Dental Checkups: How Often Do You Really Need to Go

Dental Check-ups

Do you see your dentist as often as you think you should? According to a recent survey, there’s a good chance you don’t. More than 40% of Americans think they should see a dentist more often, and 85% know that oral health is very important to overall health. What do those statistics tell you? There’s good awareness of the link between a healthy mouth and overall wellness. But when it comes to actually going to the dentist, many of us are indeed well intentioned, yet we don’t always follow through.

So how often do you really need to see a dentist? Annually? Twice a year? Only when there’s an issue? The answer to this question, as for many of life’s other big questions, is...it depends.

Good, better, best

Let’s work backwards and start with your best course of action: see your dentist twice a year, without fail. I know what you’re thinking - is this really necessary? For most people it is, and here’s why:

  • The more frequently you see your dentist, the more likely you are to catch any problems before they become serious issues

  • Early preventative care can save you time and money - the longer you wait to see a dentist, the more likely it is you’ll require a potentially time-consuming and costly procedure

  • Most dental insurance plans will completely cover preventative check-ups, but other procedures typically require you pay for a portion out of pocket

  • Even if you take good care of your teeth and haven’t had any issues, a sudden change in your routine or eating habits can quickly result in a change in your teeth or gums

  • A thorough cleaning in a dentist’s office not only keeps your teeth looking their best, it’s the only way to get rid of stubborn buildup like tartar, so you’ll enjoy less scraping and a brighter smile

Now that you know what’s optimal, what’s the slightly less-than-perfect option? See your dentist at least once a year. If you brush and floss regularly, do not have a history of dental issues, and are in otherwise good health, you can likely stretch your visits out to once a year if need be. But as is the case when setting any goal, it’s always best to aim high (see your dentist every six months), and still land within an acceptable range if you fall short.

More than 60% of American adults manage to make it to the dentist at least once a year.  On the whole, not bad. But that still leaves a substantial chunk of the adult population on the dental care sidelines, neglecting a vital part of overall health maintenance. Going only once every two years is not recommended, but it’s certainly better than not going at all. Waiting until you have mouth pain or some other issue, however, is not a routine you want to let yourself fall into. By that time, you’re likely looking at some involved dental work or an extraction, a situation that could’ve been completely avoided with more frequent checkups.

Who requires more frequent visits?

Although the twice-a-year recommendation is best for most people, people in certain high-risk groups should work with their dentist to develop a treatment plan tailored to their particular conditions. You may be in a high-risk group if you fall into one of these categories:

  • Have a compromised immune responses

  • Already have gum disease

  • Frequently get cavities

  • Diabetics

  • Smokers

  • Pregnant women

If you think that you may require more frequent check-ups, talk to your dentist to determine the right schedule for you.

The bottom line

You can’t go wrong with seeing your dentist twice a year. It’s the best way to stay ahead of potential issues and it will likely give you the cleanest, brightest smile. However, if you are very diligent about your oral care at home and you’re not in a high-risk group, you can make do with annual visits. Ultimately, you and your dentist should work together to determine the checkup schedule that’s best for your needs.

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