Did you know that, as of the latest CDC reports, 31.6% of US adults had untreated cavities? What’s more, that figure shows a 6.5% increase in folks with untreated tooth decay from 2005 to 2008.
Unfortunately, skipping tooth decay treatment is one of the culprits behind tooth loss. In the US, an estimated 40 million people are completely toothless. In total, 178 million are missing at least one of their permanent teeth.
All these highlights the importance of dental check-ups.
The big question now is, how often should you go to the dentist?
The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, there are guidelines that you can follow.
Ready to learn when and at what frequency you should visit the dentist? Then be sure to read on, as this guide will give you a clearer idea!
How Often Should You Go to the Dentist? What the Pros Recommend
The consensus for the general population is to see a dentist at least twice a year, or every six months.
This recommendation isn’t just a ploy for people to go for dental check-ups, though. Many people who see their dentist regularly do show better overall oral health.
To prove this, researchers looked at the effects of routine dental visits. One study looked at the long-term effects of dental check-ups in regular attendees. These are the people (aged 15, 18, 26, and 32) who visited their dentist at least twice a year.
The researchers found that, across all ages, routine attendees had better-than-average oral health. They also had fewer cavity-induced lost teeth. Moreover, they had lower averages of decayed, missing, and filled (DMFS) teeth.
In addition, 32-year-old routine attendees self-reported better oral health. They also had fewer instances of teeth caries and missing or lost teeth.
The study concluded that long-term routine attendance led to better overall oral health.
This is only one study, though, but many others support the same conclusion.
What Regular Dental Checkups Can Do for You
Regular dental check-ups are a key component of tooth loss and gum disease prevention. With these visits, your oral health care provider can help you keep as many of your permanent teeth in place.
Here’s how routine dental check-ups can keep these dental maladies and woes at bay.
Prevention of Tartar Build-Up
Tartar, also known as “dental calculus,” is a crusty deposit formed by unremoved plaque. Plaque, in turn, is the clear, sticky, and “gross” substance that constantly forms on the surface of the teeth. It consists of bacteria, many of which release acids that damage the teeth.
Note that the second most diverse community of microbes in the body is in the mouth. There are at least 700 species of various bacteria in it, many of which are the “bad” kind. Plaque consists of these harmful bacteria.
Granted, most plaque is removable through regular brushing and flossing. Unfortunately, these two habits alone cannot get rid of all plaque in the mouth.
Moreover, the length of brushing time affects the amount of plaque removed from the mouth. According to Boisedentist.com, brushing motion also influences the effectiveness of plaque removal.
For instance, a study looked at the difference between brushing for 45 seconds and 2 minutes. They found that, compared to 45 seconds, brushing for at least 120 seconds gets rid of 26% more plaque.
Still, not all plaque disappears even with proper brushing and flossing. Over time, the “left-overs” will harden into tartar and cause teeth discoloration. Dental calculus also makes it more challenging to get rid of new plaque formations.
Once tartar forms on the teeth, only specialized dentist tools can remove it. The longer that calculus stays on the teeth, the higher the risk of dental decay.
During your dental appointment, you will have all those plaque and tartar removed. That makes seeing a dentist at least twice a year an essential part of maintaining great oral health.
Less Plaque and Tartar Reduces Risks of Tooth Decay
Regular dental check-ups include thorough tooth and gum cleanings. Since plaque and tartar are the top causes of tooth decay, getting rid of them then lowers your risk of cavities.
Also, note that the initial stages of dental decay often don’t exhibit any painful signs. Meaning, your teeth could already be forming cavities without you even knowing!
Unfortunately, once tooth decay does hurt, it often means that there’s significant damage.
That’s why you’d want to see your dentist at least once every six months. By removing as much plaque and tartar on your teeth, bad bacteria will have fewer chances to cause decay.
Keeping Gum Disease at Bay
A study found that, of 3,700 US adults aged 30 years and older, 47% had periodontitis. If applied to the entire population, that means almost 65 million adults have gum disease!
As with tooth decay, diseases of the gums also arise from plaque and tartar. In this case, oral bacteria invade the gums and cause an ongoing infection in the soft tissues. Left untreated, the infection progresses, causing the gums to “pull away” from the teeth.
Dentists refer to gums that “pull away” from the teeth as “recessed gums.” When this happens, the soft tissues form pockets around the teeth anchored to them. These gaps allow more bacteria to enter, and from there, they can make their way to the bones that support the teeth.
Once the bacteria reach the teeth-supporting bone, they can start destroying it too. Without any support, the teeth can become loose and wiggle a lot. As more bacteria eat away at the bone, the affected teeth will lose more support.
This is why gum disease is also one of the most common reasons people lose their teeth.
Since most cases of gum disease are due to plaque and tartar, then that’s all the more reason to get rid of them. This is what you can expect when you visit your dentist every six months.
Seeing a Dentist Outside of the Recommendation
Some folks, such as those with a higher risk of gum disease, might want to see their dentists more often. The same goes for those who smoke tobacco.
There are medical conditions that can affect your teeth and gums too.
If any of these are true in your case, it’s best to see a dentist more than twice a year.
In some people, specific types of genes seem to increase the risks of developing gum disease. Studies found that there are dozens of genes linked to higher periodontitis risk.
In addition, such risks can increase due to chronic stress and poor dietary choices.
Smoking tobacco also puts people at a far higher risk of developing periodontitis.
According to researchers, women who smoke and are 20 to 39 years old have double the risk. Across the general population, over 15% of smokers have gum disease. In non-smokers, the prevalence of periodontal disease drops to 4.9%.
People with diabetes also have a higher risk of gum disease. This may have to do with how diabetes makes people more prone to getting infections.
Those who have weakened immune systems may also want to see their dentist more often. A compromised immunity may make it more difficult for the body to fight off pathogens. As such, oral infections are often more prevalent in this group of individuals.
Gum disease is more prevalent in older people, affecting 70% of adults 65 years and above. This is also one of the reasons that toothlessness is more common in this age group.
This increased risk appears to be a result of gum break down that occurs faster with age. In addition, inflammation also seems to happen at a more rapid rate in aged gums. Aging also affects the body’s ability and efficiency in healing wounds.
Dental Check-Ups Can Help Discover Other Health Conditions
Dentists have also shown to be a key player in the early diagnosis of medical conditions. For instance, they may be the first to detect signs of diabetes. In one study, dentists identified at least 73% of diabetes and prediabetes cases.
In older people, dentists can help with the discovery of osteoporosis. That’s because this bone condition can come with oral signs, such as gum pockets and loose teeth.
Another study found that routine dental visits may even help keep pneumonia at bay. This may have to do with how pneumonia is a type of infection. The study noted that people who don’t visit their dentists have an 86% higher risk of pneumonia.
Find Out How Often You Need to See the Dentist by Visiting One Now
There you have it, the complete guide that answers the question, “how often should you go to the dentist?” It can be every six months, or it can be more often if you are a higher-risk patient.
The best way to determine how often you need to visit the dentist is to see one now. This way, the dentist can decide if you’re okay with twice a year visits or if you need more.
Ready for more health and lifestyle guides like this? Then feel free to check out the other posts we have here at Hoyles Fitness!