“Why do I need to go to the dentist every _____?” You can fill in the blank – I hear that blank space filled with words ranging from “6 months”, “year” to leaving it totally blank so the response is actually, “Why do I ever need to go to the dentist?” I think that’s a legitimate question, and I also believe that the answer varies tremendously based on the individual’s health and needs.
First, let me be clear: No one “needs” to go to the dentist. There I said it, and some of my colleagues may come after me for that statement. BUT (and you notice that word is in bold, capital letters), almost all people benefit from going, especially if they want to keep their mouths and the rest of their bodies in good health. While there are probably a few folks who could keep their teeth and stay dentally healthy without ever going to a dentist, the number of those people is very low.
What we really should be discussing are each individual’s desires. Good health, clean and shiny teeth, fresh breath, keeping natural teeth for a lifetime, or simply the ability to eat and enjoy a good meal? There are others who simply don’t seem to really care about these things. For them, there is a further issue – systemic health. If good overall health is important to you, so are regular visits to the dentist. Indeed, even if someone has false teeth, regular visits are important to allow for early detection of possible cancers and other systemic diseases.
Regular visits to the dentist are now considered important enough that some medical policies are paying for people with diabetes to see their dentist four times per year. Those companies do this because there is solid evidence that consistent dental care reduces the incidence of major medical problems! That’s truly a case of dental care potentially saving someone’s life.
So if you are one who wants to keep your mouth and the rest of you healthy and have a bright shiny smile, how often should you visit us? As a first premise, that’s a question to discuss with us -- ask us how often you would benefit from periodic visits. Then ask us for the reasoning behind that answer. Many of us were raised with the idea of seeing our dentist twice a year and brushing our teeth twice a day. I don’t know that either of those ideas is well supported by clinical evidence. There are simply too many other factors.
Consider these factors:
- Do you currently have a high decay rate? (For example, do you need fillings more than once per year?)
- Do you have a mouth full of old fillings and / or crowns? (This is a good clue to your historic susceptibility to dental disease.)
- Have you had or do you currently have some form of gum disease? If so, how severe is it, is there bone damage, and how easily do your gums bleed?
- What is your systemic health status?
- Do you have diabetes or other inflammatory-related diseases such as heart disease?
- If you have any of these diseases, how well controlled are they?
- Has your medical doctor recommended you see a dentist? (This might happen because you are going to have surgery soon or because your physician suspects you have active dental problems.)
- Are you pregnant? (If so, you being in good dental health is really important for the health of your baby.)
After all those factors are carefully weighed, what is the final answer? Most people do come for a visit two times a year. That may be as much because they have a dental benefit plan that pays for two visits a year as for any other reason. We have some clients in our practice that we plan to see about once a year, and sometimes that gets stretched out to once every eighteen months. I’m comfortable with that interval when they have a very low incidence of dental problems, are in good systemic health, and take consistently excellent care of their mouths. On the other end of that spectrum are the people who don’t take very good care of their mouths, whether they are systemically healthy or not. We want to see those people every three or four months, and sometimes as frequently as every two months. That allows us to help them maintain a better dental condition than they have been able to do for themselves.
We also have a few of our clients that are healthy, both dentally and systemically, and simply want to come in every two to three months because they want stains cleaned off their teeth. Some people really love how their mouth feels after having their teeth cleaned.
So talk with us and let us work it out together! Together, we can determine what is right for you!