In addition to an excellent oral care regimen at home, you should visit your dentist at least every six months to undergo an oral exam, ensuring the continued health of your teeth. If you skip even one routine dental checkup, new oral issues can quickly advance. These issues would most likely require expensive treatments. Routine checkups ensure that problems can be caught early and treated conservatively. Many oral health problems can even be reversed if spotted early enough. If left alone to advance, however, these oral problems can grow beyond your mouth and affect your general health.
The Mouth-Body Health Connection
The status of your mouth can mean problems in other areas of your body, so visiting your dentist every twice a year can help you maintain your overall health. A cavity, for example, can advance to the inner-tooth and cause an infection. If not managed with root canal therapy, the bacteria can invade the bloodstream and cause a critical systemic infection. Likewise, studies have shown a connection between gum disease and health ailments such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia, so it pays to undergo regular checkups to detect gum disease early when it is reversible so that you can decrease your risk of other health dilemmas.
During your oral exam, your dentist will evaluate your medical history with you. Knowing whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with specific medical conditions can help your dentist decide if you are susceptible to oral problems. Your current medications can also make you more vulnerable to forming cavities or periodontal disease. At your six month checkup, be certain to make your dentist aware if you have been diagnosed with any new health conditions. Also, don’t be afraid to tell your dentist if you’ve had anxiety over past dental visits. He or she will present you with several options for making you comfortable during exams and treatments.
If you haven’t had dental X-rays for some time, the dentist will need to take images of your teeth and jaw during your appointment. The frequency with which you receive X-rays will depend upon your oral history and your risk of developing tooth decay. X-rays help to detect cavities or bone loss in the jaw.
A visual exam can help your dentist discover most oral health problems, including:
- Cavities: Using a tool to probe the entire tooth surface gently, the dentist can detect any soft spots which may indicate decay. If caught early, which is most often the case with routine patients who maintain their regular checkups, tooth decay is sometimes reversed with an expert fluoride treatment.
- Gum Disease: Similar to cavities, periodontal disease is identified by using a dental probe. The dentist will use the probe to measure the spaces between your teeth and gums to determine if periodontal disease is started. If gum disease is detected at its first stage, it can usually be reversed with professional teeth cleaning and an excellent at-home oral hygiene regimen.
- Oral Cancer: Your dentist will visually inspect the lips, throat, and tongue areas for unusual sores, lumps, or rough patches.
- Bite and Jaw Issues: A misaligned bite can create a host of difficulties with your teeth and jaws, including pain in the jaw and grinding teeth. Stress also causes a person to grind their teeth, which leads to jaw problems such as TMJ disorder.
Deep cleaning is suggested every six months, so you may want to merge your checkup and cleaning dates for the sake of convenience. Your dental hygienist will start the cleaning by eliminating tartar buildup with an instrument called a scaler. After scaling, your hygienist will clean your teeth with a paste that includes mild abrasives to remove plaque and stains, leaving your teeth smooth and less likely to collect bacteria.