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How often should you go to the dentist?

Although good oral hygiene and regular dental exams can help to prevent most dental disease, more than 100 million Americans fail to see a dentist each year1. Whether you're 8 years old or 80, your oral health matters! Why? Let's take a look at questions frequently asked about going to the dentist.

Why do I need a regular dental checkup?

There are a number of reasons why regular visits to the dentists are an important, healthy habit. For one thing, dental health problems can be spotted early when treatment may be easier and therefore more affordable - and a checkup may help prevent problems from developing in the first place. In addition, some diseases or medical conditions may first appear as symptoms in the mouth, which can be a helpful early warning about the need for other medical care.

How often should you get your teeth cleaned?

The answer is that all depends because everyone has unique dental needs. Some people need to visit the dentist once or twice a year; others have special problems that may require more frequent visits.

Reasons to consider making an appointment with the dentist

  1. Your teeth are sensitive to hot or cold
  2. Your gums are puffy and/or they bleed when you brush or floss
  3. You have fillings, crowns, dental implants, dentures, etc.
  4. You don't like the way your teeth or smile look
  5. You have persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
  6. You are pregnant
  7. You have pain or swelling in your mouth, face or neck
  8. You have difficulty chewing or swallowing
  9. You have a family history of gum disease or tooth decay
  10. You have a medical condition, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, eating disorders or are HIV positive

See the complete list of signs.

What to expect at a dentist appointment?

The dentist or hygienist will usually start by asking questions about your recent medical history, then examine your mouth, and determine if you need x-rays. In addition to cleaning your teeth, the hygienist may use special dental instruments to check your gum for gum disease. The dentist may also evaluate your overall dental health and screen for oral cancer. This is simply done by holding your tongue with gauze, checking it and your whole mouth, then feeling your jaw and neck.

If I don't have any signs of trouble, do I still need to see a dentist?

Yes. Even if you don't have any symptoms, you could still have dental health problems that only a dentist can diagnose. Making it a habit to visit your dentist for a professional cleaning and checkup can help prevent problems and save on treatment costs down the road. Don't forget, keeping your mouth healthy can play a big role in your overall health.

How do I work with my dentist to keep my teeth healthy?

Working together is a great way to look at it. Here are a few tips to help you (and your dentist) take care of your smile:

  1. 2 healthy habits are essential for everybody
    • Brushing twice a day for two minutes
    • Flossing every day
  2. Build a relationship because continuity of care is important. When you make regular visits, your dentist is in a better position to catch and treat oral problems early.
  3. Keep your mouth healthy (in between visits). This is essential for your overall health, too. So make home dental care a priority and let your dentist know about any changes.
  4. Talk about a plan that works for you. Only your dentist can determine the best dental treatment plan. So if you have any questions related to your oral health, don't hesitate to ask. This can include everything from questions about a certain procedure to concerns about cost and a payment solution, such as the CareCredit healthcare credit card with special financing options.

Still have more questions? Like, how do I find a dentist? Or what should I look for when choosing a dentist? Get more answers and advice from the American Dental Association's Your Top 9 Questions About Going to the Dentist - Answered!

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1Oral Health, MouthHealthy. American Dental Association, 2015. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/o/oral-health

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