Even if you brush twice a day, floss, and use mouthwash daily, you still need to visit the dentist every 6 months to maintain optimal oral health.
Dentists aren’t just for filling cavities and managing dental emergencies. Dentists are trained to spot a host of disorders of the teeth, gums, and jaws before they become serious enough to require serious intervention or be considered chronic.
During a regular checkup, the dentist will remove plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth that brushing and flossing can’t completely prevent or remove. They’ll also check your gums for signs of gingivitis. Gingivitis is the initial stage of periodontitis and often has few or no symptoms. It is, however, a sign that your teeth and gums are taking damage that will likely increase if left untreated.
Gingivitis is treatable, and many people get it at some point in their lives. Unlike later stages of periodontal disease, gingivitis is completely reversible, usually within a year.
Gingivitis is irritation of the gums that can cause redness, swelling, and bleeding. As it progresses it will start to pull away from the roots of your teeth, exposing them to the bacteria that form plaque and cause tooth decay. Roots lack the enamel the rest of your teeth rely on to protect them from the acids these bacteria produce. If your dentist starts to see your gums receding, they will start a treatment regimen with you to protect your teeth and jaws from cavities or other types of damage. Unlike gingivitis, later stages of periodontal disease can cause permanent damage or tooth loss not just in your teeth but also in your jaws as infection spreads.
Dentists also screen for oral cancers, which often have few or no symptoms and therefore usually aren’t caught early enough to prevent damage.
If you have periodontal disease, your dentist can help protect your teeth from the disease while you heal. They can fill cavities and give root canals. They work with other dental professionals to replace missing teeth in the way best suited to your budget and needs to prevent bone loss in your jaws. They can tackle plaque below your gum line to try to eliminate gum disease with root planing and scaling.
They can also spot the symptoms of nocturnal teeth grinding, also called bruxism, which can cause significant damage to your teeth and jaws if left untreated. Teeth grinding can also be a sign that you have obstructive sleep apnea, which could be interfering with your sleep and putting you at increased risk of a host of health problems like heart attack and stroke.
If you’re pregnant, you’re at increased risk of gum disease and tooth decay for various reasons. Your dentist can work with you to maintain your oral health. Studies have shown that periodontal disease can increase your risk of preterm labor and birth. If you’re pregnant, your dentist can protect not just your health but that of your baby as well.
If you suffer from dry mouth, you’re at increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Your dentist can also spot the symptoms of dry mouth, go over your medications or conditions with you to try to find the cause, and work with you to find a solution that protects your teeth.
Maintaining your oral health is part of maintaining your physical health. Just as health conditions can affect the health of your mouth, the health of your mouth can affect the rest of your physical health. Dentists are trained to spot and treat problems before they become serious enough to create complications. In order to optimize the care you receive and minimize your risk of needing costly reparative procedures, seeing your dentist bi-annually or however often they recommend if you have an underlying health condition will keep you healthy and pain-free.