Why Home Care Isn't a Sufficient Substitute for Dental Visits
You’re a diligent, twice-daily tooth brusher. You floss every day, and you use an antibacterial mouthwash to finish the job. You own a dental mirror, and you use it to check out your teeth and gums regularly to check for potential abnormalities or problems. You do all of this at home, so why do you need to see a dentist too?
The answer is simple: dentists can do and see much more than you can at home.
Dentists are trained professionals who can see the warning signs of disease or oral health issues long before the average Joe or Jane can. They can also remove the plaque that you just can’t get to at home. Regular dental visits truly are the cornerstone of an excellent oral health routine.
What Happens at a Regular Dental Visit?
Your dental team will do a lot more than just remove built-up tartar and check for decay at your examination. Your team will evaluate your gum health, look at your head and neck for signs of cancers and other health concerns, and they will ensure your gums are as healthy as possible.
Of course, you will also have your teeth cleaned and scraped to remove plaque that has built up over time. Your dental team can get to places on your teeth that you couldn’t hope to reach at home, which is one major reason to visit them regularly.
You can also use your semi-annual visit to ask questions and come up with an excellent plan for a whiter smile, straighter teeth, and fixes to damage done to your teeth over the years.
Do Regular Visits Really Make a Difference?
Studies show that regular dental visits do help to increase oral health over and above what you do at home. Long-term, regular visits to the dentist mean less missing teeth and better overall oral health.
It’s difficult to completely reverse major periodontal issues once they begin. Prevention is the key to oral health, and regular dental visits ensure warning signs are caught before they become major issues.
Going to the dentist regularly to get checked is a lot cheaper than having to go to deal with major issues that arose because you didn’t know anything was wrong. Brushing and flossing are not necessarily going to protect you from all oral diseases, especially if you have risk factors like diabetes or you smoke.
Some studies suggest that people who are at a higher risk for periodontal disease benefit more than most by heading to the dentist for bi-yearly checkups. So those of you who are genetically prone to the disease, who smoke, or who have diabetes should get in to see your dentist more often than the rest of us.
Benefits Beyond Your Mouth
Aside from your regular dental examination to keeping your smile in excellent condition, visiting the dentist twice a year can potentially help to shield you from other major diseases.
Recent studies suggest that patients who undergo just one cleaning lower their risk of having a heart attack 24% over those who have never gone. For individuals who visit their dentist at least once a year lower their risk of heart disease and stroke by a significant percentage over individuals who choose not to seek dental care.
There are connections between heart disease and oral health. Although researchers aren’t sure if the relationship is cause and effect yet, they do believe there is a strong enough connection that a patient who has good oral health also seems to maintain their heart health, while the reverse is also true.
This same type of relationship is believed to exist between dental health and diabetes. Poor oral hygiene can cause blood sugar to rise in the body, which can irritate diabetes symptoms. In return, diabetes can cause teeth and gums to react negatively.
Finally, dentists are the first line of defense between oral cancer and us. Many dentists also check for signs of other cancers on the neck and face during routine exams. The screenings are a bonus for visiting your dentist.
Catching cancer in its early stages is the number one way to survive, so these screenings are incredibly important for all of us.
Service for Your Smile
Visiting the dentist regularly opens up the opportunity for you to speak to a dental professional about any cosmetic issues you may have with your smile. If you make an effort to go to the dentist, you are creating a relationship with a team that can help you transform your smile for the better, beyond just healthy teeth and gums.
Dentists do more than just clean your pearly whites. They also provide whitening treatments if teeth are stained or discolored. They can help to change the shape of your smile either with aligners to move your teeth to better positions or with veneers to help cover imperfections or a slightly crooked smile.
If you wind up with a cavity, your dentist can quickly and easily fill the hole and get you back to living life without pain. If you break a tooth, dentists have plenty of options for how to fix you up to be pain-free while maintaining the beautiful smile you don’t want to lose.
Your regular dental visits can include many of these cosmetic services as well, so you are benefiting from more than your overall oral health. You also benefit the look of your smile.
Proper Home Care is Still Important
We don’t want to lead you to believe that visiting the dentist regularly means you can slack on at-home oral care. Your office visits should merely be an added layer of protection on your already stellar oral care routine.
To make sure you are getting the maximum benefits from your routine at home, you need to understand the proper techniques for brushing and flossing daily. These methods aren’t always as simple as you would think, so it’s good to take a second look even if you believe you know what you’re doing.
Once you have mastered the daily brushing and flossing, you may want to consider adding in a mouth rinse to help kill bacteria and flush away any food particles that are leftover.
Make sure to consult with your doctor if you are planning to add a mouth rinse to your routine. He/she will likely have an opinion on which rinse is the best for you.
Is It Ever Okay to Skip the Dentist?
The short answer is no. It is very rare that you will want to skip out on a bi-yearly dental examination. However, they may be a reason or two to put off going for a short time.
Pregnant women need proper oral care more than most because their oral health can directly affect the health of their unborn child. However, during the first and third trimesters, it might not be the proper time to visit the dentist.
Some of the development happening to your child during those trimesters can be affected negatively by the compounds and light chemicals used in a dental examination.
If you can, work with your doctor to ensure you can come in during your second trimester and soon after the baby is born. Bring your newborn with you do the dentist for your first post-partum visit for extra benefits to both of you.
Another scenario in which you may want to put off your dental visit for at least a couple of days is if you are sick. Coughing directly into your dentist or hygienist's face is not ideal for either one of you, so if you can reschedule, do it. Don’t wait too long to go back, or cancel altogether. Your exam is still essential to your health.
What if I’m Afraid of the Dentist?
Fear not, my friends. The dental field has caused anxieties to rise in people throughout the world for hundreds of years. Although most examinations and procedures are pain-free, and most dentists are great people, the dental community understands that these anxieties exist and has tried to overcome them.
If you are exceptionally anxious, you can ask to be given nitrous oxide at your next exam. Nitrous oxide is a gas that has a subtle, sweet smell to it and is administered through a small mask that fits over the nose.
Nitrous oxide doesn’t have adverse effects, so it’s perfectly safe to use. The gas puts you at ease while keeping you mentally present and awake, so you still feel that you have total control over your situation. It is very popular for many dental procedures but is available for even a simple cleaning.
If you are still concerned, don’t forget that communication is key. Dentists are often great communicators, and they want to help you feel safe and secure at your visits. They are more than willing to tell you what they are doing or what they plan to do and to share why the process is what it is to put you at ease.
Schedule Your Appointment!
It’s clear that even the most exceptional at-home oral care routine is not a substitute for heading in for your bi-annual dental exam. Dentists can promote your oral health in ways that you simply cannot do yourself.
Remember that the benefits to your oral and overall health are significant when you visit the dentists regularly. If you are nervous, there are ways to ease your fears, and your doctor would be happy to talk to you about how to make the whole experience carefree for you.
Schedule your next dental visit knowing that you are benefiting your heart, your mouth, and your mind.