Routine dental checkups are great for making your smile brighter, but more importantly, your regular checkups have a compelling impact on your oral and general health. Most dentists agree with the recommendation from the Canadian Dental Association, that visiting your dentist twice a year will greatly reduce the number of oral problems you can encounter. There are occasions where patients (usually with an underlying illness) are required to have a checkup 3-4 times a year, but unless you hear otherwise from your dentist or doctor, most of us can get away with semi-annual cleanings.
How do regular cleanings and checkups help?
YOU’RE BETTER ABLE TO AVOID GUM DISEASE
Bacteria are constantly growing in our mouths. The more time between your checkups, the more bacteria will build-up on your teeth. This filmy residue is plaque, which only needs one to two days to harden into tartar. Tartar doesn’t just cover the visible parts of your teeth, its creeps under the gums, causing damage to the soft tissue in your mouth.
If left long enough, the tartar will destroy the bone that supports your teeth; making tooth loss inevitable. Thankfully, gum disease is preventable. Brushing and flossing daily, combined with semi-annual checkups make a huge difference.
YOU REDUCE YOUR RISK OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE
Periodontal (gum) disease has been studied for decades, exploring its link to cardiovascular disease. In short, plaque on your teeth is a sticky film of bacteria that leads to gum disease. A different form of plaque, consisting of fat, calcium, and cholesterol is found in the blood. This fatty plaque is the largest indicator of coronary artery disease.
Researchers have discovered that people with gum disease are up to three times more likely to encounter a heart attack or stroke. Doctors at Harvard University are starting to understand this connection.
Gum disease means the soft tissue in your mouth is constantly inflamed, making the area sensitive, especially to brushing and flossing. Acute inflammation causes an outpouring of immune cells to attack the microbial invaders. This may help soothe your gums in the short term, but the long-term inflammation you are constantly battling leads to atherosclerosis; the buildup of fats, cholesterol, and other substances on your artery wall.
TIPS FOR A MORE ENJOYABLE CHECKUP
If the idea of semi-annual checkups makes you uneasy, try these suggestions to help create a more cordial experience:
- It’s important for patients and dentists to be on the same page before and during your checkups. Share your concerns or fears with the hygienist right before you start. They could be a sign of an underlying problem. For example, if the polisher irritates you because you have sensitive teeth, the dentist will want to know and will probably be able to help.
- TAKE PAIN MEDICATION. An over-the-counter pain killer such as ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation during and after the treatment. It may also keep you more relaxed during the cleaning.
- STICK TO YOUR REGULAR CLEANING SCHEDULE. This can be difficult, especially if you prefer to stay away from your dentist, however, skipping your checkups will make the next one worse. The more time between checkups means there has been more time for tartar to build up. Not only does this discolour your teeth, but it will also take the hygienist longer during the next cleaning. Having a single annual appointment means a longer more aggressive cleaning is needed. That is much more uncomfortable than two mild cleanings a year.
- USE A NUMBING GEL. Dentists usually stock a variety of gels to numb your gums; they make cleanings much more comfortable. The gels work quickly, so they don’t delay the dentist, they also wear off pretty quickly too.
- ORAL SEDATION. This is an option for patients who experience high anxiety during their checkups. Usually administered through a pill, Oral sedation can help relieve the discomfort you’re feeling. It may not completely knock you out, but you will feel drowsy, and unaware of any pain.