Very few people actually enjoy a visit to the dentist. Most of us have paid witness to some pretty horrendous experiences when it comes to sitting in the chair that leave scars not just on the gums but in the mind too. The memories of uncomfortable and sometimes painful visits is often enough to avoid going to the dentist altogether.
It may relieve you to hear that those experiences are usually down to the dentist themselves than the actual processes they follow so if you have a particularly bad experience with a dentist, move along and find someone you feel more comfortable with. I was once party to a pretty terrible dentist as a child who bruised and elicited painful procedures on me. Although traumatising at the time, thankfully she left and was replaced by the loveliest dentist who has been nothing but kind and considerate of me and my teeth since. It may take a while to find but there can be a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
Whether painful memories or simply, seemingly, no time to pay a visit to the dentist, we’re here to share WHY you really do need to keep that bi-annual/yearly appointment.
What the dentist can tell
You may simply think of your dentist as someone who checks your teeth for holes and gums for disease, with a pretty terrifying bill at the end of it. But actually they do a whole lot more than that.
At each check-up you can expect your dentist to:
- Ask about your general health including diet (now with a sugar check!)
- Examination of your teeth, gums, mouth and glands
- And provide advice on care and hygiene.
During the examination of your teeth, gums and mouth, your dentist is also looking to your soft tissues and glands for any indication of cancer and indication of disease including the heart. They generally feel around the thyroid, lymph nodes and glands including the parotid gland. Even if you’re seemingly unaware, your routine appointment with the dentist can uncover an awful lot about your overall health. For example, gingivitis (gum disease) can increase your risk of problems with the heart including heart disease, stroke and even diabetes.
Your dentist will also perform a general check on the jaw and its joints to see that it is in tip top shape. They keep a detailed record of your visit so they’re able to identify what’s normal for you (clicking jaw, misalignment of bite etc.) and are therefore able to pick when something is amiss for you.
If a dentist spots anything of concern (firm/lumpy glands, problems with joints, problematic ulcers etc.) they can sign post you and even refer you to clinics, such as oral and maxillofacial surgery units, to further investigate any potential problems.
Additionally, your dentist may perform x-rays on your mouth/particular teeth to evaluate what is going on under the surface. For example, if your gums appear to be receding they can determine if there is any bone loss occurring which may be indicative of something like osteoporosis. They could be on the lookout for dental caries (tooth decay/cavities) and it even enables them to predict tooth habits- so if your wisdom teeth are yet to come in, your dentist will have a good idea on where they will come through and any problems this may cause. An x-ray check-up is usually performed every 2 years, just to check everything is ok, unless you’re faced with a particular problem in between.
Some dentists will also perform their own cleaning, known as scale and polish or recommend you visit a hygienist for this treatment. This is a thorough and deep clean for the teeth and gums to help keep them healthy and strong- whether you’re good on dental hygiene or not sometimes it can be pretty tricky to get at all that plaque, this procedure ensures that everything stays in tip-top shape.
Frequency of visit
The guideline is to visit your dentist every 6 months but some reports suggest anything from 3-24 months. The best thing to do is discuss this with your dentist; only they can determine the true frequency you need to see them as it will depend on your personal oral health and your adequacy with hygiene.
By going every 6 months however, you’re able to really stay on top of your overall health and get that really deep clean to keep your teeth clean and healthy. Problems can arise seemingly unaware so a regular visit will help you to stay on top of and even prevent any problems from occurring.
The key takeaway- prevention is key.
Not many people like going to the dentist but it really is for the greater good. The better you take care of your teeth, the better chance they’ll take care of you into old age and the less likely you’ll need drawn out, painful and expensive treatment and possibly dentures.
Additionally, a regular check-up will help guide your overall health. If something is going amiss with your teeth, gums or soft tissue the quicker you can get to the root of the problem and the quicker you can get back to full health.
Of course, there’s a little work we need to be doing at home too for optimum care. We’d strongly recommend getting yourself an electric toothbrush to really get into those nooks and crannies, use a toothpaste with fluoride in it (which helps to prevent decay) and brush for two minutes (at least 1 minute on top teeth and 1 minute on bottom teeth), twice a day. As for flossing, do this once a day at the end of the day before you brush your teeth for the last time.
If you want to use mouthwash, swish it around the mouth and gargle for thirty seconds to a minute before spitting it out; as mouthwash is more of a breath freshener you don’t need to use it straight after brushing, in fact some would recommend leaving it a while to get the most benefit from the fluoride in your toothpaste. Oral-B have a great guide to mouthwash we highly recommend reading.
Perhaps most importantly, as and when you’re getting issues, don’t wait for your scheduled appointment, book in to see your dentist sooner rather than later.