Why do I need regular dental exams?

I’m feeling good! My smile looks great! I brush, and even floss, regularly. So, why do I need a regular dental exam? And, why every six months? There’s a bit of history to the answer. The recommendation to visit your dentist twice a year for routine, preventative dental care, began in earnest decades ago. But the beginning was many years before at the onset of WW1. During routine physicals, prior to entry in the military, it was found that a very high number of those enlisting, presented with signs not only of rampant dental neglect, but also dental disease. The reason? At that time the prevailing philosophy regarding visiting the dentist was that if it didn’t hurt, leave it alone.

This general disregard of one’s dental health, and evidence of preventable tooth damage and loss, provided the impetus for various organizations, both dental and general medical, to seeif there was a better way to approach and maintain oral health. The answer was “Yes”. Though previously dentists were on hand to fix problems, until this time there weren’t efforts to educate the public on the benefits of routine care. While public health organizations did help raise awareness, many attribute both ‘brushing twice a day’ and ‘every six-months dental visits’ to a Pepsodent toothpaste marketing campaign. In their efforts to create a demand for their product, they are credited as spring boarding the America’s desire to have a bright, and healthy, smile. Whatever the origins, the results were apparent. By the beginning of WW2 there was a profound decrease in dental disease.

Of course, since that time not only are there advancements in techniques and technology, making dental visits comfortable, there is extensive research supporting the recommendation to visit your dentist on a regular basis. While each patient’s needs are unique, and frequency is recommended based on your oral health, the general six-month rule of thumb remains.

Why is this visit so critical to prevention of dental disease?

It’s what takes place during that bi-annual visit. The old phrase, ‘what you don’t see can’t hurt you’, certainly doesn’t hold true with your health. Many problems, be they concerns related to your general health or your dental health, don’t always have symptoms. Oftentimes the disease process becomes symptomatic only when the disease process has advanced, typically necessitating more extensive care, which is often more costly as well. During these important visits we will:

Provide a professional dental cleaning (prophylaxis)  

  • Even though you brush twice a day and floss as well, there are areas that are hard to reach. When plaque hardens on the tooth, it forms calculus (tartar). Our dental hygienists will remove the build-up on the tooth structure. Tartar, containing harmful bacteria, eats away at the tooth’s structure – a cause of cavity formation. These substances are equally detrimental to the gum tissue, leading to infection of the tissue, called gingivitis, or, if more advanced, periodontitis. Both open the door for potential harm to your teeth, and to the supporting bone as well, a major cause of tooth loss. The regular removal of this harmful substance is a major key to prevention of disease.

Complete an Oral Cancer Screening and Node Evaluation

  • Hochberg and Diora will complete an oral examination. This includes an oral cancer screening, a type of cancer that is a growing problem in our country. While you may not notice anything that appears out of the ordinary when looking in the mirror, your dentist will. He or she looks for areas that appear suspicious. And, if a problem exists, the sooner it’s caught, the better the opportunity for successful treatment. They also check for any swelling in the nodes located under the jawline. This quick exam is an opportunity to catch early warning signs; if problems are noted, your dentist will refer to your physician for further evaluation.

Dental X-rays will be taken periodically

  • As needed, x-rays will be taken. Many concerns are not evident to the eye, and, as mentioned, are not always symptomatic early on. Through a review of your x-rays, decay, especially between your teeth, can be visualized. Also, tumors and cysts, teeth that are impacted, your TMJ (temporomandibular joint) and the jaw structure, can all be evaluated. Dental x-rays provide a mechanism for us to diagnose problems, provide you with information about the status of your oral healthcare, and recommend treatment when needed. The earlier we can intervene and halt the disease process, the better the outcome.

Discuss concerns, habits that impact your oral health, and answer questions

  • You may have noticed that your teeth have begun to wear. Or, that your jaw pops or is painful. Perhaps your teeth are not as white as previously. You may have been told you snore. This is an opportunity to discuss any issues that could impact your oral health, and even your overall health.


So, whether it was Pepsodent’s advertising efforts we have to thank, or a combination of other factors, patients who use their fluoride toothpaste, floss, and visit us regularly, are better positioned to stay on the road of dental health. After all, a visit to Colony Square Dental Associates twice a year is worth it in order to  keep a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime.

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