dental checkupThe six-month dental checkup is a routine part of millions of Americans’ lives. Some people never ask why they go, they just go to the dentist twice a year. Other people skip it and only see the dentist when they have pain or problems because they don’t understand the need. Why is a dental checkup important exactly? There are so many good reasons.

Brushing and Flossing Aren’t Enough

You may be a person who regularly brushes and flosses your teeth. If so, that’s wonderful. Regular maintenance of your oral health will help minimize tooth decay and gum disease. Even the most diligent brushing and flossing will not get your mouth as clean as the dental hygienist can, however. Dental professionals have both the tools and the training necessary to thoroughly clean the surface of your teeth and remove all harmful bacteria and tartar buildup. That’s not all they do, though. 

The Dental Checkup Checklist

When you go to your checkup, your dental hygienist and your dentist will examine your teeth and your mouth for a number of issues or warning signs. These include cavities and gingivitis, but they also check to see if your oral health is generally good or if you are developing oral problems. They will do a cancer screen, looking for abnormalities on your face and neck and in your mouth. They will check your bite and jaw for problems. 

Many people don’t know this, but protecting your oral health helps protect your general health too. Some diseases show up early in your mouth, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Taking medication for conditions that you have may result in side effects that affect your teeth and gums. Your dental staff will ask you about any drugs you are taking and will discuss any issues or questions that you may have about your health. They may recommend that you see a doctor as a result. Don’t ignore this. Address problems early when they are the most treatable. 

During your dental checkup your dentist or hygienist may ask you about your diet or your habits. They may want to show you how to brush and floss your teeth to get the best results or recommend purchasing an electric toothbrush. Depending on your habits, they may also make recommendations like quitting smoking or switching to sugar-free gum

Your hygienist will also remove stains and tartar from your teeth and may take dental x-rays to examine your teeth for cavities that may be forming but are not yet visible. X-rays aren’t necessary at every dental checkup, but they are very useful when taken periodically. 

At the end of your dental checkup, the dentist and hygienist will tell you what they found, if anything, and if any follow-up dental care is necessary. For most people having dental checkups twice a year is frequent enough, but some people are at higher risk for cavities or gum disease or have further problems that should be evaluated more often. 

Regular checkups are a critical part of preventive health care, so don’t skip them just because you are not having pain or discomfort in your mouth or with your teeth. If you haven’t been to the dentist in awhile, take the opportunity now to schedule a dental checkup. Your teeth and gums will thank you.