Moms and grandmas have known for decades that their kids need to visit the dentist for a checkup and a cleaning once every six months. That’s just how it’s been for as long as anyone can remember. And that approach seems to work well enough, so nobody really questioned it until recently. In the past couple years, there’s been a shift in thinking in the medical community about how long patients should go between visits. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when planning your next visit to the dentist.
The Importance of Regular Dentist Checkups
To maintain good oral health, it’s really important that you schedule regular cleanings and checkups with your dentist. One reason that it’s so important is that your teeth are unlike some other parts of your anatomy. Unlike your skin, your teeth don’t heal themselves. Unlike your hair and nails, damaged or missing teeth don’t just grow back. Once your teeth are damaged, that’s it. You can take steps to cover up the damage or use artificial means to improve the appearance of your smile, but there’s really not much else you can do to heal your teeth once the damage is done.
Getting a checkup twice per year has been found to work really well for many people. It’s been the standard length of time that dentists have recommended for many years because it works well. But recent studies have observed that there are a lot of people who go a full year or more without any significant increase in bone loss or long-term damage. Because of this, many dentists are emphasizing how the focus needs to be on the individual needs of the patient rather than a standard for all patients.
Dental Appointment Frequency Depends on Individual Needs
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works for all people. The popular recommendation of visiting the dentist every six months is just a blanket recommendation that will work for most patients in a “better safe than sorry” way. Many low-risk patients will get by just fine by going once per year, while other patients with more risk factors and pre-existing dental conditions might need to go to the dentist much more frequently than the standard twice-per-year recommendation. Your dentist will need to make a customized assessment based on your oral hygiene and the current health of your teeth and gums.
What Happens If You Wait Too Long between Visits?
When people put off going to the dentist for long periods of time, there are all kinds of oral health problems that can develop, including irreversible gum disease, nerve damage and bone loss. These could be prevented with good brushing, flossing and hygiene habits, but the problem is that many people don’t realize they are developing these conditions until the damage is extensive and the effects are unable to be treated properly.
But as dentists have been emphasizing, it really depends on the patient. People with higher risks of oral health problems include smokers, participants in contact sports and anyone with a history of cavities or gum damage, and they should be vigilant in their hygiene habits and with checking up regularly.
So the old standard wisdom that you should visit your dentist at least two times per year isn’t exactly wrong, but what dentists are trying to get their patients to realize is that your dental needs depend on a variety of factors and that your dental treatments need to be individualized to accommodate your specific needs. Only you and your dentist can properly determine how often you need to go in for a visit, whether it should be more frequently than the old guidelines or if less frequent visits will be enough.
Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband. Dixie Somers recommends dental care in Purcellville, Virginia.