There are many compelling reasons to visit a dentist regularly. Dental screenings check for a wide variety of problems, many of which are important to a patient’s overall health as well as their teeth and gums. In addition to a check for general oral health, the dentist screens for oral cancer, cavities, and early signs of gum disease. Regular visits assist the family dentist in getting to know patients’ habits and issues, increasing the ability to catch problems before they become health emergencies.
Routine dental screenings are more useful than patients may realize. A part of the exam is a check for oral cancer. Visiting a dentist on a regular basis provides the best screening for this cancer, which is curable unless it is discovered in the very late stages. Tobacco users are especially at risk, but people with no known risk factors for this disease can still be affected. Recent studies have also linked the occurrence of oral cancer to the human papilloma virus, or HPV. Frequent dental exams are the best way we have to prevent oral cancer.
Regular dental exams provide an opportunity for the dentist to find cavities while they are still small. The dentist can spot tooth decay early on, and develop a treatment plan that will keep the patient’s teeth healthy. Stopping minor tooth decay early on can prevent costly dental procedures and even loss of teeth down the road.
Dentists also check for the presence of gum disease during regular screenings. Gum disease, or gingivitis as it is called in the early stages, can be prevented through good dental hygiene and professional cleanings. In fact, some forms of decay, like tartar buildup, can only be eliminated by a dental cleaning. Gingivitis forms after plaque and other build up is allowed to remain (and decay) on the surface of the teeth and gums. While tobacco use and genetics contribute to the formation of gingivitis as well, regular dental treatment can help prevent the condition from developing into a bigger issue.
In the advanced stages, gum disease turns into periodontal disease — a serious threat to overall health. This condition can lead to a patient’s bones breaking down in addition to tooth loss. Also worth noting, bacteria present in a mouth full of infected gums can contribute to major health issues such as heart disease and stroke.
Some scientists also suggest that gum disease raises the risk of developing diabetes. The thought behind the research is that infected gums can raise blood sugar levels, a contributing factor to this life-altering disease.
Surprisingly, current statistics show that the majority of Americans have gum disease in some form or another. This makes it all the more important to incorporate regular dental checkups in your plan to maintain overall good health.
Research suggests that adults and children should see their dentists a minimum of once every six months for a dental exam and cleaning. Visiting the family dentist regularly is an important way to prevent serious overall health conditions like tooth loss, gum disease, and oral cancer.