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Why Do Dentists Want You To Come In Every Six Months?

            I hear this all the time when I tell a patient who just had a great check-up that I'll see them in six month - "Really? Six months.  But my teeth are healthy."   I understand - everyone is busy.   It's a hassle to pull the kids out of school for an appointment or leave work.    If you don't have dental insurance, a routine cleaning and exam is an added expense.   Instead of a waste of time and money - I invite you to look  at that exam as 30 minutes that can have a real impact on your teeth, your overall health, and your wallet.
            The American Dental Association recommends semi-yearly exam and cleanings.  That being said, everyone is different.  Some adults can get away with pushing it out to every nine months, while others really should stick to the twice yearly recommendation - or if they have periodontal disease, even come in every 3 months. Children should definitely see the dentist every six months because their teeth and jaws are still developing and they're still learning good oral hygiene habits.
            Your oral health can change pretty quickly.  A lesion can appear.  A filling can fall out.  Decay or periodontal disease can start.   You may not even be aware that anything is wrong.   The time you spend here can mean much less time in our office down the road, much less expense, and if you have oral cancer - much earlier intervention and care.
            In general, our "hygiene" appointments - which include a cleaning and exam -  are about 30 minutes[1].  We cover a lot in that time.  I'll evaluate the health of your and gums, checking for redness, inflammation or signs of gingivitis or periodontal disease.  I'll do an oral cancer screening,  perform a head and neck examination, and check the health of your teeth, jaw and bite.  I'll look for evidence of tooth decay, damaged fillings, contact between your teeth, and any broke or loose teeth.  Your Dental Hygienist will also do a thorough cleaning of your mouth. This will include removing any plaque and tartar, polishing your teeth, and flossing between your teeth.  She'll point out any areas that you may need to focus on, and talk with you about maintaining good oral hygiene at home between visits. Once your examination and cleaning are complete, I'll tell you about the health of your teeth and gums and we'll discuss any recommendations to improve your dental health. 
            Believe me when I say it's worth it.  In my 30+ years as a dentist, I've identified areas that turned out to be cancerous lesions in several patients, and have referred many patients follow-up care because of suspected diabetes, reflux, eating disorders and other problems.   I've also helped countless patients sleep better with our custom - made sleep apnea devices (and there are a lot of health benefits to getting a good night of sleep), and have resolved chronic headaches in people with our oral appliances. 

            People think 'no pain, no problem', or have a false sense of security because cosmetically their teeth look good.  The truth is, many dental issues can advance without pain until they're very serious and requires more invasive and expensive treatment.  If you have insurance - we accept just about any plan and are in network with Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna and Delta Dental Premier - the cost of a 6 month cleaning and exam will probably be covered.  Take advantage of it - even if you had a great visit in the past.   If you don't have insurance - consider investing in the St. Marys Street Dental Health Plan - our in-office dental savings plan, which provides two cleanings and dental exams (including x-rays, periodontal and oral cancer screenings) per year at a significant cost savings. 

For more information on our financial options, or to schedule an appointment, please call us at 919 755 3450.  You can also schedule online.


[1] If you're a new patient the initial cleaning and exam takes about an hour