Hard & Soft Tissue Exam

A comprehensive look at everything inside your mouth

What is a Hard Tissue Intraoral Exam?

A Hard Tissue Intraoral Exam is a complete cavity check, performed tooth by tooth, and is recorded in a detailed tooth chart. The conditions of the teeth and mouth are documented. Specifically, digital records are kept about:

  • Existing work done on the teeth
  • Decay
  • Leakage
  • Treatments which need to be done
  • Positions of teeth
  • Impactions

The Dentist will check fracturelines, old fillings, broken teeth, identify congentinally missing teeth, and keep on the lookout for deformed teeth, or teeth with abnormal wear, which may or may not be caused by drifting teeth. Another component of the Hard Tissue Intraoral Exam includes checking for abnormal jaw bone growth.

The Hard Tissue Intraoral Exam is followed by a Soft Tissue Intraoral Exam to maintain a more complete profile of your dental history.

What is a Soft Tissue Intraoral Exam?

The intraoral soft tissue examination includes checking the soft tissues of the mouth, the throat, the tongue and the gums.

Lips and Labial Mucosa

The Soft Tissue Intraoral exam begins with an examination of the lips and the mucosa inside the lips called the labial mucosa. The labial mucosa will be examined by gently turning the lip out. The labial mucosa should appear wet and shiny.

Buccal Mucosa and Vestibular Mucosa

The examination proceeds to the inside of the cheeks, called the buccal mucosa. Two mirrors will be used in a thorough and stepwise process, moving from one side of the mouth to the other.

Hard and Soft Palate, and Throat

The hard palate is the firm area of the roof of the mouth, and the soft palate is the soft area behind the hard palate. The Dentist will examine both areas visually, and shine a light in the throat, to look for anomalies.


The top of the tongue will be examined first, followed by the sides of the tongue. The tip of the tongue will be held with a piece of soft gauze and the tongue will be moved gently from one side to the other. The Dentist is looking for swelling or palpated areas, and possibly ulcers. The tissue in this area should be soft. The underside of the tongue will also be examined. Particular attention is paid to the sides of the tongue and the floor of the mouth, as cancers develop in these areas more frequently than on the top of the tongue or the palate. Oral cancers may have the appearance of ulcers, masses, red areas, or white areas.

Floor of Mouth

Now the clinician will examine the floor of the mouth. He or she may feel the saliva glands, which usually feels ropey or lobulated. A salivary stone in this area would feel hard. This examination is not painful, but it is a slightly odd feeling.

Gingiva and Alveolar Mucosa

Finally, the clinician will examine the gums, which are called the gingiva. Healthy gingiva is pink, and regular. Some abnormalities include generalized or localized swelling, redness, ulceration or bleeding. The clinician may also palpate the area over the jaws to check for lumps and bumps. This examination may also reveal tenderness that could be the result of infection or inflammation.