Seeing the dentist regularly as a child might be one of your most enduring memories. Of course, with age comes the lack of a parent who sets appointments for you to make sure you get regular care, so you might find yourself spending more time away from the dentist between visits. But even if your teeth seem OK, you might still wonder how often should you go to the dentist. The truth is, it’s up to you: While one person might require several trips per year, others are fine with an annual maintenance checkup throughout their adulthood.
There’s no “perfect” amount of regular dental visits recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA), especially since dental health varies from person to person. The ADA usually recommends one to two visits each year. That way, even if your mouth is in perfect health, you can still get a professional cleaning and a checkup to make sure you’re on track for a continually healthy mouth.
Changes to Dental Health
In addition to your regular visit(s) throughout the year, you should schedule an appointment when you notice changes to your dental health, particularly when it involves pain. Chipped teeth, sensitivity to hot or cold, swollen or bleeding gums and persistent tooth pain are all issues to discuss with your dentist as soon as you notice them. After all, when it comes to dental pain, letting the issue fester often makes the problem worse.
When you have dental work, you may be asked to make follow-up and checkup appointments to ensure that the instruments are behaving the way they should. Whether it involves getting a crown, having a cavity filled or being outfitted with dentures, a follow-up appointment usually allows the dentist to take a quick peek to make sure the dental work produces results and to answer any questions you might have about personal care following recent dental work.
High Risk Groups
There is a group of people who are considered to be at high risk for dental issues, and those individuals may need to see the dentist more often per recommendations and individual health requirements. The following is a list of those who may need to increase their dental visits due to changes in health, hormones or habits.
- Pregnant women. The American Pregnancy Association warns that the spike of hormones during pregnancy can result in swollen gums, increased tooth decay and sensitivity, which is why you may need to talk to your dentist about any pain or changes you experience. Pregnancy can also increase your risk of oral infection, which can lead to preterm delivery, so let your dentist know as soon as you become pregnant.
- Smokers. If you smoke, you have a higher risk of gum disease and tooth decay, due to both the ingredients in cigarettes and the drying effect that smoking has on your mouth — especially since, without adequate saliva production, bacteria isn’t effectively rinsed from the teeth. While you should quit smoking altogether, your dentist can talk to you about ways to care for your mouth. One approach is to regularly use a mouthwash to keep your mouth moist and bacteria-free.
- Cancer patients. If you’re undergoing chemotherapy as part of your cancer treatment, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research suggests seeing your dentist before your treatment begins. Chemotherapy treatment can result in dry mouth and cause jaw stiffness, both of which influence your quality of life. Your dentist should check to make sure no permanent damage is being done, and offer you ways to cope.
How often should you go to the dentist as an adult? It all depends on your individual health, present concerns and risk factors. In the end, one or two regular appointments throughout the year, plus extra visits as recommended by your dentist, should be enough to keep your teeth healthy in the long term.