How often should you go to the dentist for a teeth cleaning and exam? This is a question that our patients frequently ask. The short answer is that it depends on a patient’s individual needs and risk of oral diseases. The long answer requires a bit of information about why we recommend the exams and why we clean teeth at all.
A dental examination is first and foremost a screening tool. Diagnosing dental problems such as cavities when they are small can help prevent the need for larger, more costly procedures down the road. And cavities are only one of the potential problems we look out for. Oral cancers, diseases of the mouth, tongue, lips and throat, jaw problem (TMD), misaligned teeth, infections, cracked teeth and gum disease are some of the more common things that are evaluated at each dental exam. The exam also gives patients the opportunity to ask questions about their health and to seek referrals to medical and dental specialists as needed.
Another aspect of the dental exam is the radiographic exam, or x-rays. You can read a great summary of x-rays in dentistry and their safety in our post: http://downtownmontrealdentistry.com/dental-x-rays-really-need/ . Suffice it to say, we take as few x-rays as necessary to ensure that we don’t miss any potential problem without overdoing it.
Teeth cleaning is done regularly to remove any buildup of plaque and tartar on teeth and to lower the amount of bacteria present in your mouth. That smooth clean teeth feeling you get after the hygienist is finished her work isn’t just because she polished your teeth. She in fact removed a layer of bacteria-filled plaque that coats teeth. This layer is what can lead to cavities, gum disease, bad breath and bleeding gums. Removing it early can also help prevent it from hardening into tartar, which can look very unsightly and also lead to periodontal disease (gum disease)
So to answer the question: How often should you go to the dentist for a recall exam and teeth cleaning? We have patients who come in from as often as every 3 months or 4 month, to the most common 6 month intervals. Lower risk patients may be seen every 9 or 12 months. Although some insurance companies have decided that all their clients have the same needs and will only provide minimal benefits, the fact is that they are more interested in their bottom line than your health. The appropriate frequency of care can and must only be determined by the dentist and the patient together, and must only be based on the specific needs of the individual.