How often should you visit the dentist?
article by Raha Sepehrara
Regular dental visits are very important, not just to check the health of your teeth, but also that of your gums and your mouth in general.
During a dental check up your dentist asks about your concerns and then carries out a detailed examination. We always check for early signs of oral cancer, tooth decay and gum disease so that we can catch and treat any problems at the right stage. We always take a medical history and gain further details about your main dental issues, your social history, how much you smoke, drink, your lifestyle and your diet. All of these are important factors for assessment of your oral health and gum disease and cancer risks.
Your dentists will then carry out a clinical examination starting with checking your temporomandibular joint (TMJ, what connects your lower jaw to the rest of your head), looking out for clicks, pain and any sign of arthritis. This is a common source of headaches and joint pain issues that we see a lot of. Other checks include:
- The lips both on the outside and inside are examined for any signs of ulcers and lumps and bumps.
- The tongue is checked thoroughly to ensure it is a healthy pink colour and that there are no signs of red or white patches or asymmetry. These may signify disease or infection.
- The roof of the mouth and inner cheek tissues are next examined to ensure they are healthy and there are no colour changes or signs of unexpected ulcers or growths.
- We check each individual tooth, for cavities, abscesses and also tooth wear.
- The gums are next examined for any signs of gum disease using a probe.
All results of this examination are accurately charted on your dental record and each time we compare the results of your examination with the previous one. In particular we record your caries risk, gum disease risk and oral cancer risk.
I agree with the American Dental Association and many other associations who believe that frequency of dental examination should be tailored to the patients oral health status and needs.
A high risk patient may require more frequent visits like six monthly check ups and three monthly hygienists, someone low risk may need yearly visits and two hygienist visits every six months. Everyone is different so each patient's dentist is best placed to set the frequency of visits.
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