maintenance check-ups when I have no pain?
Does your mouth “feel” healthy? Can you eat anything you choose? Are you able to smile confidently?
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If you answered “yes” to all these questions, you probably think that you don’t need to see a dentist. But does “feeling” healthy and being pain-free enough to mean that your mouth really is healthy?
Dentists do more than just treat emergencies (toothaches, broken teeth/fillings). Your dentist has an important role in the ongoing maintenance and monitoring of your dental health. The mouth is constantly degenerating with age and time, just like a car that you drive everyday.
The principle of sending in your car for regular preventive and maintenance visits at your mechanic, also applies to your teeth!
Here are 14 reasons to visit your dentist regularly for maintenance.
1. Detect hidden cavities.
Decay can appear in areas in-between teeth where they touch/overlap. Decay can also be hidden underneath defective old fillings and crowns. The initial stage of dental decay is painless, the tooth appears normal and no cavity is visible. These cavities are usually only picked up by dental X-rays during routine check-ups.
2. Detect and treat gum disease early.
If you have advanced gum disease (periodontitis), the bone support around your teeth may be receding. If left untreated, this may cause your teeth to loosen due to this permanent bone loss. Early detection of bone loss on X-rays is the best strategy to prevent the permanent loss of teeth.
Again, gum disease even in severe cases can be completely painless!
3. Prevent dental emergencies and pain
Untreated cavities or chronic infections may flare up, causing severe pain. Early detection and treatment can prevent dental emergencies, which are inconvenient and expensive to manage.
4. Maintenance of expensive dental work/implants
If you have invested in expensive dental implants, crowns or veneers, regular maintenance is required to keep them in top condition. Regular checks can detect problems early, allowing the dentist to plan for remedial work at your convenience, instead of leaving it to an emergency.
5. Check oral appliances/mouthguards/retainers
If you have been advised to wear a nightguard, retainer, sports mouthguard or anti-snoring appliance, regular checkups ensure that the appliance is working well and that the effects of the appliance on your teeth are being monitored. Broken/ill-fitting appliances may not work as intended.
6. Oral cancer screening
The survival rate for oral cancer is just over 50 per cent. This is because in the majority of cases, detected only in the later stages. Your dentist is in the best position to identify suspicious ulcers/lumps inside the mouth.
7. Monitor/maintain inactive decay
At your initial visit, your dentist may have identified early decay in a tooth that does not yet need a filling. The decayed tooth may require regular applications of a fluoride varnish to arrest the decay process.
8. Monitor facial & dental growth and development
Between the ages of six and 13, the adult (permanent) teeth replace the baby (milk) teeth. The eruption sequence needs to be monitored for irregularities that may result in future tooth alignment problems. Development of the facial skeleton should also be assessed so that early treatment for jaw/bite issues can commence when the child is growing, preventing the need for future jaw surgery. Early treatment also reduces the complexity and need for future orthodontic treatment.
9. Monitor buried teeth
Up to 5% of wisdom teeth or other buried teeth may develop painless cysts/benign tumours within the jawbone. X-rays can detect these lesions when they are still small. Early detection may allow for a less aggressive surgery to remove the lesion.
10. Detect tooth wear and erosion
Night-time unconscious clenching/grinding (bruxism) and untreated nocturnal gastric acid reflux can irreversibly erode the surfaces of the teeth. Early detection and management is essential to prevent permanent disfigurement of your smile. As bruxism does not yet have a cure, ongoing monitoring and management is required for long term stability.
11. Reduce your risk of other chronic illnesses
Untreated gum disease increases your risk for diabetes, stroke, heart attack, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. There is growing evidence that these conditions are triggered by high levels of inflammation within the body, including the mouth. Your dentist can work with you to identify and reduce overall inflammation, to ensure you have a healthy mouth and body.
12. Pre-natal Screening
If you are trying to conceive, it is a good idea to ensure that you are dentally fit and healthy. Untreated cavities, gum disease or infections may flare up during pregnancy and treatment will be complicated by your pregnancy status. Certain medications cannot be used by pregnant women and if you are suffering from a toothache, the stress can affect your growing baby.
13. Pregnancy-related Conditions
Gingivitis (swollen gums) tend to worsen during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. This can be prevented with regular maintenance visits and good oral hygiene.
14. Prevent transmission of tooth decay and gum disease
Your child’s mouth can be colonised by disease-causing bacteria found in the saliva of the primary carer. Having untreated dental disease means higher levels of bacteria in adult saliva, and a higher chance of transmitting tooth decay and gum disease.