Popular wisdom states that most people should visit the dentist every six months for a professional dental cleaning and oral health care checkup. But is that really necessary? Do you really need teeth cleaning every 6 months? People with ongoing dental health issues or special circumstances certainly should see their dentist frequently, but what about everyone else? Is it okay to go to the dentist once a year?
When determining how often you should see your dentist, there are a few factors to consider:
Age of the patient
Children should definitely see the dentist at least once every six months. Permanent teeth are most susceptible to decay right after they erupt, so it’s important for children to visit the dentist regularly to check for any signs of tooth decay. Your pediatric dentist can advise you about a cleaning and consultation schedule that is best for your child.
Orthodontics are also a consideration when children are young. Your dentist will want to monitor your child’s teeth to make sure they are growing in properly. If braces or other forms of tooth correction are necessary, you’ll want to make sure those measures are taken at the proper time to prevent any issues with speaking, eating, or your child’s self-esteem. Also, wisdom teeth typically appear in the mouth when children are in their late teens, so additional consultation may be needed during that time frame, as well.
Your overall dental health
For many of us, regular cleanings are enough to keep our dental health in top shape. Generally speaking, you should visit the dentist at least once a year, but talk to your oral health care professional about your particular health situation and oral health concerns to determine a schedule that’s right for you. The goal is for your dentist to see you often enough to detect any major issues or problems as early as possible. Your dentist is trained to watch for small clues and seemingly minor changes that could mean a bigger health concern is looming.
Your overall general health
Of course, dental visits are important for maintaining your oral health, but dental visits can also help your oral health care provider detect other non-dental related issues, such as anemia and diabetes. Symptoms of other health issues often first appear in the mouth. For example, swollen gums or loose teeth may be a sign of diabetes. For this reason, regular visits with your dentist are important for not just your mouth, but your overall health and wellness, too.
More frequent visits mean easier oral cleanings
Another reason not to wait too long between visits is that it makes cleaning your teeth easier. Plaque is always building up on your teeth. And left too long, plaque will turn into tartar that needs to be scraped off of your teeth. More frequent visits can prevent prolonged scraping sessions. Removing tartar on your own is not possible without special tools. Also, the gritty paste that is used during polishing helps to remove surface stains on the teeth.
More frequent visits may also prompt improved oral hygiene practices. If you know you’ll be back at the dentist in a few months, that may prompt you to brush and floss more regularly, knowing someone is going to be checking your teeth sooner rather than later.
Gum disease can affect anyone
Gum disease and gingivitis are common, even in those that take very good care of their teeth. Often gum disease stems from poor brushing and flossing techniques. Just because you brush and floss daily, that doesn’t mean that you are using the proper technique, and it can be difficult to evaluate your own brushing habits.
Gum disease often stems from neglecting the gum lines when brushing and flossing, which can lead to poor gum health and infection. Once gum disease is present, it can be very difficult to reverse the effects and could lead to much larger oral health issues. Seeing your dentist regularly can help detect early signs of gum disease before they progress to a more serious problem.
Cavities start developing long before you feel any pain
One of the biggest mistakes that many patients make is waiting until they feel tooth pain to schedule a dentist appointment. At that point, much of the damage has already been done. Tooth decay begins long before you experience any pain.
Waiting too long to have a cavity filled can lead to larger issues and necessitate procedures such as root canals. In most cases, a regular checkup would have allowed your dentist to spot the problem, and steps could have been taken to limit the damage.
Skipped visits just mean more dental appointments later
When you skip visits to your dentist, you might think that it doesn’t mean much, but in the end you are just putting off the inevitable. Seeing the dentist regularly is absolutely necessary for good oral health, and skipping appointments only means that you are putting yourself at risk of developing very serious dental issues down the road. Those issues may require in-depth procedures that can be far more anxiety-inducing than a simple cleaning.
More frequent visits may help you handle dental anxiety
If you’re avoiding going to the dentist due to dental anxiety, more frequent visits may actually help. This may seem counter-intuitive, but frequent visits help you develop an ongoing relationship with your oral health care provider and allow you to address concerns and handle any issues you may be facing.
While you may be tempted to see your dentist only once a year if your oral health is in good shape, we do recommend that you see your dentist every six months if possible. If you have dental insurance, you should be covered for an exam and cleaning every six months, as well as x-rays once a year.
If you don’t have dental insurance, ask your dental office if they perform services on a sliding scale for people who need financial assistance. In some cases, dental offices are able to offer lower fees if you’re paying cash.
Putting off a trip to the dentist can lead to some severe consequences. Even those that take excellent care of their teeth put themselves at risk for serious oral conditions without a regular checkup. Take the time to find a dentist that you feel comfortable with, and who will work with you to address any issues you may be having. If you tend to avoid the dentist due to a fear of needles, look for a dentist skilled in alleviating patient anxiety. Our directory of certified pain-free dentists is filled with providers who are committed to providing as close to pain-free dentistry as possible! Find a DentalVibe dentist and make dental anxiety a thing of the past!