While most of us wouldn’t miss an important health check-up with our doctor, a recent study revealed that over 28 million people in England haven’t been to the dentist in over two years. While it’s true that our lives are as busy and hectic as ever, routine dental check-ups are essential for your oral health, and shouldn’t simply be skipped due to a packed schedule.
In the following guide, we’re going to take a look at the importance of dental cleanings and routine check-ups, and how they can improve both your oral health and overall wellbeing. Let’s take a look!
What is a dental cleaning?
A dental cleaning is a routine procedure that is typically performed during your 6-month dental check-up. During a dental cleaning, your dentist will scrape away any build-up of plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) from the surface of your teeth, while also inspecting your mouth for any abnormalities, such as swelling, receding gums, or cavities. While most adults and children are recommended to attend a dental check-up once every 6 months, studies show that Brits are often skipping these vital appointments.
What are the benefits of dental cleanings and check-ups?
Attending regular dental cleanings and check-ups can provide a number of health benefits, such as reducing your risk of developing tooth decay or gum disease, while also helping to identify any issues before they degenerate or become untreatable:
Prevent tooth decay
One of the key benefits of a regular dental cleaning is that your dentist in London will be able to professionally remove any plaque build-up from your mouth, well before it morphs into tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when the enamel on your teeth (aka its protective coating) is worn down over time, rendering your teeth more vulnerable to infection, as well as more prone to sensitivity issues. While regular, twice-daily brushing can help to limit plaque and tartar build-up, a dentist will be able to expertly clean and polish your teeth using professional tools and techniques, leaving them healthier and stronger than before.
Prevent gum disease
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a common inflammatory condition that can cause bad breath, receding gums, and even tooth loss. In many people, gum disease often goes unnoticed until it has developed into an advanced stage, after which it’s more complicated to treat. During your dental check-up, your dentist will also inspect your gums for signs of periodontal disease, and may recommend treatments such as deep cleaning or scaling to help prevent further inflammation.
Early cancer detection
Attending regular dental check-ups can also help to detect any serious oral problems or abnormalities early on. This is especially true in the case of oral cancer – just like with any other type of cancer, your chances of surviving oral cancer are increased the earlier you detect the disease. Early stage oral cancer is also simpler to treat than an advanced cancer that has spread to lymph nodes or surrounding organs, so prompt and early detection is key. If your dentist does notice an abnormality (such as swelling, persistent ulcers that don’t go away, or white spots in your oral cavity) you’ll be promptly referred to an oncology specialist on the NHS, which can be life-saving when it comes to a time-sensitive disease such as cancer.
While the symptoms of a tooth abscess are usually hard to ignore – imagine an intense throbbing pain and swollen gums – some people may develop a tooth abscess without knowing it. As the NHS website itself states, not all tooth abscesses are painful, meaning that people can go for weeks without realising that they have a serious dental infection. Dental abscesses require prompt treatment, and your dentist will usually be able to identify an abscess during a routine check-up, either via a routine X-ray or physical examination of your teeth.
Why prevention is key
What’s important to retain here is that many dental issues – such as gum disease and tooth decay – are inherently degenerative; this means that they won’t resolve themselves naturally over time, and will actually get worse the longer they’re ignored.
For example, gum disease can start out with a simple low-grade inflammation, but if left untreated, can go on to cause painful, swollen gums, cause difficulty when eating or chewing, as well as causing jaw pain and receding gums. Receding gums not only make your teeth more vulnerable to infection, they also increase tooth sensitivity, making it difficult or painful for you to eat or drink hot and cold foods with ease. And in rare cases, gum disease can also cause full-blown tooth loss, which can impact your self-esteem. By attending your dental cleanings and regular check-ups, your dentist will be able to spot these problems early.
Similarly, tooth decay occurs in stages; early tooth decay is almost entirely reversible with a good oral hygiene routine and some fluoride treatments or varnishes. However, if left untreated, tooth decay will go on to create cavities in the teeth, which will usually require a painful filling to treat. And if the tooth decay reaches the tooth pulp (aka the soft tissue around the tooth) you could even end up needing a root canal treatment. Just like with gum disease, these expensive and painful procedures can be avoided by simply being consistent with your dental check-ups.
How often should I visit the dentist for a check-up?
If you want to maintain a good oral hygiene routine, you should include two visits annually to your dentist, where they’ll perform a routine check-up and keep an eye out for any abnormalities.
Don’t forget that in the case of dental emergencies – such as a dental abscess, tooth loss via blunt trauma/facial injury, and non-stop gum bleeding – you should seek immediate medical attention, so call 111 or your local emergency dentist for a prompt appointment. In the case of a worsening dental abscess (accompanied by secondary symptoms such as chills and a fever), you should head to your local A&E for immediate care.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, visiting your dentist for routine check-ups and cleanings is essential for maintaining good oral health. Not only does it give you peace of mind that your teeth are in good condition, but it also helps to prevent long-term issues such as gum disease and tooth decay from developing. If you haven’t seen a dentist in over six months, put it in your diary and schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Your smile will thank you for it!
How long is a dentist appointment?
Most dental cleanings only take around 30 minutes to complete, but you may end up at your appointment for longer if your dentist needs to perform any other treatments, such as fillings or X-rays.
Do I need to brush my teeth before a check-up?
Yes, it is always recommended that you brush and floss your teeth before attending a dental appointment, so that your dentist can get an accurate picture of your oral health.