Even if they don’t practice it, many people believe the answer to this question is every six months. If you were to ask them why, they may say because that’s what their dental insurance covers. This rule of thumb has been around for quite some time, but where did the idea that you should visit the dentist twice a year come from and is it true?
Are six-month dental checkups a myth?
The origins of the twice-a-year dental visits are debatable and vary widely. Several different people and companies over the course of history have been credited with coming up with it. The Colgate website, for instance, credit’s dental and health organizations for realizing the need for a standard after military dental exams revealed just how bad many American’s teeth were.
Although it sounds plausible, there are also several other interesting theories, including:
- Pierre Fauchard, an 18th century physician known as the father of modern dentistry
- 1849 satirical book entitled, “The Tooth-Ache. Imagined by Horace Mayhew and Realized by George Cruikshank”
- 1929 Pepsodent toothpaste ad campaign
While the true origins of the sixth-month dental checkup may never be determined, what we can determine is that it’s a best guess, at best. It turns out that this rule of thumb is no more grounded in evidence than most old wives’ tales. We’re lacking evidence to support or refute the sixth-month dental checkup claim. But the fact that most dental insurance plans only cover twice annual cleanings seems to have perpetuated the idea.
Caring for your teeth
You may be thinking even if it’s not based on fact, it encourages people to take care of themselves, right? Well, yes and no. Regular dental checkups are certainly important. It allows your dentist to detect problems earlier on and before they become costly and more advanced. But what constitutes “regular” visits depends on a number of factors including lifestyle choices, medical conditions, age and oral hygiene. It’s not one-size-fits all.
Visiting the dentist every six months may be just fine for some people, but high-risk individuals may need to go as often as every three to four months. Only after going to the dentist for a personal evaluation will you know for certain how often you can go between visits.
Are you at risk for oral health problems?
It goes without saying that your oral health is linked to your overall general health. Sure, regular brushing and flossing are essential, but practicing good oral hygiene is just one part of the equation.
Here are some other things that can increase your risk of tooth decay, periodontal (or gum) disease and oral cancer, and put you in the high-risk group:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Poor nutrition
- Family history of gum disease or tooth decay
- Female hormonal changes such as pregnancy and menopause
- Excessive alcohol use
- Tobacco use
- Illegal drug use
- Excessive sun exposure
- Medications that cause dry mouth
- Weakened immune system
- Health conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, anemia, HIV/AIDs and hyperthyroidism
How healthy is your mouth?
If you fall into the high-risk group mentioned above or experience any of the below symptoms, you shouldn’t wait to schedule a dentist appointment.
- Teeth sensitivity
- Persistent dry mouth
- Persistent bad breath
- Puffy or bleeding gums
- Chronic jaw pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain or difficulty when chewing
- Swelling in your face, mouth or neck
- Mouth sores or irritations that aren’t clearing up or look unusual
- Popping of the jaw
Dental checkups are covered at 100%
When is the last time you went for a dental checkup? Maybe you’ve been putting it off because you forgot, don’t have a regular dentist, dread going to the dentist or simply think you don’t need to go because “everything’s fine”. But this quick evaluation can help detect issues like tooth decay and gum disease before it becomes a painful and expensive problem. Plus, dentists can see things we may be completely unaware of.
Perhaps best of all is that dental insurance plans cover annual exams at 100%. If you don’t have dental insurance, you’re not off the hook. There’s a more affordable and flexible alternative to dental insurance known as a dental savings plan.
Dental savings plans
A dental savings plan can be thought of as a club membership. For a low annual membership fee that starts at less than $80 a year, you can enjoy access to savings on a variety of dental procedures. Plus, some plans even offer 100% free dental check-ups and x-rays.
If your dentist finds anything during your dental checkup and recommends further work or evaluation, you’ll be glad to know that dental savings plans can save you anywhere from 10% to 60% off the cost of care on a range of services — even things dental insurance won’t cover.
With a dental savings plan, you’ll enjoy discounts on the following dental procedures:
- Oral surgery
Know that you know a little bit more about how often you should visit your dentist, go ahead and make that appointment. You’ll be glad you did.