Let’s be honest; dentist appointments can be a bit of a hassle. Between this and the fact that roughly 36% of Americans have a fear of the dentist (according to the Cleveland Clinic), making the time to go to the dentist frequently goes to the bottom of the to-do list. People often think they don’t need to see the dentist as long as they’re not experiencing any problems, but this isn’t true. Regularly seeing the dentist for preventative dental care is essential for maintaining optimal oral health.
How often should I see my dentist?
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), most people should see their dentist at least once a year, but ideally twice for dental cleanings. Keep in mind that some people may need treatments that require them to go more than twice a year, and the ADA notes that it’s important to follow your dentist’s individual recommendations for you as everyone’s dental needs are different.
You can create a personalized dental care plan by discussing your risk factors, oral health care needs, and overall health with the dental professionals at Absolute Dental.
Why are regular dentist appointments important?
Regular dental care reduces the need for additional visits and prevents oral health issues that can develop into health issues in the body as well.
Why do I need dental checkups?
According to National Health Services (NHS), regular dental checkups allow your dentist to evaluate whether you have or are developing dental problems. Regular dental checkups provide:
- Professional dental assessment of your risk for dental diseases
- Cavity prevention services such as X-rays and teeth cleaning
- Professional recommendations on dental treatments
Checkups vs. treatments
Technically, a checkup only encompasses seeing the dentist for a professional evaluation of your latest X-rays and an exam from a licensed dentist. According to the Mayo Clinic, dental checkups allow your dentist to find cavities, tooth decay, and other problems (hopefully) before they become symptomatic and cause further problems.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dental treatments for tooth decay are recommended at your checkup for dental work and upkeep. Dental treatment examples include:
- Dental cleanings
- Fluoride treatments
- Tooth fillings
- Dental crowns
- Root canals
- Tooth extractions (severe cases)
Other factors to consider
Healthy individuals with good oral hygiene practices, excellent gum health, and little to no risk factors may be able to get away with only seeing the dentist once a year or so. However, many issues can lead to serious dental health and overall health problems if not addressed by a dental professional.
According to Colgate and the ADA, the following individuals are at a higher risk of tooth decay and dental disease:
- People with diabetes
- People who are pregnant
- People with gum disease
- People who smoke
- People with weakened immune systems
- Those who have a tendency for excess plaque buildup and/or cavities
- People with a family history of gum disease and/or tooth decay
Changes to dental health
According to the ADA, if you experience any of the following symptoms in between routine dental checkups, you should make an appointment with your dentist ASAP:
- Hot or cold sensitivity
- Swollen gums
- If your gums bleed when you floss or brush
- Continual bad breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Pain or swelling in your face, mouth, or neck
- Persistent dry mouth
- A sore in your mouth that won’t go away
- Your smile makes you feel self-conscious
- Trouble chewing and swallowing
- If you have an eating disorder
- If you’re undergoing disease-modifying therapies such as chemotherapy, radiation, or hormone replacement therapy
- Pain in your jaw when moving it and/or a “popping” noise when moving the jaw
- An uneven bite
Dental visits for kids
While dental visits for kids and adults are similar, children do require a bit of special attention as their teeth come in, fall out, and they get their adult teeth. According to the ADA, children should see their dentist as soon as they get their first tooth and then every six months throughout their childhood to prevent cavities and be on the lookout for other dental problems as they happen. According to the Cleveland Clinic, some of the things your child’s dentist will be looking out for include:
- Signs of tooth decay
- Signs of problems with the gums, jaw, etc.
- Any signs your child’s bite is coming in incorrectly (important for proper speech, chewing, ideal timing if your child will require braces, etc.)
What to expect during your dental appointment
- Dental cleaning and polishing
- A complete examination
According to Colgate and the Cleveland Clinic, these three stages of your appointment will generally go as such:
Cleaning and polishing
Dental cleanings are vital to preventative oral healthcare as dental hygienists are skilled at removing bacteria, plaque, and tartar that brushing alone cannot. If these components are left on your teeth too long, they will lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Dental cleanings consist of:
When your hygienist takes metal tools called “scalers” to remove plaque and tartar from the surfaces of your teeth.
Polishing involves removing biofilm from the teeth’s surfaces, which reduces plaque and prevents more from forming.
This usually includes fluoride treatments to prevent cavities. It may also include dental sealants to further prevent cavities, especially in children.
X-rays are needed for your dentist to assess your overall dental health thoroughly. Your dentist may want multiple X-rays, including a panoramic X-ray, which displays your upper and lower jaw bones along with your teeth.
The dentist will thoroughly look inside your mouth to check your gum health, teeth, and all the crevices of your mouth to make sure everything looks healthy. They will likely also poke at your teeth to ensure there are no painful areas, talk to you about any concerns you or they may have, and look over your X-rays. An examination from a professional dentist provides the following benefits:
- Cavity identification
- Gum health assessment
- Oral cancer check
- Professional recommendations for dental treatments and/or options for getting your dream smile
Seeing your dentist at least once a year can save you a lot of discomfort and keep your mouth and body healthier for years to come. If pricing is a concern, Absolute Dental accepts most dental insurance plans and has options for financing. Be sure to ask about our Smile Saver program.
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How Often Should You Go To The Dentist?. (2023).
Your Child’s First Dental Visit. (2018).
Your Top 9 Questions About Going to the Dentist—Answered!. (n.d.).