Regular trips to the dentist can keep your and your family’s teeth in great condition, but how often does ‘regular’ mean? On this page we take a closer look at how often you should see a dentist.
How often you get a check-up at the dentist depends on your individual oral health. People with a higher risk of oral diseases should see a dentist every three to six months; people with a low risk should have a check-up one to two years. Children should have check-ups every six months.
These time frames are quite different to the usual advice of seeing a dentist every six months, but these recommendations come from a 2021 study by Dundee University, Manchester University and Cochrane Oral Health. But what do the results mean for you? Read on and we will look at the recommendations in more detail.
Do you really need teeth cleaning every 6 months?
As the above study shows, not all adult patients need a routine check-up every six months. For some patients a visit to the dentist every one to two years is sufficient. Below are some of the factors that may mean you need to get your teeth checked more regularly:
- You have current oral health issues such as gum disease, inflammation, tartar build-up, or cavities.
- You have had oral health issues in the past or a family history of oral health issues.
- You have other health issues such as diabetes or a weakened immune system, which can make issues such as gum disease more common.
- You smoke, have a diet high in sugar and starch, or practice poor oral hygiene.
- You regularly drink liquids which can stain teeth, such as tea, coffee, and red wine.
- You are pregnant – pregnant people are more susceptible to gingivitis.
- Children should see a dentist every six months.
Before you make any decision about your oral health, it’s important to discuss your concerns and options with your dentist. They are in the best position to tell you how often you should have a check-up and whether they believe you should have check-ups more regularly.
For many people it’s OK to go to the dentist once a year, but there’s certainly no harm in going more often.
You might want to visit the dentist more regularly for cosmetic treatments, such as teeth whitening. Or you may simply want the peace of mind that comes from having your teeth professionally cleaned and checked every six months.
What stops people from having regular routine dental check-ups?
In recent months, the impact of covid-19 has meant that for many people having regular dental check-ups has been very difficult. But the results of this survey should help reassure people that leaving longer between check-ups may not necessarily be a negative thing for everyone, particularly if you look after your teeth well:
“This research is especially valuable when considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Patient access to dental treatment has been limited and may remain so for some time. But the results of this study provide reassurance that intervals between check-ups can be extended beyond 6 months without detriment to oral health.”
Patrick Fee, Clinical Research Fellow and Specialty Registrar in Restorative Dentistry, School of Dentistry, University of Dundee
Financial reasons, combined with the pandemic, can prevent some people from booking in for regular dental visits. An estimated six million adults living in the US lost their dental insurance after losing their jobs because of the pandemic.
Around 28 million US adults have delayed seeing a dentist because of the cost, lack of insurance or the fear of being exposed to covid-19. Cost alone is the main barrier for dental care for many people, and it’s the most skipped healthcare treatment because of the cost.
Without regular dental check-ups, minor issues can become worse and more expensive to treat. If you’re having trouble paying for dental treatments, look for a dental practice that offers flexible payment options and discuss your concerns and options with them.
How often should toddlers go to the dentist?
Most toddlers should visit the dentist every six months. However, some children may need to have more frequent visits, either due to oral health issues or to increase their confidence if they’re nervous about visiting the dentist.
Research shows that more than half of parents believe that children should have their first trip to the dentist after they turn two years old. But dentist professionals recommend children should have their first check-up once their first tooth emerges, or by the time they turn one if they don’t yet have teeth.
Taking your toddler for regular dental check-ups, as well as cleaning their teeth twice a day, can help reduce the risk of cavities. Worryingly, nearly 28% of children aged between two and five have cavities in their milk teeth, so regular visits are vital to keep your toddlers’ teeth in top condition.
Visiting the dentist from an early age can help prevent oral health issues, and help children become used to having check-ups so they feel more comfortable during their visits.
How long can you go without seeing a dentist?
If you maintain good dental hygiene, such as thoroughly brushing your teeth twice a day and regularly flossing, you’ll be less likely to have issues with your teeth. In these cases, some individuals could comfortably go for longer periods, such as up to a couple of years, without seeing a dentist.
Leaving a long time between visits isn’t ideal though. Small issues, such as minor cavities or tartar build-up, could become more serious the longer you go without seeing a dentist. Even if you maintain good oral hygiene at home, not visiting the dentist for more than two years could mean issues go untreated.
If you don’t see a dentist for over two years, particularly if you like sugary treats or smoke, then you could be running the risk of permanent and painful damage to your teeth. After this timeframe, small issues could have progressed, and you may end up with gum disease, or needing major treatments such as root canal surgery.
The health of your teeth and mouth can impact on your general health and during routine regular check-ups a dentist can spot signs of disease which could lead to other health issues. For example, several studies have shown a possible connection between chronic gum inflammation from periodontitis and the development of cardiovascular problems.
Regular routine dental visits for the whole family can ensure everyone’s teeth are in the best condition. If you don’t currently have a dentist and are unsure of how to find the best one for you and your family, read our blog post The Most Important Qualities A Great Family Dentist Must Have.
If you live in Howard County or near Ellicott City, MD and you want to find out how often you should visit a dentist, schedule a check-up with our friendly team here at Menton Family Dental Care. We can review your oral health and let you know how often you should come for a check-up. You can schedule an appointment by calling (410) 740-9400 or by clicking the Get Started button below!