Some people believe that taking care of their teeth means brushing twice a day and flossing regularly. But, taking good care of your teeth, gums, and mouth means more than just brushing and flossing. For complete care, it's important to visit a dentist regularly for a checkup and professional cleaning.
According to the Health Policy Institute, the top reasons why people avoid visiting the dentist include costs, fear of the dentist, and the inability to find a dentist or a suitable appointment time.
- 59% of adults say they avoid dental care due to the cost
- 22% because they are afraid of the dentist
- 19% because they cannot find a convenient dental office or appointment time
What Can Happen If I Don't See a Dentist?
Gum (Periodontal) Disease
Gum disease is the inflammation or infection of the gums and underlying bone. Your gums provide a seal, which protects your teeth and roots from bacteria. Bacteria below the gumline left undisturbed, will form deposits called calculus, which harbor more destructive bacteria. This can lead to periodontal disease.
Seeing your dentist for regular dental hygiene care can remove these deposits and harmful bacteria helping you to maintain healthy gums and supporting bone.
Periodontal disease can cause gum swelling, bad breath, bleeding, infection, and bone loss. A tooth with little bone to support it will become loose. Removal of a loose tooth may be necessary.
You may be at a higher risk for periodontal disease if you:
- Have diabetes
- Have a weakened immune system
- Have certain heredity factors
- Use tobacco (cigarette, cigar, pipe smoking, and smokeless tobacco)
- Practice poor oral hygiene
During a visit, your dentist may notice early signs of a serious medical condition. These may include diabetes, oral cancers, hypertension, kidney failure, and heart disease.
Without a regular visit to the dentist, these underlying health conditions may fail to be noticed until they are more advanced. Catching these issues early may help you avoid serious health complications and costly medical bills.
Tooth Decay (Cavities)
Although tooth brushing and flossing can help keep plaque in check, regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist will remove plaque build-up. Plaque is a sticky substance made up of food particles and bacteria. Plaque bacteria create acids that affect the tooth’s hard protective covering – the enamel.
Plaque that is not removed can break down tooth enamel over time, causing tooth decay. Plaque left on the tooth roots can create decay on these very vulnerable areas of the tooth structure, as the roots do not have enamel to help protect them.
Skipping a dental appointment will allow plaque time to build up and attack your teeth, which can ultimately lead to irreversible damage and even tooth loss.
If you regularly drink tea, coffee, wine, or smoke, or take certain medications, these habits can stain your teeth, creating a dull smile. Teeth stains can occur on the tooth surface or below the tooth enamel.
The good news is there are several ways to treat teeth stains. Limiting your consumption of staining-causing drinks can help prevent stains. Professional teeth cleaning performed at your dentist's office can help remove stains.
If you have dark discolorations, cosmetic dentistry services can whiten your teeth and remove stubborn stains. Talk to your dentist about available professional teeth-whitening services, or his recommendations for at-home teeth-whitening products. Regular teeth whitening will help keep your teeth looking whiter and brighter.
How Often Should I Go To the Dentist?
Most people should visit their dentist once or twice a year. If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, your dentist may recommend that you visit more often. These health issues may make a person more likely to develop gum disease or other dental diseases.
Women are at a higher risk for problems with their mouth, teeth, and gums during pregnancy. Discuss with your dentist about how often you should visit during pregnancy.
It's easy to put off a visit to your dentist. Remember – regular dental checkups and cleanings are essential to a healthy mouth, and to your overall health.
Be sure to notify your dentist if your or your child is enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan/Medicaid or CHIP, or give the name of your dental insurance plan when you call for an appointment. Some health plans require that you use your benefits before the end of the year, so contact us for an appointment today!