The dentist isn’t typically a place that anybody wants to go to, but heading over to your favorite hygienist for an exam and cleaning is necessary for reducing your risk of developing cavities and decay down the line. Plus, there’s nothing better than leaving the office with a little goodie bag of new toothbrushes and floss.
Regular visits and dental appointments can improve your dental health and oral hygiene, reduce plaque build-up, detect and treat gingivitis, and more.
But how often should you actually be going? What’s the minimum number of times that you should see a dentist in a year, and is it possible to go too much? Why do we even need to see a dentist every so often? Let’s take a look at everything there is to know.
A good rule of thumb made by most dental professionals is twice per year, and more specifically, every six months for dental treatment. So why is this the magic number for preventing dental problems and maintaining oral hygiene habits?
In most cases, regular check-ups with a dentist at this frequency for a cleaning and exam will be able to healthily reverse certain ailments before they become too severe. This allows hygienists to be able to fill cavities, treat tooth pain, or diagnose gum disease early on so that you feel less pain and discomfort down the road and have fewer dental issues.
Additionally, these visits act as preventative care, too. Dentists can remove plaque and tartar build-up that can harden and lead to cavities. These substances can only be removed with the special tools that dental hygienists use.
With that said, there are circumstances where individuals may need to come to the dentist more often.
For most people with relatively healthy teeth and gums, going to the dentist twice a year is usually more than enough to prevent and treat certain diseases. However, certain individuals may need a dental checkup a bit more often.
Cancer patients are at a higher risk of developing tooth and gum diseases because many cancer medications lead to dry mouth. Saliva neutralizes harmful acids in the mouth that can lead to cavities, so it is important for cancer patients on these medications to come more often in order to frequently clean the mouth and check for cavities and other oral health problems.
Smokers should see the dentist more often, as tobacco users are ten times more likely to get oral cancer compared to nonsmokers. If you’re unwilling to quit smoking, you should visit a dentist more often so that they can detect the signs of this life-threatening condition early enough to enact healthful treatments.
Gum disease, or periodontitis, is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. This is because gum disease can increase the risk of bacterial infection in the body, which can affect the heart valves. It is especially important to maintain your oral health if you have artificial heart valves.
If you have an underlying heart condition, you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re seeing the dentist a bit more frequently just to ensure your overall health and wellbeing.
Similar to heart disease, individuals with diabetes are more likely to develop gum infections. This may be because individuals with type 2 diabetes tend to eat diets that are higher in sugars and fats, which are acidic and abrasive to the outer layer of a tooth, leading to more gum and tooth decay.
For that reason, it is also important that diabetic individuals get a regular cleaning and exam a bit more frequently.
A routine oral check-up and cleaning usually take less than an hour to complete. That means you only need to devote two hours of your entire year to this potentially life-saving practice. If you’re nervous about going to a dental exam because it’s been a while since your last check-up, here’s everything you can expect.
Cleaning your teeth is probably going to be the main part of your check-up, and that’s because it’s arguably the most important part.
A teeth cleaning by a dental hygienist is different from what you might do when brushing your teeth at home. First, hygienists will use special dental tools to remove tartar from your tooth’s surface.
Tartar is the hardened version of plaque, which accumulates when erosive acids build up on your tooth’s enamel. While plaque can be brushed and flossed away, tartar requires removal with special dental tools.
Then, they’ll clean and polish your teeth with special gritty toothpaste and an electric device that scrubs away debris and leaves your teeth nice and shiny. Finally, they’ll floss your teeth to remove any remaining particles.
They may also alert you of certain areas that need a little more attention when brushing and flossing, and they can also help advise you on the right ways to brush.
If you’re due for x-rays, a hygienist may do this before brushing your teeth. This allows them to take a look underneath your gum line to see if any teeth are impacted or problematic. It also gives the dentist a chance to look at them before examining your mouth at the end of your session.
Your dentist will also use a tiny mirror and other tools to examine each one of your teeth for cavities, chips, or cracks that might require some special attention. In some cases, minor fillings can be completed on the same day. But if you need a more involved treatment like root canals, you may need to reschedule in order to come back another day.
A dentist may also examine the condition of existing dental work, like fillings, bridges, or crowns. These don’t last forever, so a dentist can check their progress and possibly recommend that you get them replaced.
Fluoride treatments are often done as the last step of your visit, which are used as a protectant for your teeth to prevent cavities for several months. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that can strengthen tooth enamel to reduce the risk of cavities.
Dental services and dental cleanings are some of the most basic forms of dental care possible, and they are also some of the most essential. For that reason, both of these are typically covered 100% by your dental insurance.
If you don’t have coverage, you can expect to pay around $108 for an exam and another $118 for the cleaning, totaling over $200 for just an hour of your time. While it’s a necessary service, this is an inaccessible price tag for many people.
The problem is furthered by the fact that nearly 50% of dentate adults are without dental coverage in the United States, leaving millions of people without access to care. And without routine exams, cavities and tooth decay may worsen, leading to pain and discomfort in uninsured individuals.
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And with our transparent pricing, you can know exactly what you’ll owe before you go. And in most cases, you can save up to 50% compared to the national average. That means oral exams and cleanings cost you much less than the retail price, giving you easy access to necessary care without the stress of insurance.
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Routine dental exams and cleanings might feel like a nuisance, but that typically just means you’re doing a great job of taking care of your teeth. You should visit a dentist once every six months to receive an exam and cleaning in order to prevent problems while also getting you quick treatment for pre-existing ones.
Individuals with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or those who smoke may benefit from going a bit more often, as these conditions and activities can enhance the risk of developing tooth decay and gum infection, which may become serious if left untreated.
During your visit, you’ll probably go through routine cleaning, x-rays, fluoride treatments, as well as a full oral examination. This all ensures that your mouth is looking as healthy as it can possibly be.
Don’t let price get in the way of the care you need. Flossy is a pay-as-you-go service that can save you up to 50% on dental care. Find a dentist near you to get started — no insurance necessary.
Saliva - Spit | American Dental Association
Oral Cancer and Tobacco | Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Diabetes & Oral Health | National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research