New figures for attendance rates have sparked debate among patients, professionals and dental organisations, but do you know how often you should see your dentist? Recent figures suggest that more than 55% of adults in London haven’t seen a dentist in the last two years, while more than 40 percent of children in England didn’t see a dentist last year.
In some cases, low attendance may be linked to poor access to services, but the vast majority of people should be able to get an appointment with a local dentist without a significant waiting period. In light of this, it’s worth talking about how often you need to see a dentist. Recently, dentists, including England’s chief dental officer, have spoken about reducing the frequency of dental visits, but there may be an element of confusion related to this advice.
The message dentists are eager to put across is the importance of seeing a dentist on a basis that is suitable for the individual patient. If you have strong, healthy teeth and a very low risk of decay and gum disease, you may only be advised to see your dentist once every year. If, however, you have existing dental issues or a high risk of developing conditions like gum disease, it is likely that you’ll be encouraged to attend appointments at least once every 6 months. Dentists also want to urge patients to be mouth aware and to seek advice if they notice any changes or any potentially dangerous symptoms, such as bleeding and swollen gums, slow-healing mouth ulcers, abnormal inflammation, lumps or tooth pain. In this case, patients are advised to call and make an appointment as quickly as possible, rather than waiting until their next scheduled check-up.
For children, dentists advise 6-monthly appointments. Routine checks are an effective means of preventing decay and infection, but they also flag up early signs of cavities and enable children to get used to going to the dentist.