“How often do I need to see the dentist?” – I am asked this question by my patients almost everyday. I hope this blog can simplify the dental check up intervals.
The dental check up
Dental examinations aim to diagnose oral diseases before they become more advanced. A dental check up may also be combined with periodontal treatment (or scale and polish) with the hygienist.
It is important to have a dental examination frequently enough to ensure dental diseases are detected early enough prior to any significant spread of disease. Early detection usually results in minimal treatment with greater success rates.
The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) is a national body that guides health care standards in the UK. It advises that dental examinations should be done as frequently as required based on the patient’s dental risk status. I have briefly discussed this below:
Gum disease – periodontal disease
Each patient has a different risk status when considering dental disease. Certain patients are more prone to gum disease and therefore would require 3-6 monthly appointments with the hygienist/dentist to maintain the health of their gums. Family history, smoking, oral hygiene and having diabetes can all have a significant influence on your risk of developing gum disease.
High caries risk – dental decay
Some patients are more prone to dental decay than others. This may be due to problems with their saliva flow or it may be due to dietary issues. Whatever the reason, the dental examination will aim to assess your risk status by assessing the overall situation – this will enable us to prescribe a relevant check up interval for each patient.
Oral cancer screening
The standard dental examination also includes an assessment for cancer detection. An early detection of cancer can influence the success of cancer treatment significantly. Certain patients are more likely to develop oral cancer such as smokers and elderly patients.
So what is my dental check up interval?
Most patients are advised to see the dentist/hygienist every 6 months. 6% of my patients are advised to see me more frequently, every 3 months, due to the risk factors discussed above. A further 8% of my patients are asked to see me every 12 months as they are very low risk.
A dental examination can seem like a chore however, it can mean the difference between having a simple filling or losing a tooth. The long term health of your teeth and gums is heavily dependent on frequent dental maintenance.