Keeping your teeth healthy with regular dental visits is important. When teeth start to have problems, they can impact life quickly. But what are “regular” dental visits? How often are people supposed to go?
Catching a dental problem early may help reduce the amount of pain, difficulty, and cost to fix the problem. Dentists can also look for signs of oral cancers, and spot signs of other health conditions, such as Sjögren’s syndrome or diabetes.
Dental Visits for Kids
Kids should get their first oral exam as soon as their first tooth comes in or by their first birthday. The dentist will give you advice about how to care for your child’s early teeth. As your child gets older, he or she should have dental checkups as often as the dentist advises. Most dentists recommend a dental visit every six months and sometimes more frequently to help prevent cavities and other problems. Talk with your child’s dentist about the schedule that is best for your child.
Dental Visits for Adults
Your dentist can advise you how often you need to visit based on your oral and general health and your risk factors for tooth decay and gum disease. For example, someone with a lot of tartar, cavities or systemic diseases may need to come more often than twice a year.
You may need to see your dentist more often if:
- You’re pregnant. Pregnancy hormones can cause an inflammation of the gums called gingivitis, and other problems.
- You smoke. Tobacco use is a risk factor for a severe gum disease called periodontitis and for oral cancer.
- You’re being treated for cancer. Treatment for cancer can cause oral health problems such as dry mouth and infection.
- You have diabetes. People with diabetes have a higher risk of gum disease, fungal infections, and other oral problems.
- You have heart disease. Dental health is linked to heart health, and frequent dental cleanings may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
- You’re HIV positive. HIV and its treatment put you at a higher risk of dental decay and infections.
Time to Call the Dentist…
In addition to regular checkups, see your dentist if:
- You have tooth or gum pain that doesn’t go away or gets worse
- Your gums are red, swollen, and bleed easily
- You have a sore in your mouth that doesn’t heal
- A tooth becomes sensitive to hot, cold, or pressure
- Something is wrong with an old dental restoration
- You lose a filling
- You have dry mouth on a daily basis
- You have pain or clicking noises in your jaw
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Gum Disease Risk Factors. American Academy of Periodontology. http://www.perio.org/consumer/risk-factorsAccessed 2013.
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Oral Health and HIV. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://hab.hrsa.gov/abouthab/files/oral_health_fact_sheet.pdf Accessed 2013.
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