate with hot food or from biting your cheek, discolorations on the tongue due to diet or hygiene, and draining abscesses from tooth infections. We will occasionally spot additional pathological issues, which are then referred to an oral surgeon to rule out cancer and other diseases.

This entire exam takes just a couple of minutes. It is the first thing we do after laying your chair back because the health of your entire head and neck is just as important to us as the health of your teeth. As a dentist, Dr. Cattle gets a clear view of many structures physicians may struggle to see during a routine exam. We take this responsibility seriously, and perform this exam regularly so that any problems can be spotted as early as possible.

Have more questions about your head and neck exam? Ask Dr. Cattle during your next appointment. Call 402-413-0505 to schedule!