Your regular dental checkups are much more than a chance to showcase your winning smile; they are a vital tool in maintaining your overall health. However, more and more Americans are skipping this important checkup, jeopardizing not only their teeth, but also putting themselves at greater risk for heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 61 percent of American adults have had a dental visit in the past year and 27 percent of those ages 20 to 44 have untreated cavities. Not sure you have time to see your dentist? Take a look at these top ten reasons you should have a dental checkup and see if you change your mind.
10. Use your dental insurance benefits
Nationwide, millions of dollars of dental insurance goes unused each year. While specifics may vary by policy, most dental insurance plans will pay for two cleanings/ checkups a year. When December 31 rolls around, you lose any unused benefits. Be sure to take advantage of your coverage. After all, you’ve paid for it.
9. Remove tartar
Dental hygienists are professionally trained to clean hard-to-reach areas of your mouth, using specialized tools to scrub your enamel free of plaque. When plaque builds up, it creates tartar. When tartar hardens, it becomes even more difficult to remove on your own. If untreated, this can quickly lead to cavities.
8. Regular X-rays
Do you have impacted wisdom teeth? Do you need a root canal? X-rays can show the answer. Surprisingly, not all dental problems involve a toothache. Sometimes the biggest problems go undetected, and by the time they become painful, the damage is much more extensive. Regular X-rays also help your local dentist determine if teeth have shifted due to an uneven bite or jaw problems.
7. Spot problems before they get worse
After your cleaning, the dentist will conduct an examination, checking for cavities or other problems. Tooth decay is easier to treat at its earliest stages. Once a cavity tears into the enamel, it can inflame the pulp, which is the soft tissue inside each tooth. From there, infection can spread to the root. In extreme cases, extensive decay can lead to a serious bacterial infection.
6. Establish good communication between you and your dentist
Whether you have a walk-in appointment or you visit a dentist twice a year, communication is key to a successful partnership. These health care professionals want to ensure that you have a healthy smile not merely because straight, white teeth are attractive, but because oral health can affect your overall health. Dental visits make many people nervous. But if you speak with your dentist about your concerns, a treatment plan will be created to make you as comfortable as possible.
5. Keep your body healthy
Studies have repeatedly confirmed that your oral health provides insight into your overall health. Poor dental hygiene can lead to other diseases and conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and endocarditis (the infection of the heart lining. ) Gum disease has also been linked to low birth weight and premature birth.
4. Set an example for the kids
Since oral health has such a huge impact on your life, wouldn’t you want to be sure your children (or nieces, or nephews) understand the importance of brushing and flossing? How can you expect them to do the right thing if they’re not taught how? Children should start seeing a dentist as soon as they have their first tooth. There are local dentists who specialize in treating children who can help. Be sure to set a good example for those you love.
3. Help for sleep apnea
Your dentist can also help you get a great night’s sleep. Sleep apnea is a condition where someone stops breathing repeatedly at small intervals during the night. It can lead to much more than drowsiness—it increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. Those with sleep apnea may benefit from a customized mouth guard that opens the airway, eliminating snoring.
2. No surprises
It’s always better to plan and be prepared. By seeing your dentist regularly and communicating with him or her, you will have a better idea not only of your treatment plan, but how much your dental insurance will cover. This way there are no surprises with your dental work or your bill. If you do not have dental insurance, this will also give you a chance to speak with your dentist about payment options.
1. Oral cancer screening
Every dental checkup includes a screening for oral cancer. In the U.S., roughly 132 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every day. Early detection dramatically increases chances of survival, but most oral cancers are not discovered until later stages. Don’t skip this vital screening! There are plenty of excuses for skipping a regular dental appointment: not enough time, hectic schedules and even nervousness top the list. These excuses pale in comparison of the incredible benefits of a biannual dental cleaning and checkup. Schedule an appointment with your local dentist and have something to smile about.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control. “Oral and Dental Health.” Online. Mayo Clinic. “Oral Health: A Window to Your Overall Health.” Online. Mayo Clinic. “Sleep Apnea.” Online. Renter, Elizabeth. “ No Dental Insurance? Don’t Wait for Something to Go Wrong.” U.S. News and World Report. 20 May 2015. Online.