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How often do I need to have a check-up and clean at the dentist?

Maintaining good dental hygiene is essential to your dental health and overall health and wellbeing. That’s why it is recommended that you visit your dentist every six months.

Why do I have to go so often?

Many dental conditions, including tooth decay and gum disease, are preventable, and they often don’t become visible to you or cause you any pain until they are at an advanced stage. Even with daily brushing and flossing, some areas in the mouth may still be missed. Once you have developed a cavity, you will need to visit your dentist for a filling or possibly more complex dental work. Likewise, gum disease will require professional attention.

Regular dental check-ups are important to monitor high-risk areas of tooth decay and stop them progressing by having regular cleans to prevent plaque build-up. Plaque build-up is what causes tooth decay, inflammation of the gum tissues or gum disease. At this point, there is likely to be swelling, bleeding or soreness of the mouth and, if these symptoms progress, you may experience eventual tooth mobility or tooth loss. Regular professional cleans will help avoid these conditions.

Regular dental visits are also critical for oral cancer screening. Oral cancer is a serious condition and is often undiagnosed. It can progress quickly and become a life-threatening condition. It is the dentist’s job to thoroughly examine the soft and hard tissues of the mouth to recognize and diagnose any potential cancerous lesions early, so that they can be managed and treated appropriately. A check-up every six months increases the likelihood of recognising oral cancer in its earlier stages. In addition to checking the soft and hard tissues of the mouth, your dentist is also highly trained in examining the head, neck and lymph nodes for any swellings, lumps of abnormalities. If your dentist detects any abnormalities, they will refer you to an appropriate physician for further investigation.

What is involved in a dental check-up and clean?

During your dental check-up, your dentist will perform a thorough examination of your teeth, gums, mouth and facial muscles and may take X-rays to further assess the health of your teeth. X-rays of your teeth and jawbone are important to detect any underlying conditions that may not be visible to the naked eye. This allows your dentist to diagnose decay occurring between the teeth, bone loss, and impacted or misplaced teeth, as well as any swellings, cysts or tumours that may be present in the jawbone.

As well as removing plaque and stain, a professional clean by your dental hygienist will also scale your teeth, which involves the removal of calculus or tartar (the hardened plaque that often builds up behind the lower teeth and in other areas). As calculus cannot be cleaned off with a toothbrush, it should be removed by your dental hygienist on a regular basis to assist periodontal health.

Up-to-date X-rays and a six-monthly check-up and clean are the best ways to keep on top of your dental health. And remember that you are doing yourself a big favour in the long run if you make these a habit!  Even if you have excellent dental hygiene and take excellent care of your teeth and gums at home, you still need to visit the dentist regularly.

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