By Dr. Stephen Durham
Many dental patients don’t think twice about the recommendation to come in twice a year for an exam and cleaning. Others wonder if they really need bi-annual exams.
The answer is yes, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
A professional cleaning rids the mouth of bacteria and plaque that can accumulate quickly. The exam portion allows dentists to see potential problems, such as tooth decay and oral cancer.
The ADA recommends an appointment every three months for those considered high-risk to develop a long-term dental health problem.
Even the best dental patients need help from the professionals to maintain healthy gums and teeth. That is because dental hygienists use tools people just don’t keep at home. This equipment cleans around the entire tooth while removing plaque and tartar at the same time. A hygienist also polishes your teeth after cleaning them.
You could brush and floss many times each day and still not be able to clean your teeth the way a dental hygienist can. That is the main reason for the bi-annual appointment recommendation.
An examination by a dentist is the other part of a six-month check-up. If your dentist discovers any problems, you can schedule a follow-up appointment right away without waiting another half-year for a dentist to examine you.
Both the dentist and the hygienist give you helpful tips on caring for your oral health at home that you probably wouldn’t have known otherwise. People often don’t know they have a dental problem until it’s quite advanced.
Preventive care check-ups catch issues earlier when they’re more treatable.
What to expect
Every patient has their teeth cleaned and receives an exam when he or she visits the dentist. Some patients need X-rays as well. This helps dentists see issues that might not be visible, such as decay between teeth.
The preventive dental exam is also a front-line defense against oral cancer because dentists check for signs of it at each appointment. Patient education typically occurs at each visit also.
As a general rule, the more time a patient gives to taking care of their teeth at home means much less time in the hygienist’s chair during your dental visits.
A recipient of the 2012 Mastership Award from the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), Dr. Stephen Durham is a graduate of Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina College of Dental Medicine. He is a past recipient of the LVI Fellowship Award for Neuromuscular and Cosmetic Dentistry. Durham practices at Durham Dental at Town Center in Beaufort. For more information, visit his website at www.DrStephenDurham.com or call 843-379-5400.