When do I need to visit the dentist

How Often Do You Really Need to Go to the Dentist?

We all know that regular routine check-ups are important, but how often do we actually need to be opening wide and having our oral health checked out?

Dentists are guided by your risk factors and your overall health history. Most dentists recommend that you have a regular dental check-up every 6 to 12 months, however,  you may have a different oral health requirement to your partner, sibling or best friend – and you may need to visit a dentist more or less frequently than them.

When should I visit the dentist?

Work with your dentist as a guide to the most suitable time interval between your check-ups based on your individual needs. Since your individual needs can change over time, your dentist’s recommendation may change over time too.

Some people are just more prone to dental issues. There are a number of risk factors that may affect how often your dentist would like to see you, so it is important to mention them at your next dental appointment. Risk factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Systemic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease or cancer
  • If you have existing fillings, crowns or other dental work present in the mouth
  • If you have a history of tooth decay or tooth loss
  • If your gums regularly bleed when you brush
  • If you are aware that you clench and grind your teeth or have jaw joint pain
  • If you have bad breath
  • If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to start a family

Visiting the dentist every six months gives you and your dentist an opportunity to identify any changes in your oral health so they can be treated at a much earlier stage requiring less treatment and potentially less discomfort or cost.

Regular visits can also help you to put into place preventative strategies to help you maintain a healthy mouth and body.

If your dentist finds a problem, they’ll discuss the most appropriate treatment options for you, and provide you with a treatment plan to suit your needs and budget.

How often should a dentist x-ray my teeth?

Your dentist may recommend taking an x-ray of your mouth during your initial new patient examination, check-up visit or in preparation for treatment.

X-rays allow them to see the areas between your teeth, around the roots of teeth and below your gums, which can be useful for diagnosing problems not visible by visual examination alone. The frequency of taking repeat x-rays is determined by your risk factors and is usually at 12-24 month intervals.

Although our modern digital x-ray technologies extremely safe to use, your dentist will only take x-rays if they feel it’s strictly necessary or to help them make a diagnosis – especially where treatment is planned.

When should children visit the dentist?

The frequency of dental visits for children tends to be the same as for adults – often it’s more convenient for families to visit the dentist together.

Generally, you should book your child in for their first check-up around 12 – 18 months old. These early visits are more about getting your kids used to the dentist and to set them up for a lifetime of good oral hygiene.

At their first appointment, the dentist will perform a basic inspection – counting teeth, looking inside their mouth and offering a ride in the hydraulic chair.

Timing can be important during the transition from baby teeth to adult teeth, especially for orthodontic problems, so regular check-ups are important during this time.

Adolescence also brings with it a new array of risk factors, such as consumption of soft drink and sugary snacks. Teenagers may also have inconsistent brushing habits, with around 45% of teenagers brushing their teeth less than the recommended twice daily [3].

Regular dental checks are necessary during early teenage years to check if there is the need for any bite correction or braces. Teenagers with braces also need regular check-ups to stop any build-up of decay.

When should I make my next dental appointment?

If you haven’t visited a dentist for 12 months or more, you should make an appointment to ensure your teeth and oral health are in excellent condition.

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[1] Australian Health Policy Collaboration and the Australian Dental Association. Australia’s Oral Health Tracker – Technical Paper [Online] 2018  Available from: www.ada.org.au
[2] Australian Dental Association Policy Statement 2.3.1- Delivery of Oral Health: Special Groups: Children, 2017
[3] The Caries Management System: an evidence-based preventive strategy for dental practitioners. Application for adults, Evans et al, Australian Dental journal 2008; 53: 83-92

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