You’ve probably already heard that you should go to the dentist regularly to maintain good oral health. A reliable rule of thumb is to go twice per year. However, you may not have been told about the full benefits of regular cleanings and checkups. To help you understand the importance of taking the time to schedule an appointment, here are some of the biggest reasons why doing so is a good idea.

Improving Your Confidenceregular-dental-visits-3

Have you ever had bad breath? Of course you have! Everyone gets it. But if you don’t see your dental health professional and get your mouth cleaned occasionally, it could get much worse. Dentists can also help you keep your teeth bright and white. Many everyday products we consume, such as coffee or tea, can leave stains on them. At the dentist’s office you can get them whitened and polished, eliminating those unsightly stains and giving you a more attractive and confident-looking smile.

Preventing Gum Disease

Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in American adults, and most adults will face gum disease at some point in their lives. One of your biggest oral health goals, therefore, should be taking efforts to prevent and minimize this problem. Regular checkups will help you do that. Your
dentist has special tools that check to see if your gums are still healthy. If there’s a problem, he or she will tell you how best to fix it before it costs you your smile.

Detecting Cavities

Over time, tiny food particles in your mouth convert to plaque, an acidic substance that clings to and slowly eats away your teeth. Regular flossing and brushing can help slow this process, but they can’t prevent it entirely. Over time, these cavities get worse and worse until they begin to cause you tremendous pain. A tooth isn’t like skin; it won’t regenerate to repair itself. Therefore, if you let the cavity get bad enough, you’ll lose it.

Fortunately, oral health professionals always check for cavities in their earliest stages. They use x-rays and other medical equipment to find them before they start to hurt you or cause irreplaceable damage. When cavities are in their early stages, repairing them is no problem. You’ll also get a good cleaning at every checkup, which prevents the buildup of plaque and lowers the likelihood that you’ll get cavities in the future.

Preventing Oral Cancer and Other Life-Threatening Conditions

Oral cancer is a deadly serious problem. Experts estimate that nearly 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with it every year, and nearly 10,000 will die from it. Almost half of those diagnosed with oral cancer will die within five years of their diagnosis.

The Oral Cancer Foundation notes that this high mortality rate is mainly caused by the fact that oral cancer is usually detected at a very late stage. It can be hard to detect early because the symptoms are relatively mild at first.

Fortunately, dentists know how to recognize the signs of cancer early and will be able to detect it during a routine check-up. But that’s not all. Getting your mouth checked by a doctor has other major health benefits.

Dental check-ups have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes, as well. Seeing your oral health-care professional regularly, therefore, could do more than save your teeth. It could also save your life.

Dental health screenings can help keep you healthy from head to toe.

Dental health screenings can help keep you healthy from head to toe.

One of the great benefits of having a good dental insurance plan is that regular appointments for teeth cleaning and oral exams are covered. One big reason for this is that insurance companies know a focus on prevention can actually help an individual lower their future costs for dental repairs.

But there’s another reason why your dentist and oral hygienist want to see you twice a year: to help keep you healthy from head to toe.

During a routine visit to the dentist, several serious diseases (such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease) can be detected. If you’re like many people, there’s a good chance you see your dental hygienist more frequently than you see your general practitioner.

So how great is it that dental hygienists are trained to screen their patients for signs and symptoms that may indicate problems in other parts of the body?

Pretty great.

In fact, during a dental health screening, a trained oral health practitioner can spot over 120 signs and symptoms of non-dental diseases.

…a trained oral health practitioner can spot over 120 signs and symptoms of non-dental diseases.

If that sounds like it would be time consuming, well, it is. Trying to fit an oral hygiene exam, scaling and polishing, and a doctor exam into a one hour appointment can be a major challenge.

Early detection and prompt referrals

The good news is: the more frequently you have your teeth professionally cleaned, the less time your hygienist will need to spend scaling and polishing your teeth, and the more time will be available for your oral care team to devote to overall health screening, early detection of any concerns, and prompt referral to a primary care provider.

If all you want is a brighter smile, then that may sound like it’s a waste of time.

But if you ask them, your dentist and oral hygienist will very likely tell you they have a bigger goal in mind for you: keeping you healthy all over, so you’ll have every reason to smile.

Learn more about your oral health.

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Mention the word ‘cancer’ and most people shudder.  A common human response, we try to bury our heads in the sand or wish the concept away unless we actually have to deal with a diagnosis personally. But many cancers are curable when detected early – and oral cancer is no exception. Detecting oral cancer symptoms early can be instrumental in treatment.

Often beginning as a small white or red spot or sore – known as leukoplakia – anywhere in the mouth, oral cancer symptoms don’t necessarily require oral surgery to be detected. Most regular dental checkups include a visual and palpating check for early signs of oral cancer.

Oral cancer prevention benefits from regular dentist visits.

Maintaining regular dental visits is the first and best defense against oral cancer.

If cancerous, these cells can spread to neighboring healthy tissues and grow into a tumor. Later stages of oral cancer can then take hold in lymph nodes, bone, muscle, or other organs. Left untreated, oral cancer can cause disfigurement and even death.

Other potential oral cancer symptoms include the following:

  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together
  • Oral sores that bleed easily or don’t heal
  • Lumps, thickening, rough spots, or crusty or eroded areas in the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue.

Maintaining regular dental visits is the first and best defense against oral cancer. Your dentist is trained to detect oral cancer in its earliest stages and can test further for suspicious growths or conditions. Should something appear abnormal, a simple brush test may be ordered, which collects suspect cells for further analysis in a lab. Oral surgery may be necessary to biopsy the area later.

Other tests, such as a white light test and multi-spectral light test may be used on patients pre-disposed to cancers or at risk for oral cancer. Referral to a pathologist may be recommended for an accurate assessment.

Maintaining regular dental visits is the first and best defense against oral cancer. 

Should an oral cancer diagnosis result from your tests, oral surgery will likely be a necessity. Oral surgeries for oral cancer can include removal of the tumor and surrounding tissues, removal of all or part of the jaw, lymph node removal in the neck, removal of bone in the roof of the mouth, tracheotomy, tooth removal, or plastic surgery to restore removed tissue.

In addition to oral surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be ordered to shrink tumors or increase the effectiveness of the other procedures.

The best advice for preventing oral cancer is to avoid using tobacco and alcohol. Visit your dentist regularly to ensure proper examination and catch oral cancer as soon as possible. More than half of all patients diagnosed with oral cancer are already experiencing its spread to other parts of the body, complicating recovery. Avoiding that spread is as simple as showing up for a checkup.

Have you or someone you know successfully recovered from oral cancer? Share your experience in a comment below!

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