Recently, a British dentist set off a storm of controversy by suggesting that some people shouldn’t see their dentist more than once every two years. Many people reacted against this concept right away, but there is some truth to this statement. There’s no such thing as a single rule for how often you should see the dentist. Instead, every person should receive customized recommendations about when to return for their next checkup.
Trying to Combat Dental Costs
First, we need to put the dentist’s words in context. The UK’s senior dentist, Dr. Sara Hurley, made the comment when she was being asked about rising dental costs in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
She remarked that part of the problem was that UK dentists weren’t following the NHS’s guidelines for how often people need to see the dentist. Instead, they were just recommending a return every six months for everyone, even though some people might not need to see a dentist but once every two years.. And patients didn’t know any better so they just came back when their dentist said to.
It’s Not “One Size Fits All”
Some dentists took offense at the suggestion that they were just asking people to come back every six months to help make a profit. Instead, they pointed out that coming back once every six months is a good rough guideline for many people.
But all dentists affirm the principle that the timing for your regular checkup shouldn’t just be blindly based on the six month schedule. Instead, it should be based on your personal needs and oral health. So it’s good to take some time and review with your dentist the reasons what is the best timing for your dental checkups.
Some People Don’t Need a Checkup Every Six Months
When talking to your dentist about your checkup timing, you should pay attention to factors that might allow you to go longer between appointments. You might not need an appointment every six months if you:
- Practice excellent hygiene
- Have good oral health (no gum disease, few cavities)
- Have good general health
- Are Young
- Don’t need long cleanings to remove tartar
- Eat a diet low in sugars and damaging acids
- Don’t have habits that can damage teeth such as smoking or chewing nonfoods
These are all factors that might mean you can wait longer than six months before your next dental checkup, with your dentist’s approval.
Some People Need to See the Dentist More Often
Although some people might be able to wait longer, many more people would benefit from seeing the dentist more often. You may need to see the dentist more than twice a year if you:
- Have long cleanings to remove tartar
- Are unable to practice good oral hygiene (such as because of arthritis)
- Have gum disease
- Discover new cavities at each visit
- Have compromised health (diabetes, cancer, etc.) that can increase your oral health risk
- Smoke, drink soda, eat sugar or consume alcohol regularly or to excess
- Have restorations like dental implants that may need more frequent attention
As we mentioned before, people with cancer often need to see their dentist as often as every six weeks. People with compromised immune systems may also benefit from dental visits that are this frequent. And if you regularly develop cavities between visits, postponing your next visit may lead to the compromise of your teeth, and the next visit you won’t need a filling, you’ll need a root canal.
Are You Overdue for Your Checkup?
It is important to make sure you and your dentist have considered your oral health and how often you need to visit the dentist. If you aren’t sure you agree with your dentist, follow their recommendations and make note of the reasons you discussed, then bring it up again at your next visit. It’s possible conditions may have changed and your dentist may change his recommendations, too.