More than 50 years ago, examinations of people entering the military showed that Americans’ teeth were in pretty bad shape. Few people took good care of their teeth. There were no guidelines for how often you should see a dentist. There wasn’t a proactive approach to dentistry: many providers focused on fixing problems rather than preventing them. Dental and health organizations decided there was a need to set standards for preventive dentistry. They decided people should go to the dentist twice a year for checkups, and cleanings because cavities and gum disease are preventable. Whatever the origins, this has proven to be a useful rule of thumb for many people. Taking care of your teeth means more than brushing and flossing. For complete care, it’s important for a regular checkup and professional cleaning. The first step in this process is to find a dentist with whom you feel comfortable, and then schedule an appointment. We take a look at why regular visits are important to your oral health.
How often should you go to the dentist?
It is recommended to visit the dentist every six months. Have you ever wondered why the American Dental Association and your dentist recommend you come back twice a year? It’s because regular dental visits are essential for the maintenance of healthy teeth and gums. Even if you take excellent care of your teeth and gums at home, you still need to see a dentist regularly. Your dentist can check for problems that you may not see or feel. Many dental problems don’t become visible or cause pain until they are in more advanced stages. Examples include cavities, gum disease and oral cancer. Regular visits allow your dentist to find early signs of disease. Problems can be treated at a manageable stage.
On average, seeing a dentist twice a year works well for many people. Some can get away with fewer visits. Others may need more frequent visits. People with very little risk of cavities or gum disease can do fine seeing their dentist just once a year. People with a high risk of dental disease might need to visit every three or four months, or more. This high-risk group includes:
- Pregnant women
- People currently with gum disease
- People with a weak immune response to bacterial infection
- People who tend to get cavities or build up plaque
What happens during a dentist visit?
Checking your teeth for tooth decay is just one part of a thorough dental examination. During your checkup appointment, your dentist (or dental hygienist) will likely evaluate the health of your gums, perform a head and neck examination (to look for anything out of the ordinary) and examine your mouth for any indications of oral cancer, diabetes or vitamin deficiencies. Don’t be surprised if your dentist also examines your face, bite, saliva and movement of your lower jaw joints (TMJs). Your dentist or dental hygienist will then clean your teeth and stress the importance of you maintaining good oral hygiene at home between visits.
Many dentists will pay special attention to plaque and tartar. This is because plaque and tartar can build up in a very short time if good oral hygiene is not practiced between visits. During the cleaning, your dental professional will use special tools to remove tartar. This is called scaling. Food, beverages and tobacco can stain teeth as well. If not removed, soft plaque can harden on the teeth and irritate the gum tissue. If not treated, plaque can lead to gum disease.
During your regularly scheduled dental appointments, your dentist will likely look at your gums, mouth, tongue and throat. There are several routine parts to a dental examination that you can expect:
- A thorough cleaning – a dental hygienist or dentist will scrape along and below the gum line to remove built-up plaque and tartar that can cause gum disease, cavities, bad breath and other problems. Then he or she will polish and floss your teeth.
- A full dental examination – your dentist will perform a thorough examination of your teeth, gums and mouth, looking for signs of disease or other problems.
- X-rays – X-rays can diagnose problems otherwise unnoticed, such as damage to jawbones, impacted teeth, abscesses, cysts or tumors, and decay between the teeth.
What should I do between each dental visit?
Be sure to take care of your teeth and gums between regular dental visits. Plaque is always forming on your teeth, but you can manage it by brushing and flossing regularly. Here are some tips for good oral care at home:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Be sure to use toothpaste that contains fluoride.
- Floss daily.
- Use a mouthwash to help control plaque bacteria. This will also help to keep your breath fresh.
So dental checkups are worth the effort?
Dentists and dental professionals are not only concerned with fixing teeth. They professionally clean your teeth, aim to ensure your teeth and gums are healthy, and check for abnormalities that may otherwise go unnoticed and could be a sign of larger health issues. Dental professionals make sure that your bones are strong, and will help you correct any habits that may be sabotaging your oral health, among other things.
Skipping dental appointments may not seem like a big deal, but oral issues can develop and progress extremely quickly, whether or not you notice it. By keeping on top of your dental cleanings and checkups you’re doing yourself a big favor in the long run.
If you have any questions about regular dentist visits, call Winning Smiles to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-332-2444.