People are busy. Life is getting more hectic all the time. It seems like we all have too many demands on us and too few hours in the day – so how can we find time to fit in a dental appointment along with everything else? Why do we have to go to the dentist, and how often should we go?
The short answer is: every six months.
The long answer is, well, longer…
Modern dentistry evolved in the past 50-60 years starting after World War II. One of the challenges faced by the U.S. during World War II was that the American military leaders discovered that many of their new Army recruits did not have very good teeth – in the “olden days,” the practice of dentistry was more focused on fixing problems (mainly: pulling teeth) than it was on preventing dental problems and maintaining overall dental health. Most Americans, especially those in small towns and rural areas, never saw a dentist unless they had a painful toothache, which usually led to having a tooth (or multiple teeth) pulled.
In the years since World War II, American dentistry has shifted its focus from “pulling teeth” to “preventing problems” – before they develop into more harmful, painful and costly oral health issues.
So this is the reason why you need to see your dentist every six months: even if you have good teeth and rarely have any problems with your oral health, your dentist needs to check up on your teeth just to make sure everything is OK. Your dentist is there to help maintain your overall oral health and prevent problems before they come up.
Even if you’ve never had a cavity in your life and you brush and floss every day, your dentist can detect problems with your teeth that you are unable to see. Your dentist can look for the signs of tooth decay and other warning signs so that if a problem with your teeth does start to develop, it can be fixed before it reaches a stage where it is more costly and difficult to correct.
Another benefit of going to the dentist every six months is to receive a thorough teeth cleaning from a dental hygienist. Most of us cannot come even close to getting our teeth as clean as they feel after a good scrubbing by the hygienist – and your dental hygienist can also help check for signs of trouble – whether it’s receding gums, bleeding gums or other potential warning signs.
In fact, for some patients, every six months might not be often enough. If you have a history of oral health problems, or if you are going through a particularly stressful time in your life, your dentist might want to see you more frequently. For example, pregnant women are often at higher risk for gingivitis – and severe gingivitis can be a risk factor for pre-term delivery and low-birthweight babies. If you are one of these “high-risk” dental patients, you might need to see your dentist even more often than every six months.
So that’s “the long answer!”
Even though we’re all busy and it’s hard to get excited about “yet another” appointment on the calendar, keeping your six-month appointment with your dentist is a good investment of your time – and money.