From a young age, most people have the need to brush and floss daily pretty well drilled into them by parents who warn that eating too much sugar will rot their teeth and from dentists always on the look out for the slightest sign of a cavity. While brushing and flossing continue to rank as the most important habits a person can use to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, scheduling regular trips to the dentist remains a necessary part of maintaining strong oral health.
According to a study conducted by the American Dental Association, 40 percent of Americans put off visiting the dentist due to dental anxiety. Even if you don’t fall into the category of person who avoids the dentist at all costs, very few people would consider a trip to a dental office as a pleasant experience.
Well now the results of a recent study offers some welcome news to those who don’t care for their dental visits. For most people, scheduling once-a-year dental checkups and cleanings may be enough to stop the onset of tooth decay and gum disease, the leading cause of tooth loss in the U.S.
A Change of Perspective
For nearly the last 50 years, dentists have recommended patients undergo routine dental checkups and cleanings at least twice annually. However, this recommendation was largely based on common sense thinking rather than any hard scientific evidence. By receiving cleanings twice a year, dentists could ensure they had the opportunity to spot any early signs of tooth decay or gum disease before either disease had a chance to further develop.
Despite the value of taking such a cautious approach, researchers at the University of Michigan have found as the result of their latest study that once-a-year cleanings should offer adequate enough protection for individuals without any preexisting oral health concerns. Patients who suffer from the risk factors of gum disease and tooth decay- which constitutes half of the nation’s population- such as diabetes, smoking, and heart disease, should continue to schedule visits at least twice annually.
As part of their study, researchers examined the dental records of over 5,100 adults who regularly visited with their dentist over the last 16 years, underwent one or two cleanings annually, and that had no history of gum disease. Researchers then examined the data for any links between the frequency of teeth cleanings patients underwent and long-term tooth loss. Researchers also took into consideration the three largest risk factors for gum disease- genetics, diabetes, and smoking- when assessing a patient’s potential risk of gum disease.
Researchers determined that biannual cleanings offered significant benefits for individuals who suffered from one or more of the primary risk factors for gum disease, while individuals who suffered from two or more risk factors benefited greatly from undergoing three or four cleanings a year. However, for individuals who don’t suffer from any of the major risk factors of gum disease, yearly cleanings were satisfactory.
The results of this study were published online in the Journal of Dental Research.
A Change in Behavior
Before deciding whether you should cut back on the number of visits you make to the dental office, you first need to discuss the current state of your oral health with your dentist. Even if you don’t suffer from one of the risk factors of gum disease listed above doesn’t mean that your teeth and gums are healthy enough to avoid regular cleanings. Seniors and adults who suffer from dry mouth, pregnant women, and young children are just a few examples of people that need to continue scheduling regular checkups and cleanings regardless of whether they suffer from a risk factor for gum disease.
You should also consider your own personal oral hygiene regimen when deciding whether to forego biannual dental visits. If you occasionally forget to floss or don’t always brush at least twice daily, you have a higher risk of developing gum disease regardless of what health concerns you may deal with.