What is the value of regular dental check-ups?
Years ago, it was established procedure that many people went for dental check-ups and hygiene regularly every six months. This seems to have become less common in recent years. Why?
Generally dental health has improved quite significantly over the last twenty years and people seem to need less ‘routine’ dentistry. That assertion needs to be qualified in that the statement applies mainly to a certain socio-economic level or above. In the poorer sections of society, dental disease is still endemic. So, for many people who ‘used to go’ regularly, they may have found that very little treatment was required at these check-ups and so these people may have wondered what was the point of going regularly? ‘He/she never finds anything and it just ends up costing me money!’
Also, there are now many foreign trained dentists, whose clinical expertise may be very good, but they may not have been trained in the concept of recalling their patients regularly for prevention and dental health maintenance. So, patients of these dentists may not have been encouraged to attend regularly for health maintenance check-ups.
So why see your dentist regularly twice a year even if most of the time ‘there is nothing needed’?
Before the reasons for doing so are given, I will provide a fact that relates to our practice here in the City of London over the last twenty years:
The records of the patients seen regularly over a long period of time bear out that these people have the healthiest, cleanest mouths and end up needing less dentistry than patients who attend sporadically or only when there is some sort of crisis. The patients in the former group become more ‘dentally motivated’, maintain far higher levels of oral/dental hygiene and so have fresh breath, whiter teeth, no gum bleeding, less tooth sensitivity and certainly, as they get older, keep all their teeth! Finally, not surprisingly, these people also tend to have much more attractive and healthier looking smiles!
Finally, and very importantly, patients with any degree of ‘dental anxiety’ (fear), find that when they attend regularly, that anxiety definitely reduces, in many cases to almost ‘nothing’. They become more and more relaxed about their dental visits and even about having treatment, when necessary.
A good ‘preventative’ dentist will always check for a multitude of early problem signs on each regular check-up. If and when these are observed they can be treated early and so relatively easily and inexpensively. These are signs that the patient him or herself would not yet be aware of; otherwise they would seek treatment with a ‘problem’!
What should be checked on such routine regular half yearly appointments?
- Obviously, any signs of either fresh dental decay or decay around existing dental restorations.
- Any signs of gum disease, gum swelling, bleeding, tenderness or recession. Pockets should be checked to see if there is any bone loss associated with gum disease.
- The bite should be well ‘balanced’ so that all the upper and lower teeth contact each other evenly, with appropriate and equal pressure
- All existing restorations (fillings crowns etc.) should be evaluated to see if any are leaking or fractured.
- Any signs of excessive tooth wear need to be noted. This would be a sign of night-time tooth grinding (bruxing) and can be quite ‘destructive’; almost always without the patient even being aware of it.
- Any implants that have been placed need to be regularly checked for stability, mobility and bone support.
Most commonly, the check-up appointment is combined with a scaling and cleaning – hygiene treatment, this makes the regular visits particularly efficient.
In conclusion, looking after your body and particularly the teeth, which are subject to so much ‘hard work’ should be just like looking after any valuable and important piece of machinery. Is that not why you have your car not just MOT’d every year but serviced regularly. Guess what would happen to it if that was neglected and ignored?