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We all receive those emails or postcards from our dentists, telling us it is time for another checkup. These typically arrive once every six months or once per year, depending on the provider you see. This pattern goes along with common belief for the past decades that we all should go in for dental exams and cleanings twice yearly. But now, opinions have changed. Many patients can get by with fewer dental visits.
What is the official position for dental visits today? Can we maintain good oral health by seeing the dentist annually, or do we need those six-month appointments?
Twice-Yearly Dental Visits vs. Annual Visits
Did you know that about half of adults over the age of 30 have chronic gum disease? This inflammatory condition leads to tooth loss when left untreated. This truth makes the Journal of Dental Research suggest that each person’s dental care schedule should meet their individual needs, not the needs of “population averages.” In fact, your risk for periodontal disease is the metric that the Journal points to as the primary determining factor in how often you see your dental care team.
The facts from recent studies indicate that low-risk patients can maintain good oral health by visiting their dental office once annually. When you do not suffer gum disease or other major oral conditions, there is no major benefit to seeing your dental practitioner a second time each year. But that is the big issue, whether you have oral health problems requiring treatment.
This changing opinion in the dental health field shows how there is no “one size fits all” approach to dental care, just like with any healthcare. According to researchers at the University of Michigan in the U.S., statistics reflect no difference in tooth loss in patients who visit their dental healthcare provider twice yearly, versus those visiting once each year.
The frequency of dental visits makes a difference in patients in a high-risk group for tooth loss. Among these, 17 percent had a tooth extracted after twice-yearly dental care. Among the same high-risk group who visited their dental office once each year, 22 percent had a tooth extraction. Researchers now claim that even twice per year may not be enough to prevent tooth loss in high-risk patients.
If you are high risk, you need to visit your dental office for twice-yearly exams and cleanings. If you are not high risk, you can visit less often. In reality, the best recommendation comes from your own dental care team. Follow their advice in making your own decisions about when to go in for treatment.
Why You Need Regular Checkups
Although the term “regular” is different for each individual patient, regular checkups still play a major role in your oral health. These visits give your care team the chance to find early signs of dental problems like gum disease, tooth decay and oral cancer. They also give you the chance to receive a dental cleaning. This cleaning follows your exam and removes hardened plaque from your teeth to prevent cavities and gum disease.
When your dental practitioner finds problems in your mouth, such as a cavity or gum disease, they discuss treatment options with you. But you can reduce your risk for these problems in the first place, simply by maintaining good home oral hygiene and attending dental appointments as recommended.
Talk to your dentist about the ideal frequency for your appointments and dental cleanings. They can provide a schedule that suits your individual needs. You can also decide to see them more frequently if you prefer, such as for that super clean feeling you enjoy after a professional cleaning.
How often do children need to visit their dental office?
It is typically most convenient for parents and children to visit their dental offices on the same frequency. But how often such visits must take place still varies according to individuals. Children should have their first dental appointment before age two. From there, the regularity of these visits in childhood depends on multiple factors such as their oral health status.
Seeing the dentist regularly in childhood is also important because it helps your child establish healthy oral health practices. During a dental visit, your child is held somewhat accountable for their own oral hygiene. The dental care team also helps them understand the importance of these practices. They guide your child in maintaining their best oral health as well as in visiting the dental office regularly. These are habits that start in childhood and carry over into their future.