Keeping your teeth healthy with regular dental visits is important. When teeth start to have problems, they can impact life quickly. But what are “regular” dental visits? How often are people supposed to go?
Catching a dental problem early may help reduce the amount of pain, difficulty, and cost to fix the problem. Dentists can also look for signs of oral cancers, and spot signs of other health conditions, such as Sjögren’s syndrome or diabetes.
Kids should get their first oral exam as soon as their first tooth comes in or by their first birthday. The dentist will give you advice about how to care for your child’s early teeth. As your child gets older, he or she should have dental checkups as often as the dentist advises. Most dentists recommend a dental visit every six months to help prevent cavities and other problems. Talk with your child’s dentist about the schedule that is best for your child.
Your dentist can advise you how often you need to visit based on your oral and general health and your risk factors for tooth decay and gum disease. For example, an adult with good oral hygiene and no problems at checkups may need to come in once or twice a year. Someone with a lot of tartar or cavities may need to come more often. Your health insurance may also affect how often you see the dentist. The type of plan you have may require visits every 6 months, for example, for you to get full insurance benefits.
You may need to see your dentist more often if:
You’re pregnant. Pregnancy hormones can cause an inflammation of the gums called gingivitis, and other problems.
You smoke. Tobacco use is a risk factor for a severe gum disease called periodontitis and for oral cancer.
You’re being treated for cancer. Treatment for cancer can cause oral health problems such as dry mouth and infection.
You have diabetes. People with diabetes have a higher risk of gum disease, fungal infections, and other oral problems.
You have heart disease. Dental health is linked to heart health, and frequent dental cleanings may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
You’re HIV positive. HIV and its treatment put you at a higher risk of dental decay and infections.
In addition to regular checkups, see your dentist if:
You have tooth or gum pain that doesn’t go away or gets worse
Your gums are red, swollen, and bleed easily
You have a sore in your mouth that doesn’t heal
A tooth becomes sensitive to hot, cold, or pressure
Something is wrong with an old dental restoration
You lose a filling
You have dry mouth on a daily basis
You have pain or clicking noises in your jaw
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