While dentists usually recommend you get a dental checkup and cleaning twice a year, there are several reasons why you might need to see your dentist more often. Certain health issues can make more frequent cleanings a necessity and give your dentist a chance to monitor your overall health. In addition, personal preference can play a part in going more than twice a year.
Frequent dental checkups are important for your overall health. “Your dentist may be the first person to discover a major medical issue,” said Brent Rusnak, DDS.
Here are some reasons you might need to see the dentist more often.
As your providers examine your teeth and gums, they’re also looking for any abnormalities that may indicate undiagnosed health issues.
“Many diseases, such as diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and HIV, first manifest themselves inside your mouth,” Rusnak said. Diabetes can give you dry mouth, for example, while sudden movement of teeth may indicate osteoporosis. Bacteria from inflamed gums can migrate to your heart and cause inflammation there, while HIV may show up as dry mouth, thrush or sores in the mouth.
“If you have any of these issues, frequent checkups can help spot major problems before they get out of hand,” Rusnak said. Your dentist will advise you on how to follow up regarding any unexplained symptoms you might have and what to watch out for in the meantime.
Screening and Prevention in Your Dental Checkup
In addition to the tooth cleaning and examination of any sores or unusual conditions inside the mouth, you’ll usually get about a dozen other services during a regular checkup, Rusnak said. Dental services can include an oral cancer screening, a head and neck exam, a blood pressure screening, gum evaluation and X-rays.
Screening for gum disease is especially important, Rusnak said. “Gum disease increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and certain head and neck cancers,” he said. If you’re at risk for certain conditions, you may want to consider getting a dental exam more often as part of your prevention efforts.
Comfort and Cost
Visiting the dentist more frequently results in more comfortable visits, Rusnak said. It’s easier to keep tartar down, and catching cavities early can mean less drilling. And if you have braces, your orthodontist may recommend you see a dentist more often, because it’s easier for bacteria to build up among the bands and wire. “When you prolong the length of time between visits, you are likely to need more potentially uncomfortable dental work,” Rusnak said.
And studies show that prevention is vital when it comes to dental care, as relatively minor issues can turn into larger ones in a short amount of time. “Preventive dental care costs less than extensive dental treatment,” Rusnak said. “If the cost of treatment is a concern for you then you should prioritize your preventive dental visits.”
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