One-third of Americans skip seeing a dentist over the course of a year. There could be any number of reasons why people avoid a dental check-up, whether it’s due to fear or a lack of insurance.
Unfortunately, not visiting the dentist regularly can have consequences for our oral and overall health. Read on to learn how often you need a dental exam and why they’re so important.
How Often Do I Need a Dental Exam?
The American Dental Association (ADA) generally recommends that all children and adults visit a dentist every six months (twice a year) for a cleaning and exam. There are some exceptions; some people with periodontal disease or other medical conditions may be required to see their dentist more frequently. Such patients may also require a deep dental cleaning versus a regular one.
What About a Child’s First Dental Exam?
If you’re a parent, you may be wondering how old your child should be before they need to start seeing a dentist for regular exams. The answer is as soon as their first tooth appears, and no later than their first birthday.
If this seems early, it’s far better to take your young child to the dentist sooner rather than later. The dentist can make sure your child’s teeth are being cleaned and developing properly and don’t have bottle baby decay.
Taking your child to the dentist while they’re very young will also get them used to the environment and the equipment that is used. It helps your child see that the dentist is not a scary place and will help them grow up to be adults who take their oral health seriously.
Seniors and Dental Exams
Senior citizens can also see a dentist twice a year unless they have gum disease, dry mouth, or other conditions that need to be monitored more often.
If you have dentures, you still need to see the dentist regularly. The shape of your mouth can change over time affecting the dentures’ fit.
Why You Need an Exam Twice a Year
We see our other doctors usually once a year; why is it recommended to see the dentist twice annually? Visiting the dentist this frequently alerts you to any problems that need to be fixed, such as cavities or gingivitis. The dentist will also screen you for oral cancer and any other conditions that affect the mouth, tongue, and palate.
Regular dental check-ups can help save you money and pain in the long run. If a cavity goes undetected because you’re not visiting the dentist, the decay can spread and lead to a toothache that requires root canal treatment to save the tooth. Eventually, it can even lead to the loss of the affected tooth.
By visiting the dentist regularly any dental issues can be caught early and thus treated before they become costly and painful.
Researchers have also determined there’s a possible connection between dental problems and medical conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Your oral health affects your entire health, and taking control of it can prevent harmful bacteria in the mouth from infecting other parts of your body.
Having a dental exam twice a year is one of the best things you can do to take care of your health and well being.
What Happens During a Dental Exam
When you visit your dental office for a check-up, you’ll most likely be greeted by the hygienist. You’ll receive a thorough cleaning and any needed x-rays.
The hygienist will ask if you are experiencing any problems with your teeth and gums. They will then use instruments to scrape tartar and plague off your teeth and from underneath your gums.
Your teeth will be polished with a special dental paste to shine them up and remove any stains. The hygienist will floss your teeth and you’ll be asked to rinse your mouth to remove any grit and debris. If you’re not doing a thorough job cleaning your teeth at home, they may offer advice and point out problem areas to pay attention to.
After the cleaning is complete, the dentist will examine first your x-rays and then you. They may begin by feeling your neck and glands for any lumps or swelling and asking you to swallow.
They will check the inside of your mouth including your gums, cheeks, palate, and tongue. They may also check your bite as well.
Your teeth and gums will be the last to be examined. You’ll open your mouth wide, and a mirror will be aimed at it so the dentist can see everything clearly.
The dentist uses a mirror and probing tool to gently check all surfaces of the teeth for decay, chips, and cracks. They may also measure gaps and pockets in the gums that can indicate gum disease.
If the dentist detects any problems that require care, they’ll chart them with the hygienist to keep track of what needs to be repaired. Each tooth is numbered from one to 32, and the dentist refers to teeth that need to be fixed by their corresponding number.
After the exam, you’ll either be good to go for another six months or the dentist will go over what they found and the recommended course of action for dental work. They’ll let you know how many return visits are needed and you’ll book these appointments with the front desk when you check out.
The entire cleaning and exam should be painless. You’ll even get to take home a sample of toothpaste and floss along with a new brush!
Schedule a Dental Exam With Us
Whether you need a pediatric dentist for your child’s first dental exam, or you’re due for one yourself, we can help keep your family’s smiles healthy. Our caring, friendly staff is happy to clean and check your teeth. Book an appointment online with us!