Before you decide to skip your next appointment with the dentist, it is critical to know the risk and understand why regular dental checkups are important. Research shows that Americans are more apt to skip dental care over other types of healthcare. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a 2019 survey showed that a shocking one third of American adults did not see the dentist for a minimum of twelve consecutive months.
Does it really matter? Studies show that yes, it does! Some conditions such as gum disease that are left untreated can contribute to other serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and more. Without regular dental visits, a patient may not realize they have developed gum disease. This means the condition could continue to develop unmitigated in scope and seriousness until the patient is finally driven into the dentist’s office with unpleasant side effects. Unfortunately, gum disease could be so serious at this point it might be negatively impacting a person’s overall health.
Why Regular Dental Checkups Are Important
The biggest factor in why regular dental checkups are important is their ability for a professional Houston dentist to prevent, stop, or address common issues such as tooth decay before they become more painful and complicated in nature, and hopefully avoid other significant health concerns.
Dentists can be an excellent resource for patients who want to do everything they can to prevent problems from developing. While practicing good prevention techniques are not guaranteed to protect against oral health issues, they frequently make a positive impact. Patients can benefit from receiving prevention techniques like the following:
- Getting a professional teeth cleaning. With regular dental checkups, a dentist can assist patients in establishing better care designed for prevention. While patients should be brushing twice daily and flossing at home, dentists have access to special tools that allow them to perform a more thorough cleaning of hard-to-reach spaces which can help remove stubborn plaque and tartar, as well as fight off cavities.
- Identifying problems early. When making a visit to the dentist every six months, it provides the dentist with a benchmark to measure future developments against. For example, if the dentist finds a small spot on a tooth that seems suspect, they can mark it down to be reevaluated on the next visit. Six months later, if the spot has grown more pronounced, they can fill the cavity before it becomes a bigger problem. But plaque is not the only thing dentists look for. Periodontal disease, or the inflammation of the gums, could result in losing teeth if it is not identified and treated early.
- Oral cancer screenings. It is worth the effort to find a dentist that performs an oral cancer screening as part of their regular dental checkups for patients. This can include an examination of the tongue and surrounding areas. The earlier oral cancer is identified and treated, the better the rates for survival can be.
There are some procedures dentists can do to stop certain conditions from continuing to deteriorate. This can range from fairly simple applications to some that are more complicated, and may include:
- Dental sealants. This is a special coating dentists paint on the teeth to close up small holes or fissures that could possibly become a cavity. This procedure is not a permanent one so it is most often used in younger children to better protect their baby teeth until their permanent ones come in.
- Dental crowns. If a tooth causes immense pain or is cracked, it may require a dental crown. This customized implement is similar to a cap that fits over the tooth to protect it from further damage, usually caused by decay. Dental crowns have come a long way and can be tailored to match a patient’s preferences in material and color so that it more effortlessly blends in with their natural teeth.
- Root canals. Should the portion of the tooth under the enamel called the pulp (which is comprised of nerves and blood vessels) which extends from a tooth’s root become infected, it may require a root canal.
For some patients, regular dental checkups are important for having a consultation with their dentist about cosmetic dental issues, such as:
- Eliminating bad breath. Poor efforts at regular brushing and performing good dental hygiene may cause some individuals to experience ongoing struggles with chronic bad breath. The condition of halitosis or bad breath can be addressed by a dentist to eliminate an embarrassing problem when speaking or being in close contact with others.
- Whitening your teeth. Professional dentists know teeth, and that can include things that are not necessarily plaque or cavity related, such as tooth whitening. Although this is often considered a cosmetic treatment, a reputable dentist should be able to do an in-office teeth whitening treatment that is customized specifically for each individual patient. Professional teeth whitening offers better results than over the counter options.
- Grinding your teeth. It is not uncommon for some individuals to experience issues from grinding their teeth, especially while they sleep. This can wear the teeth down over time and change their shape or cause sensitivities. Mentioning this to a dentist at your regular checkup could result in them prescribing something similar to a night guard to help minimize these issues and give the patient some relief.
What to Expect at a Regular Dental Checkup
For those that may have never been to the dentist or have not been in quite some time, knowing what to expect at a regular dental checkup can help take away some of the apprehension they may be feeling about the experience.
Houston dentists regularly see patients from young to old and will work with you to put you more at ease. While a person’s appointment is typically with the dentist, it is not uncommon for another member of the staff such as a hygienist to conduct the first part of your checkup.
While the individual steps may vary slightly from provider to provider, most people can expect the following to take place during their regular dental checkup:
- X-rays. In most dentist offices, the patient can remain sitting in a chair while the x-rays are taken. The patient may be asked to wear a special apron or wrap around the torso area and will be asked to bite on an x-ray sensor that is put in their mouth. The process usually takes less than five minutes and can provide the dentist with key information about the health and movement of the teeth.
- A preliminary physical examination. This usually includes having a thorough examination of the teeth and gums done. Following this, a dental professional may go tooth by tooth to scrape off any large deposits of plaque that have accumulated.
- Teeth cleaning. After plaque deposits have been removed, the patient’s teeth will be professionally cleaned with a special polish and brush. A quick rinse here and there throughout the process will help wash away the gritty polish. In the case of younger children, a dentist may also recommend a fluoride treatment.
- Conducting a final examination. The dentist will likely review the x-rays taken earlier and compare them to the last available x-rays to note any significant changes. They then perform another physical examination. For patients that offer cancer screenings as part of the regular checkup process, it is typically done at this time.
Choose to be proactive in knowing why regular dental checkups are important instead of waiting until it is too late, which may lead to potentially painful consequences. Whether you have never been to the dentist before or have lapsed in your regular visits, it is time to take back control of your dental health.