For many years, the recommendation that every individual should visit the dentist for checkups twice a year has stood without much controversy. But is twice a year really necessary for people with healthy teeth? Is it enough for people who have chronic oral health problems? The answer from many dental professionals today is that there really is no “one size fits all” recommendation for how often you should see the dentist. It depends on your oral health, your lifestyle and other factors.
The goal of routine dental checkups is to discover any problems before they become serious so that treatment is easier, and your teeth and gums can remain healthy. If you practice good oral hygiene at home, you are less likely to develop gum disease or tooth decay, but you are not completely immune to oral health problems. Gum disease can be caused by illness, certain types of medications and heredity, so even if you take good care of your teeth and gums, you should still have routine dental exams at least once a year.
People who are at higher risk for oral health issues should see the dentist twice a year for checkups, or possibly even more often. This includes smokers, people with diabetes and people with weakened immune systems. If you feel that you do not practice good oral hygiene, for example, if you don’t floss or don’t brush your teeth at least twice a day, you should probably have dental checkups at least twice a year.
You should always make a dental appointment any time you experience any of the following: toothache, bleeding gums, swollen gums, sudden sensitivity to hot or cold foods or beverages, bad breath that gets worse or seems unrelated to foods that you eat, popping sounds in your jaw or painful jaws, a crack in a tooth, a loose tooth or a sore or spot in your mouth. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or another medical condition or if you are you pregnant, you should see the dentist to discuss how your condition may affect your oral health.
If you have a dental problem, frequent appointments may be necessary during treatment. Remember that early detection makes treatment for most problems easier, and routine exams are usually quicker and more comfortable than some treatments may be.