Dental professionals have routinely advocated the six-month checkup as a prerequisite for good oral health, but a new study finds that having cleanings twice a year might not have as much of an impact as generally thought.
A recent study published in The Journal of Dental Research looked at insurance claims from more than 5,100 adults over more than 16 years and classified them according to risk of periodontal disease, based on their history of smoking, diabetes and variations in the interleukin-1 gene. The study found that low-risk patients — those who presented none of those factors — showed no difference in tooth loss whether they saw their dentists once or twice each year.
No one-size-fits-all solution
The six-month checkup has long been a mainstay of the dentist’s arsenal against oral health problems, but researchers have suggested that such a routine might not be optimal for everyone. According to the study, one annual cleaning might be sufficient for some patients with no risk factors while others may need two or more checkups each year.
That doesn’t mean you can skip the dentist, though.
“The ADA encourages people to work closely with their dentists to identify any potential risk factors that would determine the need for and frequency of follow up visits to enhance the outcomes of preventive care,” the American Dental Assocation said in a statement.
“The frequency of their regular dental visits should be tailored by their dentists to accommodate for their current oral health status and health history.”
Checkups allow dentists to spot problems in their early stages when they are easier to treat. According to the ADA, more than 100 million Americans fail to see a dentist each year. Even if you have good oral hygiene habits, the ADA suggests working with your dentist to find the best plan to keep your teeth healthy.
What are some signs that I should go to the dentist?
The study focused only on tooth extraction and the risk factors that could contribute to gum disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half of all American adults age 30 and older have some form of periodontitis.
“An annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation includes a thorough assessment of periodontal health, including a detailed inventory of any risk factors for disease,” said Dr. Nancy L. Newhouse, DDS, MS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology. “A dental professional should examine your mouth once a year to identify existing periodontal disease as well as assess risk for future disease.”
One visit a year may be enough for some patients while others with more high-risk factors will need more appointments. Even if you do not have any of the high risk factors, you can still develop other oral problems. Some signs that you should see a dentist include:
- sensitive teeth
- puffy or sore gums that bleed when you brush or floss
- persistent bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
- medical conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or eating disorders
- recurrent dry mouth
- an abnormal sore or spot in your mouth
Make sure to see your dentist regularly
These aren’t the only symptoms that indicate that you need to make an appointment, so you should plan on seeing a dentist before any of these occurrences pop up. Many times dentists can identify problems before they become apparent, and sometimes they can diagnose some diseases or medical conditions that have symptoms in the mouth.
October is National Dental Hygiene Month, so we recommend being proactive and taking preventative measures to maintain your oral health. Make sure to maintain good habits such as brushing at least twice a day and flossing daily. Regular checkups will allow us to identify any possible problems, so schedule an appointment today and we’ll help you come up with a plan personalized to your dental needs – to help keep your smile healthy.