Many people believe that keeping your teeth healthy only entails brushing them twice a day and flossing. Doing these things is very important, but actually going to the dentist for a routine cleaning and checkup is a crucial part of taking care of your teeth. The American Dental Association recommends that you go to the dentist every 6 months for a dental exam, cleaning, and any dental treatment needed. Going to the dentist can detect early warning signs of serious problems such as tooth decay, cavities, tooth damage, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), gum disease, and oral cancer.
Why every 6 months?
- To prevent plaque and tartar build-up
- Even if you brush and floss regularly, plaque and tartar will develop over time. A dentist or dental hygienist will do a thorough cleaning of your teeth to remove all the plaque and tartar. Plaque and tartar contain dangerous bacteria that can cause serious gum disease. They also eat away at your teeth and cause cavities. Once tartar develops on a tooth, you can’t brush it off – a hygienist or dentist will have to use special tools to remove it.
- Allows for early detection of oral problems
- An oral examination will be done as well as x-rays to look for any jaw issues, cavities, teeth that have impacted in your mouth, or bone deterioration. The dentist will also do a check for oral cancer, which is crucial to catch early in order to increase your survival rate. The earlier the dentist detects problems, the more effective the treatment is.
- At-home care
- The dentist or hygienist will also help with how to take care of your teeth at home. They will demonstrate how to brush your teeth and how to floss. They will also recommend toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss to best care for your teeth in between dentist visits.
What happens if you don’t go to the dentist?
- You could lose your teeth
- This is one of the most serious consequences of avoiding the dentist. Almost all things that affect tooth health are treatable if caught early. Once you lose a tooth or multiple teeth, your options are limited. You could choose to have a costly implant, dentures, a bridge, or a dental crown. All of these could cost thousands of dollars, even with insurance. It is not recommended to live without teeth or dentures because this eventually leads to bone deterioration, which in the end will cost more money to fix than the implant would have.
- Painful toothaches
- Cavities and dental problems only become more painful the longer they go untreated. You could mask the pain with pain pills, or you could go to the dentist to get it fixed and alleviate the pain entirely.
- Gum disease
- This is caused by long term neglect of the teeth and gums. Symptoms of gum disease are bleeding and sore gums, especially when brushing your teeth. Gum disease can cause you to lose your teeth. Those with gum disease are also more likely to have heart disease.
- Painful and costly procedures
- The longer you put off a problem, the more it will cost to fix it. For example, what would have been a simple cavity filling a year ago has now become a tooth implant to replace a dead tooth because it wasn’t fixed in a timely manner.
- Increased risk for other diseases
- There is increasing evidence linking gum disease with heart disease, diabetes, dementia, respiratory problems, and cancer.
- Stained teeth
- Smoking, eating certain foods, drinking coffee, etc. stains your teeth and regular cleanings from your dentist will ensure that the enamel of your teeth stays healthy and white.
- Develop bad breath
- Tooth decay and gum disease will cause bad breath that won’t go away without proper dental treatment.
Going to the dentist is an important part of your health. Go at least once a year, and if possible, every 6 months for a routine checkup and cleaning. Here are some tips to maintain a healthy mouth between visits:
- Brush two times a day for two minutes with a soft bristle brush.
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the brush is frayed.
- Use toothpaste with fluoride.
- Make sure to clean all surfaces of your tooth including the front, chewing surface, and back of the tooth.
- Floss at least once a day, making sure to get between and around each tooth.
At your next visit, ask your dentist the proper way to brush and floss your teeth.