You may have often wondered about the logic behind ‘every 6 months dental check-up’ rule which your dentist, most likely, imposes on you. And although you may take it casually, it actually is quite important to visit your dentist every 6 months even if you have perfectly fine teeth and gums. The time interval between dental check-ups will vary according to the condition of your oral health. For example, if you have caries or gum diseases your dentist will follow-up more regularly; let’s say once every 3 months, once the treatment has been done. Here we will be addressing some common queries regarding the importance of regular dental visits.
Why do I need regular dental visits if I brush and floss daily?
It’s quite true that if you follow the oral hygiene measures to the word, you will have excellent oral health and won’t have to bother about dental caries or gum diseases for quite some time. But, however meticulous you are with your brushing and flossing, some plaque will definitely accumulate and cause gum problems and also, regular dental visits help in early detection of tooth cavity or caries. Both of these factors can help prevent early tooth loss.
How often should you have a dental appointment?
The duration between two dental visits will vary considerably depending on the current status of your oral health. If you don’t have any tooth decay or gum problems of bleeding and tenderness, your dentist will recommend a check-up every 6 months. However, if you have been treated for gingival bleeding or tooth cavity, you will be called in for a follow-up more frequently to check that the problem doesn’t relapse.
What if you skip one of your dental visits?
Well, skipping your dental appointment won’t cause any immediate problem but will result in tooth pain, swollen and tender gums, bleeding from gums and even swelling in and around your oral cavity. In fact, studies have proved that gum diseases cause systemic complications as well. Progressive gum disease in pregnant females might cause pre-term birth of the baby. Geriatric patients with gum disease might develop heart disease called endocarditis and even diabetes. However, these are the long term effects of progressive gum disease.
What happens when you develop a tooth cavity is, the bacteria that cause dissolution and discoloration of your tooth material will eventually reach the innermost layer of your tooth where the nerve supply and blood supply of the tooth reside. This causes intense and unbearable pain in that particular tooth and if left untreated even at this stage, the bacterial infection will cause a swelling in or around your oral cavity, depending on the location of tooth, due to formation of an abscess and it can be life-threatening in case the swelling interferes with breathing or swallowing. Gum disease will cause bleeding from gums in the initial stages and eventually, loss of bone support and tooth loss.
Therefore try to make it to your dentist on a regular basis because prevention is always better and even cost-effective than the cure.
What should you expect during a regular dental check-up?
During a regular dental check-up, your dentist will thoroughly examine your head and neck area externally as well as your oral cavity for anomalies. Following is what you should expect:-
- Examination of face and neck for swellings and lymph node enlargement.
- A thorough examination of your temporomandibular joint or TMJ or jaw joint to check for clicking sounds, deviation or deflection during opening and closing of your mouth, and tenderness if any.
- The intra-oral examination will comprise of evaluation of your gums, teeth and oral mucosa. Tooth discoloration and soft caries or cavity is evaluated. Plaque and tartar accumulation on gums is assessed and so is the functioning of salivary glands for the flow of saliva. A very important aspect of intra-oral examination is oral cancer screening. The oral mucosa, tongue, lips, gums, hard palate, soft palate and tonsillar areas are examined thoroughly for signs of oral cancer or pre-cancerous lesions especially, if you are addicted to tobacco; smokeless or otherwise.
- Diagnostic tests will include taking radiographs or x-rays of your teeth.
- Professional dental cleaning or scaling and polishing procedures are performed to remove tartar and plaque from your teeth if detected, and to smoothen tooth surface to prevent further plaque accumulation.
- Flossing is the last step of the dental check-up and then you are done.
Overall, the routine dental check-up is not inconvenient at all and also helps in prophylaxis against tooth decay and gum disease.
What can you do in between the dental visits?
Maintain appreciable oral hygiene by brushing twice daily and flossing regularly. Massage your gums by your fingertips to help increase blood circulation. Try to use mouthwash in between meals to prevent food lodgment and thus, tooth decay. Talk to your dentist about the use of an interdental brush to clean large gaps between teeth which cannot be cleaned by flossing.
Invest time for your oral care routine. A small amount of effort goes a long way in maintaining healthy gums and a happy smile.