Why are regular dentist appointments important?
You consider yourself to have great oral hygiene and regularly brush and floss your teeth to keep your mouth clean. Your excellent oral hygiene habits may lead you to wonder if you still need to visit your dentist on a regular basis. The answer is yes! Even if you take good care of your teeth and gums at home, it’s still important that you regularly visit your dentist who is professionally trained to check for problems you may not see or feel yourself.
The truth is, many dental problems like cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer don’t become visible or cause pain until they are in the more advanced stage, which makes treatment and follow-up all the more extensive. Even if you are healthy today, your risk for dental disease can change over time and can be affected by factors like illness, diet changes, new medication usage, and more. So why risk it?
How often should I see my dentist?
The frequency at which you visit your dentist should be based on several factors. This includes your current oral health condition, individual oral hygiene habits, general health status and medical conditions, as well as your own self- and dentist-assessed risk for oral health problems.
Assessing your risk for dental disease
When evaluating your risk for dental disease, you should consider all personal health, lifestyle, and genetic factors that contribute to your risk-level. Risk factors include a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, poor oral habits, lack of exposure to fluoride containing water, smoking or use of other tobacco products, heavy alcohol or recreational drug use, and medical conditions including diabetes, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and head and neck cancers.
Delta Dental offers a free online risk assessment tool called LifeSmile ScoreTM that helps you determine your level of risk for things like tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer. The tool prompts you with a series of questions about family history and current health status and habits and analyzes your answers to reveal your oral health risk score. You can then print your results and share them with your dentist who can factor those scores in with his or her clinical exam and help you develop a customized oral health plan and dental recall visit schedule.
Regularly scheduled visits
The evidence for the ideal interval for routine dental exams is not clear cut, but once or twice a year has been the general recommendation in the U.S. for many years. However, most people at low risk of oral diseases can visit the dentist less frequently, while others may need to go more often.
Your dental insurance coverage will also play a role in how often you see a dentist. Generally, two oral health exams will be covered by your dental insurance plan on an annual basis, but this will depend on your individual dental insurance plan. Remember – even if you believe your mouth to be in perfect health, you should still get a professional cleaning and annual checkup to ensure everything is healthy and on track!
Other factors to consider
Here are some other factors to consider when you think about how often you should see a dentist.
Have you recently had any changes in your dental health? Certain things to take note of are chipped, cracked or shifting teeth, swollen or bleeding gums, persistent tooth pain and sensitivity to cold or hot beverages. Should any of these instances occur, be sure to check in with your dentist.1
When you receive dental work like a filling, crown, or oral surgery, there’s a chance you will need to go back to the dentist for follow-up appointments to ensure your teeth and gums are healing well. This usually involves a quick evaluation by your dentist and also gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you have about the recent dental work. Something to note – if you have active periodontal (gum) disease, you may need more frequent appointments to manage this condition. These appointments may occur every 2-6 months.2
Generally, children should get their first oral exam as soon as their first baby tooth comes in or by their first birthday. As the child gets older, dental checkups should occur as often as your dentist advises, with a typical recommendation of every six months to a year.
For adults, the recommended frequency for dental check-ups varies. In most studies, however, regular attenders are considered to be those individuals that visit the dentist at least once a year. The frequency at which you visit the dentist will depend on your own oral health needs, and if you are prone to cavities, gum problems, or oral health issues. How quickly one develops stain and dental plaque on their teeth will also vary from person to person, and some individuals may benefit from a more frequent cleaning schedule should their teeth be more prone to staining or calculus build-up.
Additionally, individuals who have dental insurance typically visit the dentist more often than those who do not. And, companies with wellness programs will often offer incentives for employees to accomplish certain preventive health steps each year. Companies recognize that cost savings can occur for the company and employee by preventing disease.
High risk groups
The following groups may need to see the dentist more frequently, as oral health issues are more likely to arise in:
Regardless of how you feel about your overall oral health, it is important to see a dentist regularly. A reasonable goal is to visit the dentist at least once a year for an oral health checkup, although some evidence suggests that those at a low risk for disease may extend to 18-24 months. Check in with your dentist for more information on how they assess your risk for oral disease and what their recommendation is for your individualized exam and cleaning schedule.
Looking for more information? Learn more about basic oral health.
1Your Top 9 Questions About Going to the Dentist-Answered! (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/dental-care-concerns/questions-about-going-to-the-dentist
2Periodontitis. (2018, March 6). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/periodontitis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354479