For children, a trip to the dentist is a regular occurrence – often topped off with a sticker or sugar-free lollipop. But it turns out that for adults, a visit to the dentist chair is surprisingly rare. In fact, a shocking one in twenty Brits never visit the dentist at all! This is particularly worrying since the study found that the same number of people only brush half of the teeth in their mouth. Staying on top of your oral health can have huge implications, not just for your smile, but for your whole body. If you need more convincing to book an appointment with your dentist, read on.
Why do people delay?
It’s a well-known fact that many people have anxiety about being in the dentist’s chair. But for some, this can be a full-blown phobia. According to the British Dental Health Foundation, 36% of patients who don’t see a dentist regularly said that fear was the main reason. These people might have had a bad experience in the past, or be worried about pain or a loss of control.
If you’re putting off the dentist due to fear, it’s essential to get help to overcome this, so it doesn’t prevent necessary treatment. If it’s a phobia, you might want to speak to a psychologist for support. Finding a dental surgery that you trust can also make a huge difference. You can take time to look up reviews online and visit the surgery to see what kind of environment it is. When you find a dentist that you feel comfortable with, it will be easier to speak to them about your fears. They might be able to do things to help you, such as carefully explaining what they will do during a check-up to calm your nerves.
Other reasons for putting off dentist trips include busy lifestyles or money worries. But leaving oral issues untreated can make them harder and more expensive to treat further down the line, so early treatment or prevention is wise. If you are on a low income, you might be able to get support for your dental procedures, so it’s worth doing your research or speaking to your dentist’s surgery. Scheduling can be hard with a busy lifestyle, but if your oral health is in good condition, you probably don’t have to visit the dentist too often. So bite the bullet and get an appointment in your diary.
How often should you go to the dentist?
The NHS says that the time between dental check-ups can vary depending on the health of your teeth and gums and the risk of any future problems. You could go anywhere from three months to two years between appointments. Many people think that every six months is optimum, but your dentist will be able to advise you how often you should visit. Of course, if you need dental treatments like fillings, teeth cleaning, or removal, you’ll have to go sooner. Contact your dentist surgery to book an appointment or call the out of hours line if you need emergency treatment.
Combatting oral disease and tooth loss
Maintaining your oral health is vital for fresh breath and pearly whites. Many people can feel self-conscious about the way their teeth look, or the freshness of their breath, so staying on top of your oral hygiene can be a huge confidence boost.
But it’s not just fresh breath that is at stake here. Correct brushing and regular trips to the dentist can maintain good oral health and prevent nasty infections or disease. If you have symptoms like bleedy gums or a mild toothache, it could be a sign of an underlying dental issue like gum disease. Symptoms of gum disease include sore or swollen gums, which might be bleeding. With a sore mouth, it can be tempting to brush teeth less often, or less vigorously, to avoid the pain. But poor hygiene practices will likely make the problem much worse. If this goes untreated, it could escalate into something nastier.
When gum disease is left to become severe, it is very painful and could result in oral surgery and even something as drastic as tooth loss. If you have missing teeth or a set of teeth in poor condition, you might need to use dentures or get dental implants. This may involve several procedures, although same day teeth implants may be available. The best thing you can do is to try to avoid a situation like this ahead of time by booking an annual dentist appointment. But if you already have dental issues, going to the dentist frequently can help keep them under control and prevent further damage to your teeth and gums.
Dentist trips are vital to overall health
Did you know that good oral health is crucial to overall bodily health?
During your visit, your dentist doesn’t just inspect your teeth. Since oral health is linked to lifestyle factors, they are also likely to ask about your habits for example drinking, smoking, and diet choices. This might feel invasive, but it helps them to build a clearer picture of your dental needs. As medical professionals, they aren’t judging you, but they are in an excellent position to offer advice on how to make healthier choices for your teeth and overall health.
Poor oral health isn’t just bad news for your mouth. Shockingly, oral health issues have been found to affect other parts of the body negatively, too. Periodontal disease (severe gum disease) can increase your risk of all manner of other health conditions, including stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. It has also been linked with dementia, arthritis, and problems during pregnancy. That’s why NHS dental care is free for pregnant women and those who have given birth in the last year.
The link between gum disease and heart health is well documented. Periodontal disease has been found to increase a person’s risk of heart disease by 20%. In 2014, researchers studied people who had cardiovascular disease as well as gum disease. They discovered that patients who had proper treatment for gum disease paid between 10-40% less for their cardiovascular care, compared to those who didn’t receive proper oral care, which indicates the strong link between oral and general health.
Dentists can also be the first people to detect oral cancers, which could potentially save your life. This could be particularly important if you have a higher risk for these cancers due to factors like drinking or smoking. Oral cancer can spread quickly, so early detection can make all the difference, so if you have symptoms like a mouth ulcer that won’t heal, it’s vital you get it checked out. A dentist might perform this test during a routine checkup, but not necessarily. If you have symptoms that are worrying you, you should book an urgent appointment and let the dentist know your concerns.
What you can do in between trips to the dentist
If you tend to avoid the dentist’s chair, there are things you can do to make sure your dental hygiene is the best possible, to prevent unnecessary trips.
You need to brush twice a day, preferably with a fluoride toothpaste. You can choose to use a manual or electric toothbrush, although some people find an electric toothbrush helps them to get a more complete clean. Two minutes is the ideal time to brush. There are lots of handy tools to help you track the time, for example, Brush DJ which plays your favourite songs for two minutes while you brush. A little egg timer will also do the trick.
Many adults have never been shown how to brush their teeth, and most of us can stand to make improvements. Your dentist will be happy to show you the most effective way to brush your teeth. You can also ask for a dental hygienist appointment where you can have your teeth professionally cleaned, scaled and polished. Your dentist will probably also recommend that you floss daily, use a mouthwash, and use interdental brushes to keep your mouth as clean as possible.
Eating a balanced diet that avoids too much sugar can also prevent you from getting cavities. You might be surprised to know how much sugar is already in your diet. Cutting right back on fizzy drinks can make a huge difference. Timing is also significant. Did you know that the mouth produces less saliva as you sleep? That makes it particularly important not to consume sugary food or drink before bed, as your teeth have less protection.
It’s imperative not to take your oral health for granted. If issues with your gums and teeth are left to get worse, it can end up being expensive, time-consuming and painful. Plus, the health of your mouth can impact the health of your whole body. Preventative care is always your best option to stop issues developing, but if you do end up with a cavity or other problem, it’s best to get it treated right away. Hopefully, this inspires you to keep up to date with your dentist appointments.