How Often Should You Visit The Dentist/Dental Hygienist?

On average, seeing your dental professional for a cleaning and check-up twice a year works well for most people. Regular visits allow your dentist to find early signs of disease and treat these problems at a manageable stage.

People with a high risk of dental disease may need to visit more frequently – sometimes every three to four months, or more. This high-risk group includes:

Smokers
Diabetics
People with current gum disease
People with a weak immune response to bacterial infection
People who tend to get cavities or build up plaque

Your dental needs change over the course of your lifetime. In times of stress or illness, you may need to see the dentist/hygienist more often than usual. The dentist may help you to fight off a temporary infection or treat changes in your mouth. Ask your dentist/hygienist the best schedule for your routine dental visits.

What is Periodontal Disease and What are the Signs and Symptoms?

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth. In its early stage, called gingivitis, the gums can become swollen, red and they may bleed. In its more serious form, called periodontitis, involves loss of gum and bone support around teeth, which could lead to tooth loss. Periodontal disease and tooth decay are the two biggest threats to dental health.

Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth infecting tissue surrounding the teeth. When bacteria stay on the teeth long enough, it forms a film called plaque, which eventually hardens to tartar, also called calculus. Tartar build-up can spread below the gum line, which makes the teeth harder to clean. Then, only a dental health professional can remove the tartar and stop the progression of periodontal disease.

Warning Signs

The following are warning signs of periodontal disease:

Bad breath or bad taste that won’t go away
Red or swollen gums
Tender or bleeding gums
Painful chewing
Loose teeth
Sensitive teeth
Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
Any change in the fit of partial dentures

Risk Factors

Certain factors increase the risk for periodontal disease:

Smoking
Diabetes
Poor oral hygiene
Stress
Heredity
Crooked teeth
Underlying immuno-deficiencies—e.g., AIDS
Fillings that have become defective
Taking medications that cause dry mouth
Bridges that no longer fit properly
Female hormonal changes, such as with pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives

Prevention and Treatment

Gingivitis can be controlled and treated with good oral hygiene and regular professional cleaning. More severe forms of periodontal disease can also be treated successfully but may require more extensive treatment. Such treatment might include deep cleaning of the tooth root surfaces below the gums, medications prescribed to take by mouth or placed directly under the gums, and sometimes corrective surgery.

To help prevent or control periodontal diseases, it is important to: Brush and floss every day to remove the bacteria that cause gum disease. See a dentist at least once a year for checkups, or more frequently if you have any of the warning signs or risk factors mentioned above.

When Should I Take My Child to the Dentist for the First Time?

It’s important to get an early start on dental care, so that your child will learn that visiting the dentist is a regular part of health care. CDA encourages the assessment of infants, by a dentist, within 6 months of the eruption of the first tooth or by one year of age.

It’s important to make the first visit a positive experience for your child – one reason why it’s best to visit before a problem develops. If you think there is a problem, however, take your child to the dentist right away, no matter what age. If you are a nervous dental patient, ask your spouse or another family member to take the child for the appointment. If your child senses that you are nervous, he or she may feel nervous too. When you talk to your child about going to the dentist, explain what will happen without adding things like “it won’t hurt” or “don’t be scared.”

Be sure to get an early start on regular dental care at home. Start cleaning your child’s mouth with a soft damp cloth before teeth come in and continue with a soft toothbrush once he or she has a first tooth. Limit the number of sugary treats you give your child, and focus on healthy food choices from the very beginning.

Is There a Link Between Periodontal Disease and Cardiovascular Disease?

Scientific studies have been done which have established an association between gum disease (periodontitis) and cardiovascular disease. While the exact mechanism which links gum disease and cardiovascular disease has not been firmly established, the association between the two disease entities is cause for concern. In our health-conscious society, it is being recommended that patients with cardiovascular disease and especially those with heart valve deficiencies and/or replacements be monitored more thoroughly regarding their periodontal status.

Diabetes and Periodontal Disease

People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes, probably because people with diabetes are more susceptible to contracting infections. In fact, periodontal disease is often considered a complication of diabetes. Those people who don’t have their diabetes under control are especially at risk. Research has suggested that the relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease goes both ways – periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar. Severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, contributing to increased periods of time when the body functions with a high blood sugar. This puts people at increased risk for diabetic complications.