Ahh-hah Moment

Say “ahh”.  Every health care professional can enhance their craft by introducing an “ahh-hah” moment in every office visit.  If you’re not a dental professional, but you are a health care provider, you can follow an easy, three-step oral health checklist at each patient encounter.  The mouth is the gateway to the body: this three-step checklist can ensure you are providing great whole-patient-centered care.  Catching and referring oral health problems before they become serious can improve health outcomes for everyone you see.

Let’s take it back to the days when health professionals used tongue depressors and asked their patients to say “ahh”. While they weren’t looking at the teeth or gums, it’s actually a great opportunity to do so!

Look for these three things:

Obvious white spots (demineralization)
Obvious decay
Obvious plaque buildup and/or bleeding gums

The next step is simple. Provide a referral to the patient’s identified dentist if ANY of these things are present and/or if the patient hasn’t seen a dentist within the past six months. Provide a referral or resources for the patient to locate a dental practice if the patient doesn’t have one.

Observe. Palpate. Record. Refer.

Oral Exam Screening


  • Remove all dentures and appliances
  • Teeth and oral hygiene
  • Palate and gums
  • Buccal mucosa
  • Floor of mouth & tongue (lateral borders & undersurface)
  • Posterior pharynx


  • Floor of mouth
  • Neck


  • Signs of caries
    • White spots, brown spots, pits
  • Signs of periodontal disease
    • Poor oral hygiene (presence of plaque)
    • Erythematous or receded gums
    • Loose teeth
  • Signs of other oral disease
    • Soft tissues lesions
    • Tooth erosion

Refer to dentist:
All adults for 6 month check ups
All adults with signs of caries, periodontal disease or suspicious oral lesions

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Provider Referral Support

For patients without a dental provider, Delaware has a number of options, depending on the age of the patient. Many providers will work with individuals who have financial challenges.

Delaware 2-1-1, the state’s information and referral service, is available by phone (dial 2-1-1 or 1-800-560-3372 if calling from outside of Delaware) or online (see Healthcare, then click Dental Services to search providers by zip code).

Resources for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) eligible children (eligibility requirements vary):

Delaware Division of Public Health Dental Clinics
Federally Qualified Health Centers and Private Community Dental Clinics
Oral Health Providers, including Pediatric Dentists, and other Specialists

Keep These Handy


American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

Learn More ›

National Network for Oral Health Access

Learn More ›

Smiles for Life –
A National Oral Health Curriculum

Learn More ›