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How often do you need to see a dentist?

Many of us believe that we ought to see dental appointments every six months, regardless of what we actually do. If those two-yearly check-ups are necessary or not is however, the subject of debate. It’s unclear what the initial six-month number was derived from. Many believe that it dates from the late 18th Century far before the introduction in randomised controlled studies which could examine its effects.

Patients who have a lot of dental issues do have to see a dentist regularly. But what happens to everyone else? They are also more susceptible to decay shortly after they’ve been in place, so when kids have just gotten their very first teeth between six to eight, they require regular exams. When they reach teens, their teeth are less prone to decay until the wisdom teeth begin to appear when you reach your twenties. Therefore, the risk is different over different periods of time.

In 2000, three quarters of dentists who were surveyed within New York were recommending six monthly visits, despite the lack of research that examined whether frequency of visits was beneficial for patients who were at a low risk of developing tooth decay or gum disease. Many organizations today like those of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry continue to recommend six check-ups every month.

For a long time, some have argued that the decision to choose 6 months for the optimal interval between visits is a bit arbitrarily. In 1977, Aubrey Sheiham, a professor of public health dentistry from University College London, published an article within The Lancet bemoaning the lack of evidence supporting six-month examinations. Nearly 40 years later He’s still making the same argument.

In 2003, a systematic review looked at studies that had been conducted. Results were mixed. Certain studies showed no distinction in the amount of teeth that were decayed and fillings or missing teeth for patients who visited regularly to the dentist versus those who did not, while some studies showed less fillings for those who visited the dentist frequently. Concerning gums most studies found there was no difference in the quantity of bleeding, plaque , or gingivitis that occurs in permanent teeth. A study showed that visiting the dentist more than twice a year did not affect the size of tumors upon diagnosis of oral cancer however, another study found that when patients waited longer than one year between visits to the dentist the tumours might become more advanced once they were discovered.

In the past, this year, the Cochrane Collaboration performed a similar comprehensive review of research and was disappointed by what they discovered. The quality and quantity of the research insufficient to prove or disprove the notion of a six-monthly check-up. There was only one study in which patients were randomly assigned to visit the dentist either each year or twice a year. Patients who visited annually fared better, however it is possible that the staff at the dentist could have known if patients were part of the two-yearly or annual group, which might influence the treatment they received , and affected the outcomes.

We also have other things to keep in mind. If a research study concludes that, for instance, children who visit the dentist often have less fillings, there are different factors at play. These children could benefit from other factors; they could be part of the upper end of the socioeconomic ladder or eat healthier and also have higher-quality dental equipment.

There’s another reason of visiting the dentist. Although the doctor does not detect any issues they will remind you to continue taking care of your teeth and to clean them in a proper manner – though there isn’t a consensus on the best method to do this.

What is the best time to visit the dentist? Organizations like Nice that provide guidelines on those who work for the National Health Service in England and Wales states they recommend that frequency for visits to the dentist will vary based on the person. They suggest that children see a dentist at least every year as their teeth may get worse, while adults with no problems can go up to two years. They even go so in the direction of saying that a period of more than two years of age is acceptable for people who have demonstrated dedication to taking care of their gums and teeth. Similar recommendations are given elsewhere. A group of experts who reviewed the data from Finland in 2001 suggested that children under 18 who are not at risk should visit between 18 months to two years.

What happens to us next time we get an email from the office telling us when of our next dental appointment due? We’d all love an excuse to visit less frequently but the good thing is that if your suffer from any health issues, you could likely wait for a bit for longer than six month between appointments. But how long prior to your visit to the dentist will be contingent on the assessment that you and your dentist perform of your own risk.