You hear it all the time: dental health is essential for your overall health and wellbeing. Still, many people don’t know just how often they should visit the dentist, or what factors may change that answer. In this article, we will discuss some of the basics of dental visit frequency, what happens at a dental checkup, and what factors can alter your personalized visit needs.
Benefits of Proper Oral Hygiene
Not only will proper oral healthcare help to maintain your smile for years to come, but it can also help to prevent major diseases that most people would never associate with their mouths.
The condition of your gums and teeth is indicative of your overall health and is even linked to cardiovascular issues and cancer. Aside from preventing these major health issues, proper oral care can help to prevent many other diseases and defects such as the following:
- Gum disease
- Pre-mature birth
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Regular dental visits can help to prevent gum diseases and other oral health issues that may lead to any of the larger illnesses and defects mentioned above. A great dentist will be able to discuss with you how your visits to them are helping to prevent these issues, and what services they can provide beyond general cleanings.
When Should Visit Frequency Increase?
The American Dental Association recommends making a plan with your doctor for your individual needs to determine how often you should go in. If you are just starting out at a new office or in a new town, ask for a consultation to discuss your potential visit frequency based on some of the risk factors you may face.
In the past, dentists have recommended patients come in once every six to twelve months, but it is now known that that frequency can be different for everyone, and in some cases, you need to have much more regular visits. Some reasons for this include risk factors that we will discuss below.
Americans who smoke increase their risk of oral diseases every time they light up. These diseases include oral cancer, gingivitis, gum disease, slow healing after surgeries or tooth removal, and even basic cosmetic issues like discolored teeth.
Some studies suggest that smokers need to visit the dentist two times more often than typical adults to prevent common oral diseases. This is also thought to apply to people who are regularly around second-hand smoke or those who “vape”.
Smoking is preventable vs. some other risk factors that are genetic or that come alongside major health issues; therefore there is a large push in the dental community to help you end this destructive habit. Ask you dentist if you would like more information on programs to help you quit, or if you simply need a support system behind you.
Many of you know the difficulties diabetes can cause into your daily life, but did you know that it could also seriously affect your oral health? Diabetes is a risk factor that makes you more likely to develop periodontitis or inflammation and infection of the ligaments and bones that support your teeth.
Diabetes can also cause you to produce less saliva, creating dry-mouth. Since saliva protects your teeth from cavity-causing germs, you are at a higher risk for cavities and tooth decay. Also, as with smoking, you may experience delays in healing if you suffer from diabetes.
Everything from restless leg syndrome to sleep apnea can now be screened for by dentists at your regular checkups. The positioning of your teeth and jaw have a major impact on many sleep disorders, so seeing your dentist regularly starting from infancy is very important to ensure that you have and maintain proper alignment.
Dental Visits Help People of All Ages
Many new parents wonder when they should begin to bring their little ones in for dental visits. It is a common misconception that you should wait to bring the kids until lots of their teeth have started to show. Proper dental care starts with the gums and good habits long before your baby’s teeth start showing.
Many dentists now recommend bringing your baby with you to dental visits so that they can screen early for potential issues. If you cannot bring them, make sure they visit the dentist after the first tooth appears or no later than their first birthday.
Babies aren’t the only age group that is sometimes slow to head to the dentist. Older adults tend to stay away as well, either because they have dentures and don’t feel the need to visit unless there is a problem, or because it’s difficult to get out of the house.
Family dentists try to make dental visits a quick and simple process for people of all ages. Older adults, even those with dentures, are still at risk for the same gum diseases as the rest of us. If you are in this group, remember to work with your dentist to set up a proper visitation pattern to keep your oral health a priority.
Pregnancy and Dental Healthcare
During pregnancy, women can feel overwhelmed by all of the things they must focus on to ensure their baby’s health; this includes regular visits to their doctors, but it also includes not dropping the ball on oral hygiene.
Pregnant women who do not take good care of their teeth and gums are not only putting themselves at risk for the diseases that can arise from poor hygiene; they are risking the health of their unborn child as well. Fortunately, at least one regular dental visit during the second trimester of pregnancy is perfectly safe for moms and babies!
Gum Disease and Pregnancy
During pregnancy your gums can begin to react differently to plaque, causing them to be inflamed and irritated. Paying extra attention to your home oral care routine is very important for this reason, and keeping up with dental visits is also a big factor in the care of your health.
Morning Sickness and Dental Health
Anytime you get sick, no matter the cause, the acid that comes through your mouth can do damage to your teeth. These damaging effects are common in moms-to-be suffering from morning sickness.
To counter any damage caused by acid entering your mouth, ensure that you rinse your mouth out with water, and brush your teeth at least twice per day. When you visit the dentist, any decay or damage done can be addressed using many modern treatments.
What if You’re Afraid of the Dentist?
One of the biggest reasons Americans avoid the dentist is fear. Either they or someone they know had a bad experience at a dental office, and now they will never go back. Fortunately, modern dentistry is a much more relaxing experience, and there are many ways to calm patients down before procedures or cleanings.
At many offices, the environment is spa-like. The atmosphere is not one of a busy medical office, but of a relaxing space where troubles of the day float away. Having spaces like this in a dental office can help to calm patients with low levels of anxiety and create a more comfortable environment.
For patients who are very afraid, nitrous oxide is also an option. This common sedative helps fears to melt away and allows patients to get the dental care they need without the anxiety of a typical visit. The gas allows patients to stay awake and in control during procedures while feeling worry-free.
The Magic Number
Although the American Dental Association would still suggest patients visit their dentist no less than once every six months, it is essential that you meet with your doctor to discuss the factors that could change your visit frequency.
If you are interested in a dental procedure or have recently undergone one, it is important to follow up more often with your dentist. You should also visit more often if you are at higher risk for gum diseases or tooth decay.
Everyone should see the dentist regularly, regardless of how well you take care of your mouth at home. Dental visits are more than just cleanings. They can help to take care of issues before they adversely affect the rest of your body.
Visiting the dentist regularly is also a great way to keep up to date on the latest in cosmetic dentistry. Keeping your smile looking great is something to consider for all ages, so it’s good to know your options.
Skipping out on the dentist when pregnant is not the right thing to do. Keep in touch with your dentist to discuss when the right time will be for your appointment. Make sure you also keep up a good at-home oral hygiene routine to help between visits.
Finally, the fear factor is no more thanks to modern, comfortable rooms, great staff members, and the help of nitrous oxide. So there is no excuse to avoid routine visits to your favorite dental office!