Most people have heard that you should visit your dentist once or twice a year for regular checkups and cleaning appointments. However, sometimes in spite of your best intentions, you may end up putting off a dental checkup for a few years.
Regardless of your oral hygiene habits, if a year or more has gone by since you last saw your dentist, it’s probably time to make an appointment. Learn about what you can expect when you visit the dentist for a checkup after a long pause.
Health History Discussion
Your oral health condition can and probably will change over a few years, so expect to spend some time discussing your health history. Oral health is closely linked to overall health, so be open and honest with your dentist about your medications, conditions you’ve been diagnosed with, and any symptoms you are consulting with other doctors about.
Specifically, you should let your dentist know if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, because diabetes reduces your body's ability to fight infection and increases your risk of gum disease.
As embarrassing as it may be, you should also tell your dentist if you have (or suspect you may have) HIV/AIDS, osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, or Alzheimer's disease. Each of these conditions is accompanied by oral health symptoms that your dentist can help you address.
The longer you wait between professional cleanings, the more tartar will build up on your teeth. Tartar is a hardened form of plaque, and it's nearly impossible to remove on your own with a toothbrush; it must be removed by a dental hygienist.
Your hygienist will use a variety of scraping tools to remove the tartar from the surface of your teeth. If you have excessive tartar buildup, this process may take longer than usual, so be prepared for a lengthier appointment.
Some bleeding is normal when your teeth have not been cleaned in a while. However, if you find the process painful, your hygienist may apply a numbing gel to your gums to ease your discomfort.
Your dental hygienist will note whether any pockets have formed between your gums and your teeth. Such pockets are a sign of gum disease, which can be quite common in patients who have not had regular, professional cleanings. Bacteria in tartar works its way into the gums, which can cause infection and even cause the gums to pull away from your teeth.
If you have pockets in your gums, your hygienist will likely recommend that you schedule another appointment for a deep cleaning procedure. During this procedure, a local anesthetic will be used to keep you comfortable while the hygienist uses specialized scraping tools to clean beneath the gum line. With the bacteria gone from the area, the pockets should tighten up and your gums will heal.
Once your teeth are clean, the dentist will come take a look at your teeth, taking note of any cavities, worn out fillings, or other issues. If you have not been to the dentist in a while, you’ll probably need to have x-rays taken. X-rays allow your dentist to spot problems such as:
- Cavities between the teeth
- Decay and abscesses in the tooth roots
- Cracks and chips in and around fillings
X-rays often allow dentists to detect problems before they become serious enough to cause pain. If you have gone without professional dental care for a while, you will have an increased risk of cavities and decay, which makes x-rays all the more important.
Going to the dentist for the first time in a long time can be a bit anxiety-inducing. Removing tartar can be painful and sitting through x-rays and a detailed health history is not exactly fun.
However, making and keeping that dental checkup appointment is one of the best things you can do for your dental health — and a smart thing to do for your overall health, too. Contact Royal Oak Dental to make your appointment today.