Why it’s important: Regular exams can catch gum and tooth problems early.
Who needs it: Everyone. Some people need to visit more often than others.
Good to know: Gum disease is linked with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
What are dental exams?
At a dental exam, a dentist will check your mouth and teeth for gum disease, cavities and tooth decay, and other dental or oral problems. A dental visit typically includes a thorough cleaning as well.
Why are they important?
A simple checkup can often catch small problems before they have a chance to get serious — and expensive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all adults over 30 have some periodontal disease. Left untreated, this can cause painful tooth decay and may be linked with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Who needs them?
Everyone should see a dentist on a regular basis. How often is “regular”? Turns out, there's no one-size rule for everyone. For example, people with a higher risk of gum disease (people who smoke or have diabetes) might need to visit more often than most. You and your dentist should decide what's right for you, whether it's every six months, every year, or some other amount of time.
That said, do check with your dentist anytime you have a toothache, teeth that are sensitive to heat or cold, or signs of gum disease (such as swollen and tender gums, bleeding during brushing, loose teeth, or gums that are pulling away from teeth). If you're pregnant, you should continue to get regular dental exams.
What to expect
Your dentist will take a close look at your mouth (and possibly take X-rays) to see if you have any problems that need to be addressed. Your dentist may also offer advice about taking care of your teeth and gums, like flossing daily, brushing twice a day, and not smoking or using other tobacco products.
At a cleaning, the dentist or hygienist will use special tools to scrape off any plaque (that sticky, germy gunk) or tartar (hardened plaque) along your gums and in hard to reach places on or between your teeth. After that, you'll have your teeth flossed and polished smooth.
Good to know
Seeing a dentist regularly isn’t just a good way to help prevent cavities and gum disease. Plaque and tartar have also been linked to non-mouth-related problems like preterm labor and heart disease.
American Dental Association (ADA). Your Top 9 Questions About Going to the Dentist, Answered. Last accessed February 2019.
American Dental Association (ADA). American Dental Association Statement on Regular Dental Visits. Last updated June 2013