When Is It Time for a Dental Health Check?

While the general guidance on regularity of a dental health check is often considered to be every six months, this can vary due to circumstances and the individual. If you’re unsure of when you should book your next appointment with your dentist, first check when your last appointment was – you might be surprised how much time has passed – and seek guidance from your surgery on when to book in. 

This month is Mouth Cancer Action Month and offers a timely reminder that it’s best to get any oral health concerns checked by a dental professional, so don’t hesitate to book an appointment with your dentist if anything seems abnormal.

Check with your dentist
Your dentist is best placed to advise when you may need to schedule your next dental health check, based on your individual oral health. They may request for an appointment to be booked as soon as within three months, if problems or areas of concern have been raised. However, sometimes a dentist can suggest that they don’t need to see a patient, unless there’s any issues that arise, for much longer than this. Ideally a dental health examination once a year is the minimum suggested privately and sometimes even two years for NHS patients.

When to book an appointment ahead of a health check?
While there may be obvious reasons to book an appointment ahead of a dental health check – such as toothache, trauma to your teeth or unexplained pain – there are certain things to be aware of, that should be checked by a dentist as soon as possible. Some of these include:

  • Bleeding gums after brushing or flossing: bleeding can be the first signs of gum disease, so don’t hesitate to book in to see your dentist if you start regularly noticing blood in the sink after cleaning your teeth.
  • Loose teeth: if an adult tooth feels like it’s loose or moving, don’t ignore it and get it checked.
  • Dry mouth: a dry mouth can lead to dental problems, which can accelerate quite quickly, so it’s best to be checked by your dentist, who will be able to offer guidance.
  • Lumps or sores: while some sores will clear up after a couple of weeks, your dentist is best placed to check any abnormalities in your mouth and advise on treatment and diagnosis.
  • Jaw pain: there are a number of factors that can contribute to jaw pain, which your dentist will be able to assess.
  • A chip or crack to your tooth: while a chip may not cause immediate pain, the sooner you treat it, the more likely your dentist can successfully repair the damage.
  • A loose filling or crown: a loose filling or crown can leave the tooth beneath vulnerable to infection, so it’s best to get it fixed quickly.
  • Swelling in the mouth: swelling can be due to an abscess or infection, which a dentist can diagnose and treat.
  • Red or white patches: red or white patches in the mouth or ulcers that take more than 2-3 weeks to heal should be checked by your dentist.

My dental health check is overdue – what should I do?
Once you fall out of regularly booking in your appointments, it can be easy to forget your health check is due (or has long passed!). Don’t be embarrassed – your dentist won’t berate you for a delayed appointment (it’s not uncommon). Book in as soon as possible, even if you believe there’s no problems with your teeth, to ensure no issues have developed since you were last checked.

What happens during a dental health check?
Most dental health checks will follow a similar structure, which includes:

  • Your dentist will ask questions about your oral and general health: have you noticed anything abnormal, painful or encountered any problems?
  • Your teeth, mouth and gums will be checked.
  • If any additional tests, X-Rays or scans are required, your dentist will discuss this with you first and explain why further investigation is advised.
  • The dentist may offer advice and guidance on maintaining good oral health.
  • If all is fine, they will end by advising when you should book in for your next appointment.

My teeth feel fine: why should I go for a dental health check?
Even if you’re not aware of any problems with your teeth, dental health checks are essential for recognising potential issues or areas of concern: treatment is often more straightforward, with less risk of complications, if dental problems are diagnosed early. Most appointments are quick and problem free, so don’t forget to get yours booked in so you can feel confident in the health of your teeth.

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