How Often Should You Visit Your Dentist?
How often you should go for a dental exams depends on your oral health needs - the goal is to catch small problems as early as possible. For many people, this means a dental exam every six months. Your dentist may suggest that you visit more or less often depending on factors such as: how well you cared for your teeth and gums, problems that need to be checked or treated, how fast tartar builds up on your teeth, and so on.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Do I floss every day?
Do I brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and follow my dentist's instructions on how to brush properly?
Do I eat a well-balanced diet, including food from all food groups, and limit sweets and sticky foods?
Do I smoke?
Do I have a history of cavities or gum disease?
Is my overall health good?
The answers to these questions are all factors that affect your oral health. They will help you and your dentist decide how often you need to visit for dental exams. It's worth noting that you should not determine your need for dental care based on what your dental plan covers.
What's the difference between the bleaching (whitening) I can do at home with a kit from the store and the bleaching that my dentist does?
Dentists have been doing what's called "non-vital" bleaching for many years. Non-vital bleaching is done on a damaged, darkened tooth that has had root canal treatment. "Vital" bleaching is done on healthy teeth and has become more popular in recent years.
Vital bleaching, also called whitening, may be carried out in the dental office or the dentist may instruct the patient on how to do the bleaching at home. There is also a wide variety of products for sale in stores. Not all products are the same and not all give you the same results.
Different products, including those used by dentists, may also have different risks and side effects.
Here is an overview:
Whitening toothpastes with abrasive ingredients are really not bleaching products at all, but work on surface stain only. These products are sold in many stores.
Some whitening toothpastes do contain a chemical ingredient (or "bleach") that causes a chemical reaction to lighten teeth. Generally, they have the lowest amount of "bleach." They may not whiten as well as stronger products, but they have less chance of side effects. These pastes are brushed onto teeth and rinsed off, like regular toothpaste.
Bleaching kits sold in stores stay on your teeth longer than toothpaste and contain stronger bleach." These store-bought products do not come with the added safety of having your dentist monitor any side effects. They also come with a one-size-fits-all tray that holds the "bleach" and is more likely to leak the chemical into your mouth.
Dentists may use products with stronger "bleach", but they give patients careful instructions to follow. They are also trained to spot and treat the side effects that patients sometimes report during bleaching. In addition, if a tray is needed to apply the "bleach", dentists supply custom-made trays. Because products used by dentists are strong, they tend to produce the best results.
Patients should be aware that the long-term use of whitening or bleaching products may cause tooth sensitivity or tooth abrasion. Please consult with your dentist before using a whitening or bleaching product.
My dentist is recommending treatment (that I know nothing about). What should I do?
Ask questions. It sounds simple enough, but sometimes we feel embarrassed to ask simple questions. There is no need to feel that way.
You will feel much better, and be able to make a better decision, if you understand the dental procedure that is recommended to you. If you don't say anything, your dentist may think that you already understand.
Here are some tips when asking questions. Ask:
If you can see any pictures of the procedure or what it looks like when it is done;
How many times your dentist has done this procedure in the past;
How much it will cost;
How long it will take;
If it will need to be redone in the future;
If there are alternatives to the procedure and if so, what are the pros and cons of each option.
The final decision about how and when to proceed with any treatment is yours. To help you understand what is involved in the treatment, your dentist may give you some printed material to read.
If you have already left the dental office without asking questions, call back later. Be careful about getting information from unknown sources, including sources on the Internet. Some of this information may not be reliable.
If, after all of your questions have been answered you are still uncertain, you may wish to get a second opinion from another dentist. Often, a second opinion will give you confidence that your dentist has planned the right treatment for you.