Many of us believe that we should go to the dentist every six months, even if we do not always do it. However, whether these biannual controls are really necessary is a matter of discussion. In fact, it is unknown, exactly, when the idea of the six-month period appeared; some believe it dates back to the 18th century, well before controlled clinical trials, that could test and attest its benefits. People with many tooth problems need to visit the dentist frequently. But what about the others?
Should I go to the dentist frequently?
Even if you pay great attention to oral hygiene at home, you should not neglect regular visits to the dentist. These are the best weapons against dental conditions, but also the best way to keep your smile beautiful and healthy.
Our smile is our business card, which is why we must take care of our oral health. The most important thing you need to consider is that once you take care of your oral hygiene, you will prevent the appearance or development of dental conditions.
Permanent teeth are more vulnerable to cavities as soon as they have grown, therefore dental checks are indicated at regular intervals for six- to eight-year children. In adolescence, teeth are less vulnerable until the wisdom teeth appear, on average at the age of twenty. Anyway, the risk varies at different times of life.
Any periodic visit to the dentist will check the condition of your teeth and gums, and in cases where a more detailed check is required, the doctor will also request dental radiography. This is a very fast, simple, and completely painless procedure that is used to produce images from inside the body. Dentists note that digital dental radiography has become a very safe procedure, thanks to modern technologies, and helps to obtain a digital, complex, and detailed image from which a proper diagnosis can be given. This method uses X-ray radiation and is very effective when bones need to be analyzed and seen, but a wide range of conditions can also be detected.
Digital dental radiography takes just 9 seconds and can get a clear picture of the details present in the teeth. The sensors of the apparatus, sensitive to the photons of X-ray radiation, allow for superior image quality with a higher resolution than the conventional film. Digital processing can highlight important details of teeth and bone volume, which cannot be analyzed in a dental examination without recent dental radiography.
During regular checks at the dentist, complete cleaning of the oral cavity is also made. This implies scaling and a professional brushing in order to remove the bacterial plaque and tartrate. Bacterial plaque deposits and tartrate accumulation are inevitable, no matter how much you take care of your teeth. If you wonder why, then you must know that each time you eat or drink sugar-containing drinks, there are certain micro-organisms that remain in your mouth, in areas inaccessible to normal dental brushing. Bacterial plaque is formed and, over time, it leads to the appearance of dental plaque and the spots on the surface of your teeth.
Both gum and tooth problems are often caused by deposits of bacterial plaque. If you bleed during tooth brushing, then you should know that it is very likely to have the gums affected by the plaque and tartar deposits. When the tartrate is not removed periodically, it will not only affect your gum, but also the root of your tooth, and you may even lose teeth. The scaling and brushing realized in the dentist’s office will not only ensure healthy teeth, but will also help you get rid of the stains of coffee, nicotine, or food colors, so it will also influence the esthetics of your teeth.
Why do we have to go to the dentist periodically?
In most cases, interdental cavities are observed during regular checks at the dentist. The cavity is one of the most common causes of toothache, according to a recent study, and represents an increasingly worrying condition, given that many children suffer from it.
At an early stage, the cavity does not show symptoms, most of the time, nor do we realize that it forms on the surface of our teeth. When the disease reaches an advanced stage, infection occurs, and symptoms occur in the form of pain, bad smells, unpleasant taste in the mouth, and spots, brown or black, on the surface of the tooth. As the cavity evolves, it affects the dental flesh, causing sensitivity and intense pain. When the cavity reaches an advanced stage, pain can be identified whenever you consume sweets, hot, cold, or sparkling drinks. Left untreated, the cavities can lead to abscess and infection and subsequently can lead to tooth loss.
In order to reduce the risk of dental cavities, you shouldn’t pay attention just to the food you eat, but also to follow the basic rules of good oral hygiene. Dentists recommend that we brush our teeth at least twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, and also to use mouth water and dental floss every time.
Poor oral hygiene can have serious effects on your teeth. Often, poor hygiene results in teeth problems, which may become more severe. Even if there are many causes, most dental problems are related to poor oral hygiene.
According to dentists, the use of dental floss can be even more important than tooth brushing when it comes to the prevention of cavities and periodontal disease. Dental floss removes bacterial plaque and tartrate but also helps to remove debris that remains between teeth and gums and cannot be removed by dental brushing. The use of dental floss also helps to combat bad smelling and to reduce the risks of gum disease. Mouth water is an antiseptic substance that helps clean out inaccessible places from the mouth. It has an anti-bacterial effect and gives a fresh smell. It is recommended that a rinse should last about 20-30 seconds and be done after washing the teeth.
In 2000, three-quarters of the dental practitioners interviewed in New York recommended regular controls every six months, although there are no studies to examine whether the frequency of visits led to a difference in patients with low risk of gingival or tooth diseases. Today, many organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry continue with the recommendation of the six-month checks.
For decades, there have been voices saying that choosing six months as the ideal interval between checks is arbitrary. Since 1977, Aubrey Sheiham, a professor of dental public health at the University College London, published a paper in the Lancet lamenting the lack of evidence to support the six-month checks. Almost 40 years later, he still stands by his point of view.
In 2003, a systematic analysis examined the research that was carried out at the time. The results were mixed. Some studies found no difference between the number of broken teeth, fillings, or missing teeth in those who frequently went to the dentist compared to those who did not go to the checks, while other studies show fewer fillings in those who have often gone. When it came to gums, researchers found no difference in the amount of bleeding, plaque, or gum on the final teeth. One study found that going to the dentist more often than once a year did not differ in the size of tumors in oral cancer diagnosis, while another study found that if people waited more than a year between visits, tumors could have become larger than in diagnosis.
Last year, Cochran Collaboration carried out a similar systematic analysis of research and they were disappointed in what they found. The quality and quantity of the study were simply too poor to support or disprove the idea of six-monthly checks. They discovered only one controlled study in which patients were randomized to go to the dentist every year or every two years. The results of those who went every year were better, but dental personnel may have known the patients were in a study, which could have influenced the treatment received and controlling the results.
There is something else that needs to be taken into account.
Even if a study finds that, for example, children who go more often to the dentist have fewer fillings, there may also be other factors. Those children may have other advantages; they may belong to a higher socio-economic group, eat healthier, and have access to alternative information for oral health or to qualitative dental equipment.
There is also a secondary purpose for dental visits. Even if the dentist does not find any problems, he will certainly remind you to continue cleaning and caring for your teeth properly – although there is no consensus on how to do so best.
How often should you go to the dentist, then?
Specialized bodies that provide guidance to the National Health Service in England and Wales (such as Nice), say the frequency of dental checks depends on the individual. They recommend children visit the dentist at least once a year because their teeth, in general, can decay faster, while healthy adults can go every two years. They even say that people who have demonstrated to take good care and maintain their teeth hygiene and gums constantly can go even rarely to a dental check, every few years away. Another group of experts from Finland gives similar advice. They have recommended since 2001 that under-age kids with low risk of dental problems should perform dental checks every 18 months to two years.
The next time you are reminded of the next dental check how do you proceed? All of us would like an excuse to go to the dentist as rarely as possible, and the good news is that if you don’t have dental problems, you can probably wait for more than six months between visits. But, exactly how much you can wait before meeting your dentist depends on you and your oral situation.