Routine dental checkup
Regular dental checkup helps protect not just your oral health, but also your overall health. For instance, signs and symptoms of some systemic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and diabetes, might show up in the mouth first. If your hygienist or dentist finds indications of disease, he or she will suggest that you see your doctor.
Also, the exam gives your dentist a chance to provide tips on caring for your teeth and to detect oral health problems early — when they’re most treatable.
What happens during a dental check-up?
At each check-up, your dentist should:
- examine your teeth, gums and mouth
- ask about your general health and any problems you’ve had with your teeth, mouth or gums since your last visit
- ask about, and give you advice on, your diet, smoking and alcohol use, and teeth-cleaning habits
- discuss a date for your next visit
How often should I have a dental checkup?
After your check-up, your dentist will recommend a date for your next visit. The time to your next check-up could be as short as 3 months or as long as 2 years (or up to 1 year if you’re under 18).
Generally, the lower your risk of dental problems, the longer you can wait before your next check-up. So people with good oral health will probably need to attend only once every 12 to 24 months, but those with more problems will need check-ups more often.
What about dental treatments?
This advice is about routine check-ups only. You may have other appointments for dental treatments such as fillings, teeth cleaning (scale and polish), having a tooth taken out or emergency treatment.
If you have problems with your teeth between check-ups, contact your dental surgery to make an earlier appointment. In an emergency outside normal working hours, contact your surgery on its usual number and you will be told how to access emergency dental care.
If I am seeing a new dentist, what essential information do I need to share on the first visit?
Your new dentist will want to learn about your oral health so that he or she can notice changes or problems more easily during future visits. First, however, even before the review of your oral health, your dentist will want to know more about your general health. Areas that he or she will discuss include:
- Medical history/current medicines: Your dentist will want to know if you have been diagnosed with any diseases. It is important to tell your dentist all of your health issues, not just those you think relate to your mouth. Several diseases, diabetes for example, can increase the risk of gum disease, may require use of a different anesthesia or even a different approach to treatments or prevention. Bring a list of all medicines you are currently taking and their dosages. Some medicines can cause dry mouth, which can increase your risk of cavities. Other important reasons for your dentist to know your medicines are so that he or she doesn’t prescribe a medicine that could interact with one you are already taking and to change the type of anesthesia given, if necessary.
- Current dental health: Don’t hesitate to tell your dentist if you think you have a new cavity, sensitive teeth, feel any lumps or bumps or have any oral health concerns. By informing your dentist of any symptoms you might be experiencing, you might help him or her make an early diagnosis.
- Dental fears: Let your dentist know if you have any fears about going to the dentist or receiving dental care. Dental treatments have changed drastically from years ago and so have pain management options. Your dentist will discuss ways to ease your fears, minimize pain and make you feel more comfortable.
Why are twice a year appointments necessary?
It’s important to see your dentist twice a year:
- So that your dentist can check for problems that you might not see or feel
- To allow your dentist to find early signs of decay (decay doesn’t become visible or cause pain until it reaches more advanced stages).
- To treat any other oral health problems found. Generally, the earlier a problem is found, the more manageable it is.
Are there people who need more frequent or less frequent appointments?
Twice yearly appointments work well for most people. However, some people may need to be seen more often. Such people include those who have:
- Gum disease
- Family members with a history of plaque build-up or cavities
- A weakened immune system (the body’s own ability to fight off infections and diseases)
- Experienced certain life events — particularly those that cause stress or illness. Under these circumstances, changes in the mouth or an infection could occur.
On the other hand, people who have taken great care of their teeth and gums and have gone years without any problems might need to see the dentist less often.
Ask your dentist what visitation schedule works best for your state of dental health.