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A Good Diagnosis

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HealthWiki > Where There Is No Dentist > Chapter 6: Examination and Diagnosis > A Good Diagnosis


You are making a diagnosis when you decide what a person’s problem is and what is causing it. To do this, you need information. You need to make a careful examination to make a good diagnosis.

Learn all you can about the person’s problem:
1. Ask questions about the problem.
2. Look at the person’s face. Think about the person’s age.
3. Examine the mouth more carefully than before.
4. Touch the place that is sore.
DENT Ch6 Page 76-1.png


  1. Ask the person about the problem. Give a sick person a chance to describe how he is feeling. Listen. Think about what possibly is happening in his mouth. You may have an idea about what the person has. Now try to find out more by asking questions:
    • What is the problem? Ask him to talk about the pain, swelling, bleeding, or whatever he is feeling.
    • Where does it feel that way? See if he can put his finger on the tooth or place that is bothering him.
    • When do you have the most pain? Find out if it happens all the time or only some of the time (for example, when he drinks something very cold).
    • When did it start? Find out if he has already had this problem before. Ask how he took care of it.
    • Have you had an accident or injury lately? Infection still inside the bone from an old injury in the mouth can make a sore on his face, or can start swelling.
    • Are you having other problems? A head cold or fever can make the teeth hurt.
    • How old are you? Think about a new tooth coming into the mouth.
    After you hear the answers to your questions, decide if your original idea is the correct diagnosis. If not, try to think of another possibility and ask more questions. This is the scientific method of making a diagnosis. For a good explanation of scientific method, see Chapter 17 of Helping Health Workers Learn.
    a dental transfer slip giving a woman's month of pregnancy and blood pressure.
    Train midwives to examine women’s mouths. When they send women to you for dental care, they can give you helpful information about the women’s health.


    When you talk to a woman, find out if she is pregnant. A pregnant woman’s gums can easily become infected. The gums may bleed and she may have more tooth decay. But this does not have to happen. If a pregnant woman takes extra care of her teeth and gums, she can prevent most dental problems. But if she already has a problem, do not wait for the baby’s birth before you help her. You can treat a pregnant woman’s mouth problems now. In fact, this may be an important way of protecting her baby as well.

  2. Look at the person.
    People have some problems more often at certain ages. When a person first comes in to see you, notice his age. Then, before you ask him to open his mouth, look at his face for a sore or swollen area.
    SWELLING
    DENT Ch6 Page 78-1.png
    DENT Ch6 Page 78-2.png
    DENT Ch6 Page 78-3.png
    CHILD YOUNG PERSON ADULT
    Swelling can come from: Swelling can come from: Swelling can come from:

  3. A SORE
    DENT Ch6 Page 78-4.png
    DENT Ch6 Page 78-5.png
    DENT Ch6 Page 78-6.png
    CHILD YOUNG PERSON ADULT
    A sore can come from: A sore can come from: A sore can come from:


  4. Examine inside the mouth. Remember what the person said, the person’s age, and what you saw. Now look more closely at the problem area.
    a health worker thinking.
    Let me think:

    1. Pain all the time
    2. Swollen face
    3. Large cavity
         in molar

    ABSCESS?
    Look at the teeth:
    • Is a new one growing in?
    • Is a tooth loose?
    • Is there a dark (dead) tooth?


    Look at the gums:

    • Are they red?
    • Is there any swelling?
    • Do they bleed?
    • Are the gums eaten away between the teeth?
  5. Look also for sores on the inside of the cheek or lips, and on the tongue.


  6. Touch the sore place. Touching is a good way to find out how serious the problem is. This will help you decide which treatment to give.
    Push gently against each tooth in the area of pain to see if a tooth is loose. Rock the loose tooth backward and forward between your fingers, to see if it hurts when you move it.
    Using the end of your mirror, tap against several teeth, including the one you suspect.
    DENT Ch6 Page 79-2.png
    There is probably an abscess on a tooth that hurts when you tap it.
    a health worker speaking to a person sitting in a dental chair.
    I must take out your tooth. It has an abscess.


    Press against the gums with cotton gauze. Wait a moment, and then look closely to see if they start bleeding. Then use your probe gently to feel under the gum for tartar. Carefully scrape some away. Wait and look again to see if the gums bleed. When gums bleed, it is a sign of gum disease.


This page was updated:30 Aug 2018