Dental Office Visits: How Often Should You Really Go?
Dental office visits – we know we have to go, but how often? Most say every six months, but is that true for everyone? We’re sharing what you need to know here.
Ask a handful of friends how often they think you should visit a dental office and you’ll get a whole lot of different answers! Of course, you’ll get a couple who say never, but most will say twice a year.
Nobody is exactly sure where they heard that, but the common belief is that you visit your dentist every six months regardless. Indeed, three-quarters of dentists surveyed in New York in 2000, recommended six-monthly check-ups.
So where does this magical figure of six months come from? Do our mouths have some sort of internal clock that demands it? And what happens if we go more or less frequently? Will our teeth fall out? Research delivers differing opinions on this.
No One-Size-Fits-All Solution
In 2003, a study of this subject showed mixed results. Some suggested there was no difference in tooth decay or loss between those patients who attended regularly, and those who went more infrequently. Other results showed ‘regulars’ needed fewer fillings.
The truth is, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. While some form of regularity is recommended, it all comes down to the needs of the individual patient. For example, if you are a fit and healthy non-smoker with no ongoing health issues, your dentist will most likely suggest an annual visit to the dental office, for a check-up and cleaning.
But, at the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are prone to tooth decay and gum disease, you might be asked to attend every two months. This ‘high risk’ group also includes smokers, pregnant women, and diabetics.
Caring for Children’s Teeth
And then it’s a whole other story for children. Remember, the way in which we care for our teeth when young sets the pattern for the rest of our lives. Incredibly, 40% of children have dental cavities by the time they start kindergarten!
Just because they naturally fall out, don’t think for one minute that a child’s primary or ‘baby teeth’ are any less important than their permanent adult teeth. They not only help your child bite and chew properly, they can also affect speech and the way in which the permanent teeth grow.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that your child visits a dental office when the first tooth appears, and no later than his or her first birthday. After that, a visit is recommended every six months.
Good Oral Hygiene
The six-monthly visits allow the dentist to gently clean your child’s teeth and check for any problems or decay. In addition, they will talk to you and your child about good oral hygiene at home.
So, it’s becoming quite clear, that the frequency of visits to a dental office really depends upon the state of the individual’s health and dental needs. And it is far better to heed the advice of your dentist than stick to ‘tradition’.
Even if you take exceptional care of your teeth at home, you should still visit a dental office regularly. If things do go wrong, there’s a far better chance of putting them right again if caught early.
Reasons for More Frequent Dental Office Visits
For example, did you know that your dental health can be negatively affected by stress? Whilst you may have sailed through life with not one filling, a prolonged period of stress can cause problems with your mouth, teeth, and gums.
These problems may manifest themselves as canker or cold sores, or you may suddenly start to regularly clench and grind your teeth.
Teeth grinding is actually quite a serious problem, as it not only causes jaw pain but, over time, will also start to wear down and potentially weaken your teeth. In this situation, your dentist will most likely recommend the use of a night guard, plus more regular visits until the problem is solved.
Another reason why you might need to visit your dental office more frequently is if you are undergoing orthodontics or cosmetic dentistry. For the period of the treatment, your program of visits will increase, returning to normal once treatment concludes.
Probably the main reason for more frequent visits to your dentist is tooth decay and gum disease. Gum disease affects millions of Americans and, if left untreated, can cause major health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disease.
If caught early enough – when it is still classified as gingivitis – gum disease can be reversed, saving a whole heap of trouble and expense later. But to do this, you could well be looking at dental office visits every couple of months for a while.
Your dentist is suggesting this for your own good and, however much you dislike going, you should definitely heed the professional advice in this instance.
Choose the Right Dentist
So, in answer to the debate over the frequency of visits to the dentist, my advice would be this. Firstly, find a good dental office in your area that offers a comprehensive range of general dentistry, as well as specialty services and orthodontics. This avoids the need to ‘shop around’ and allows you to build up a relationship of trust with your dental team.
Once that trust is established, you will have a better understanding of why your dentist might suggest more or less frequent visits, and you’ll be comfortable with accepting that advice.
Choosing a dental office within 5 to 10 miles of your home is recommended, not only for convenience but also for emergencies. When it comes to teeth, an emergency dentist is far better than a trip to the ER.
A dental emergency covers things like a severe toothache or a broken or knocked out tooth.
Many people use cost as a reason for avoiding regular dental appointments. However, in the long run, leaving problems untreated could cost you even more. For example, a small cavity that could have been quickly and cheaply filled could end up as an extraction.
Left untreated, dental problems can also take their toll on your overall health.
Look for a dental office that offers various financial options, including cash, credit cards, dental insurance plans, CareCredit and Lending Club. That way, money will no longer be your excuse.