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Why Dental Checkups are Important

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Dentistry is no exception to this age-old adage. When caring for your teeth, gums, and overall oral health, prevention is key. 

Regular dental checkups are the most helpful means of preventing oral health decay. The American Dental Association recommends visiting the dentist every six months, however visits may vary depending on the person and their overall oral health.

Benefits of Getting Regular Dental Health Checkups

If you’re wondering why regular dental checkups are necessary for not only oral health, but overall physical and mental health, consider these six benefits from a regular dental visit:

1. Prevent Tooth Decay

Regular checkups help prevent tooth decay. Tooth decay is the breakdown of the tooth’s enamel, which is the hard outer layer of the tooth. The enamel is the outermost exterior when observing teeth in the mirror. 

Tooth decay is caused by a variety of things, including bacteria buildup, not brushing your teeth, food lingering on your teeth, and more. Even if you brush and floss daily, certain places in your mouth can be hard to reach or easily missed in routine brushing. Those areas of your mouth are particularly susceptible to tooth decay.

During your dental checkup, a dental hygienist will professionally clean your teeth. They will remove plaque and tartar from your teeth and gums. They have the tools necessary to get into those hard-to-reach spots.

In addition to the cleaning, your dentist will examine your teeth. They do this to ensure there are no signs of tooth decay. If tooth decay is found, they will discuss possible treatment options, which may include returning to the office for a filling.

Your dentist also inspects the health of your current fillings. Unfortunately, fillings do not last indefinitely. Fillings can crack, or gaps can form between the filling and the tooth. When this happens, they require replacement to continue protecting the tooth. 

2. Fight Gum Disease

In addition to checking your mouth for tooth decay, your dentist will inspect your gums for signs of gingivitis (gum inflammation) or periodontitis (gum disease). 

During their standard examination, your dentist will check the firmness of your gums. They also look for any swelling, receding gums, or deep gum pockets that lead to further gum issues. 

Catching gum disease early is vital. If any concerns are found, they will discuss possible treatment options, which may be as simple as changing your at-home oral hygiene routine.

3. Detect Underlying Issues

Annually, your dentist will take dental X-rays. This allows them to look deeper at all of your teeth. 

Dental X-rays give your dentist the ability to diagnose underlying concerns unseen on the surface from a basic visual examination. This may include impacted teeth, bone loss in the jaw, and more.

4. Check for Mouth Cancer

As with any form of cancer, early detection saves lives. 

As your dentist is checking your teeth and gums, they are also looking for any possible signs of mouth cancer. Specifically, they are looking for any red or white patches inside your mouth while feeling the tissue for any abnormalities. In doing so, they will also examine the general area (head and neck) around your mouth. 

5. Reduce Costs

As we have already mentioned, prevention is key. Getting regular dental checkups helps avoid invasive and expensive dental issues in the future.

Many people avoid dentists due to a perception of costly procedures or painful visits. However, avoiding the dentist altogether will likely necessitate multiple procedures, or possibly even more invasive procedures due to the negligence of your oral health. Major dental issues cost more money to resolve (with or without insurance). 

By catching potential oral issues early, you can work with your dentist on preventative measures to keep the problem from becoming bigger and more expensive.

6. Education

A final benefit that you receive during regular dental checkups is education. Your dental team is there to answer your questions. They are more than happy to share information with you to help improve your oral hygiene.

Remember that they are on your side. They want you to have the biggest and brightest smile possible. 

How to Prepare for Dental Checkups

As you prepare to visit the dentist for your regular checkup, here are some ways you can prepare.

  1. Set a reminder to schedule your next visit. You might make your next appointment before leaving the dentist’s office. If not, put a reminder in your phone or calendar to schedule your checkup a couple of months before you’re due to go back.
  2. Confirm your appointment date and time. Your dental office will usually send you a reminder 1-2 days before the visit. Make sure you write the information down or put it in on your calendar correctly.
  3. Arrive on time. Plan ahead for any travel time. It’s always a good rule of thumb to arrive early in case any paperwork is necessary. Also, arriving late may result in the office needing to reschedule and charging you a fee. 
  4. Know how you will pay. Even if insurance is covering it, make sure you know what your insurance is or is not paying. If insurance does not cover 100% or you do not have insurance, check with the office to see what options are available for payment.
  5. Bring a list of your current medications. It is important to keep your dental file updated with your current medical history. 
  6. Have your medical insurance information with you. This is especially important if you are a new patient or if your insurance information has changed since your last visit. 
  7. Brush and floss. Although your visit will include a cleaning, the dentist may need to examine your teeth before or during the cleaning due to other patients. This will help them properly examine your teeth and gums.
  8. Tell them if you are experiencing any concerns. While they can detect many possible issues in your mouth, they do not know if a tooth is painful or sensitive unless you tell them. Do not be afraid to speak up. 
  9. Avoid coffee or energy drinks. Since you will have to sit still in the dentist’s chair for up to an hour, this will help you to remain calm.
  10. Let them know if you are anxious. Many people experience anxiety when visiting any health professional. If you are someone who feels anxious during dental visits, tell the office. They can provide various options or suggestions to help reduce or eliminate your anxious feelings. 

What to Expect at a Dental Checkup 

When you visit the dentist for your regular checkup, here are the three things you can typically expect:

  1. Cleaning: Your dental hygienist will thoroughly clean your teeth.
  2. Examination: Your dentist will examine your mouth, give you recommendations, and discuss any possible treatment needs.
  3. X-rays: Full mouth X-rays will be taken once a year

For additional information, read our article, “What to Expect from your Dental Checkup.

Quick Tips for Good Oral Hygiene

Consider these six quick tips to help maintain healthy oral hygiene all year long.

  1. Brush twice a day. We recommend brushing once in the morning and once before bed. Try to avoid eating or drinking (unless water) after brushing your teeth at night.
  2. Floss daily. Night is a great time to floss to help unlodge food from gums or in between teeth. You can use regular string floss, floss picks, or Waterpiks. 
  3. Use fluoride toothpaste or fluoride mouthwash. Try to avoid rinsing your mouth or drinking for at least 30 minutes afterward.
  4. Stay hydrated. Drinking water helps combat a dry mouth. It also helps wash away food particles and bad bacteria.
  5. Limit sugary and acidic food and drinks. These can be unkind to your teeth. To help them not stick around, drink water afterward.
  6. Schedule regular checkups twice a year. This will help you catch any possible issues early—and your teeth will be professionally cleaned. 

For additional tips, visit our article, “Oral Health Tips (Without Overdoing It).

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment with Family Dental Health Center, contact us today. Our team in Idaho Falls is dedicated to working with you to answer your questions and meet your dental healthcare needs. Our goal is to make sure you have a happy and healthy smile, one visit at a time.