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Recommended Frequency for General Dentistry Visits
General dentistry offices are responsible for the primary dental care of people of all ages. Dentists perform routine care and maintenance to keep your smile healthy and beautiful. The visits also help dentists diagnose dental issues that may not have obvious symptoms yet. Many people wonder how often they should see their dentist. The answer varies based on individual circumstances, but there is some general guidance to start with.
Every six months
Most experts recommend seeing a dentist twice a year for regular cleanings. Going every six months is an excellent guideline to follow if you have no major dental issues and have good oral hygiene and health. The American Dental Association recognizes that each person is unique but that seeing your dentist once or twice a year is a good baseline.
Exceptions to the twice-yearly recommendation
If you are at higher risk for tooth decay or gum disease, you may need to see your dentist more often. There is no shame in going every three to four months, especially if this is what your general dentistry office recommends. Some people are more prone to cavities, and more frequent cleanings can help keep related oral health problems at bay.
Individuals that are at higher risk of oral disease include smokers, those with a lowered immune response, people with diabetes, cancer patients, and people with heart disease. More frequent visits are generally beneficial so that potential problems can be caught right away.
You should definitely make an additional appointment to see your dentist if you have symptoms between regular cleanings. Examples of issues that warrant an additional appointment include:
- New sensitivity to hot or cold
- Bleeding when you brush or floss
- Tooth pain
- Eating difficulty
- Dry mouth
- Swollen gums
- Bad breath
- Jaw popping or pain
If you are pregnant, you should also plan on seeing your dentist more often. Pregnancy gingivitis is very common and requires extra care. Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease, and if left untreated, it can result in lost bone and teeth.
What to expect at a general dentistry visit
If you go to your dentist every six months, he or she will do a checkup and cleaning at both visits during the year. However, it is standard to get X-rays once annually. As a patient sitting in the dental chair, the visit may seem like nothing much is happening. However, a dentist can detect quite a bit from the visit.
A cleaning is a big part of the visit, and its purpose is to remove tartar and plaque that regular at-home care cannot remove. The hygienist also removes stains and polishes the teeth to improve the look of your smile.
After the cleaning, the dentist performs a thorough exam. This includes measuring the gum pockets to detect early stages of gum disease, inspecting each individual teeth for signs of decay, checking the soft tissues of the mouth, ensuring your bite is normal and even, and detecting any cracks or other damage to the teeth. The visit may also include an oral cancer screen. On visits in which X-rays are taken, the dentist is able to see the underlying parts of the teeth and gums that are undetectable to the common eye.
Why it matters
It is important to see your dentist regularly even if you do not have any current oral health concerns. This is because routine visits are preventative in nature and can also catch issues early before they become more complex.
For example, your dentist may notice decay in its early stages before you get tooth pain or an infection that can spread to your gums and other teeth and require more extensive work. Likewise, early gum disease is more reversible than once it has progressed to a more advanced stage.
Also, some non-oral diseases have oral symptoms. Your general dentistry office's ability to spot these signs before you notice them can save you time and money and protect your overall health.
Do not let fear prevent you from making regular appointments with your dentist. Your provider will help you work through any anxieties and will make sure you are comfortable during your visit. Continuity of care and visits that occur on your dentist's recommended timeline help prevent more serious issues and keep your smile healthy.
Between cleanings and checkups, be sure to follow your dental office's guidelines for maintaining good oral health. This means brushing well and flossing twice a day and keeping your dental office up to date on any changes in symptoms or health conditions.
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