Dental Care Timeline
Your dental care timeline is as individual as your health itself. This means while you know you should brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once, the timeline for how often you visit your dentist or get an x-ray to visualize your overall dental health will vary. While you can follow a general dental care timeline, always tell your dentist about medical conditions you may have. This is because seemingly unrelated medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure may end up having a big effect on your teeth.
How often should I go to the dentist?
If you had a broken leg, you’d probably see the doctor a lot more than someone who didn’t. A similar thought process goes for how often you see the dentist. If you have chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, that can complicate your dental health, you may find yourself at the dentist’s office more often than someone who doesn’t. The typical consensus, however, is to see your dentist at least twice a year.
“Seeing a patient twice per year comes out of insurance guidelines compiled from data based on years of what dentists have reported,” says Charles V. Ankar, DDS, a family dentist with a practice at Shallowford Family Dental Group in Chattanooga, Tenn. “Twice a year is recommended for someone who has really good health. The only way to determine what’s best for each person is to determine how high risk you are for dental conditions.”
For people who haven’t gone to the dentist in a year or longer, 34 percent of those polled said cost was the main deterrent, according to the American Dental Association. While cost is always a concern, it’s important to consider that an investment in an extra trip or two to the dentist each year could potentially save you thousands in dental bills down the road.
“If you have a tooth that has a small cavity, you typically will not have any symptoms out of it, and the cost of repair can be very nominal,” Dr. Ankar says. “On the other hand, if you have a toothache that’s left untreated, the damage can reach the nerve and necessitate a root canal and crown. Prevention is the key to keep your costs down.”
How often should I get fluoride treatments?
When you make a regular visit to your dentist’s office, one of the most important components is the fluoride treatment. This involves applying a strong concentration of fluoride to your teeth to deposit protective minerals back onto your teeth. Think of a fluoride treatment as putting a suit of armor on your teeth — they are then better equipped to protect against plaque and decay.
You will typically get a fluoride treatment each time you make a visit to the dentist. If your dentist recommends twice-yearly visits, you’ll likely get a fluoride treatment along with it. Remember not to let your fluoride treatment be the only exposure you have to fluoride throughout the year.
“Brushing with a toothpaste that has fluoride can help to keep your teeth strong,” says Joseph Payne, DDS, a dentist with a private practice in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Another fluoride source is drinking water that has fluoride added to it, which can have a protective effect for your whole family.
How often do I get x-rays?
X-rays can help your dentist obtain a complete picture of your dental health, indicating the presence of decay that isn’t visible to the human eye, such as bone infection, abscess or even a bone tumor. The answer to how often you should get x-rays depends on your overall dental health. You’ll likely get x-rays when you first visit a new dentist because your dentist is trying to get an overall picture (literally) of your dental health.
If you have children, they often need more x-rays than adults. This is because their teeth and jaws are growing at a fast rate and are subject to greater changes.
Also, if you’re concerned about radiation exposure, rest your fears. Dental x-rays provide a minimal amount of exposure to your body when compared to natural radiation sources you are exposed to on a daily basis, such as cosmic radiation from the sun.