Dental Cleanings and Checkups, How Often Should You Go?
What’s a “recall” anyway?
I recently came across a NY Times article on frequency of dental visits that I thought could be expounded upon.
A “recall” basically is, the determined frequency of needed dental cleanings over a given time. For instance, some patients who have relatively good oral hygiene may only need to see the dentist once or twice a year. This would be expressed as, say, a “6 month recall”. Some others may need to get their teeth cleaned, and a checkup done, more than that; say, on a 3 or 4 month recall. It basically just means the frequency of a preventive maintenance appointments needed.
These recalls are not (and should not be) set at a robotic standard of “every patient needs to come in twice a year”. That’s not appropriate for everyone. Those patients that have certain risk factors for gum disease or tooth decay may need to come in several times in a given year. It’s not a gimmick. If, for instance, a patient smokes, has had a history of gum disease (genetically), or if a patient is diabetic, they may need more than those 2 visits in a year.
How would the appropriate amount of dental cleanings help?
It is understood, in the dental community, that…well…not everyone is a huge fan of the dentist. Getting your dental cleanings regularly can greatly improve your chances of not seeing the doctor too often. What I mean is, if you do come in for your regular dental cleanings and checkups, it is far more likely that your dentist will be able to catch any issues before they become a major problem, inevitably costing way more than those regular cleanings and checkups will cost. Recalls are preventative. They prevent things from worsening, by giving the dentist ample heads up on something that could have been a real issue.
Another point to look at, which I’ve written about on several occasions is, plaque, if left on the teeth too long (even 24 hours) can harden into dental calculus or “tartar”. This can’t be brushed off, it’ll need a professional cleaning to remove that. After a while plaque and tartar can build up quite a bit. In some patients it builds slower, and in some, it builds faster. Ask the hygienist or doctor to show you some time, with an intraoral camera, just what that build-up looks like. It’s not a pretty sight. In fact I’ll show you just what it CAN look like if left too long unchecked in the mouth:
It looks pretty gross, I know. It’s also a very good example of why one should not go a long time without their dental cleanings. It’s not just staining and tartar buildup that is an issue, however. The bacteria in your mouth, that make up part of what plaque is, produce acidic waste in the mouth which can, over time, eat through the enamel of your teeth and create cavities (or dental carries) which can, of course, lead to several other dental problems as well.
Ignorance is not always bliss.
It’s good to know what’s going on in your mouth. To fix the problems that show up, and have everything looked at. The mouth mirrors the health of the body. The doctor even does quick oral cancer screenings at the dental cleanings. Talk about preventative!
The regular checkups that the doctor wants you to get are tailored to you, as they should. They are not cut and paste. Every individual is not the same, and therefore, should not be treated as if they are. They are as unique as their teeth. So, don’t stay out of the loop. Come in for your regular checkups and feel satisfied that you’re taking care of one of the most important parts of your body: your mouth.
Stay healthy my friends.