Have you ever heard the expression, “never look a gift horse in the mouth?” Our teeth can act as one of the first indicators of our overall health, but they can also have a major impact on our wellbeing if we don’t take care of them properly. That’s why regular dental cleanings are important, and here at Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA, we provide our patients not only with routine and specialized healthcare but also with all their dentistry needs. Apart from maintaining a healthy smile and overall healthy lifestyle, having a bright, clean smile goes a long way in helping our patients to feel confident and ready to take on the world in their everyday lives.
How Often Should You Get Dental Cleanings?
So how often should we be seeing you around the dentist’s office? That all depends on what stage of life you’re in and how your teeth are doing. Each age that we pass through in life will bring different dental challenges that need to be focused on, so having a dental routine plan set in place is essential for maintaining a lifetime of beautiful teeth and a healthy smile. Let’s take a look at some different phases in life that might change how often you see the dentist for routine checkups and cleanings.
Those First Baby Teeth
It’s always so exciting to see that first tooth pop up in your precious baby’s smile (even though it might have cost you a few hours of sleep last night!). Each child receives teeth in their own unique order and timing. Many parenting websites suggest that you take your child to the dentist as early as 12 months to begin dental cleanings, depending on how many teeth they have at that point. But a visit that early in your child’s life will really just be a way to get them used to the dentist more than an actual check-up of their teeth. It’s hard enough to get them to sit still at home, much less in a dental chair!
It’s Good To Start Early
The best age to really start your child on their formal, routine dental health journey is around age three when children can begin to sit well on their own in the dental chair and take part in their own dental care routine at home. Our dentists make the visit fun and engaging for your child, but if you are worried your child might be too shy for a dentist visit at that age, we highly suggest letting them come with you on your dental visits, so that they can see a parent being checked out by the dentist and get used to all the tools and equipment from a spectator’s standpoint first.
Once you start visiting the dentist regularly with your child around age three, we recommend you bring them in every six months for a gentle cleaning and to make sure all the baby teeth are coming in properly. For the next two to three years, maintaining a regular, consistent dental routine is of the utmost importance, as you will be setting your child up for dental success for the rest of their life. Be sure to accompany these biannual visits with proper brushing and flossing each day at home. Using chore charts and stickers as rewards can really help with this process!
Maintaining a Bright Smile in Childhood
Around the age of five, your child will start receiving a more thorough exam from the dentist during their biannual visit. They should continue seeing the dentist every six months at this point. You can expect a gentle cleaning and polishing of the teeth, as well as a fluoride treatment (which comes in some yummy flavors!) and x-rays to start looking at their permanent teeth and taking a preventive care stance on any upcoming issues they might encounter. Visiting every six months during the childhood years is crucial to having a bright, clean, healthy smile for many years to come.
Your dentist might also suggest sealants on the molar teeth during this time to help prevent cavities from forming. Cavities are prevalent during the childhood and teen years, as children need more guidance on how to properly care for their teeth. The dentist can show them how to brush properly to help prevent their gums from receding, as well as how to floss well each day. While you’re at the visit, the dentist can also discuss foods and drinks with you and your child that can hurt a child’s teeth and raise the likelihood of cavities and other issues in the future.
As the years pass and permanent teeth begin to shift down, pushing the baby teeth out, it is also during this time that your dentist might have to refer your child to an orthodontist, as braces might be needed to train the permanent teeth to sit together properly for chewing, and for having an overall straight smile. If your child does need braces, it will become even more vital that they are getting their regular dental cleanings every six months, as cleaning around braces can be difficult for pre-teens! Your dentist and orthodontist can show you the proper well to help your child care for their brackets and their teeth during this time.
Adult Dental Cleanings
Adults unfortunately tend to push their dental cleanings to the wayside, sometimes going years without having a routine dental visit. We can’t stress enough the importance of keeping your teeth and gums healthy for your overall wellbeing as cavities, abscesses, and tooth decay can not only wreak havoc on your mouth and your smile, but also on your general health and confidence. It’s hard to live a completely fulfilling life if you are constantly worrying about the state of your teeth and hiding your smile from others, and gum disease has been linked to some serious health issues such as strokes, diabetes, and heart disease.
Visiting the dentist every six months for a cleaning during your adult years will help to prevent any future problems that could get in the way of your health and confidence. Most insurance carriers will cover two dental cleanings a year, and we highly recommend that you take full advantage of that coverage. Two visits a year will help to keep your smile white, bright, and healthy, and you can also discuss with your dentist any treatments you might be interested in to have a whiter and brighter smile. Our center can also help you with any fillings or extractions that you might need, as well as provide any referrals for full or partial dentures for patients of any age to help complete your smile.
Better Late than Never
If it’s been a while since your last visit to the dentist, don’t worry; a visit now is better than a visit never! Be sure to set your appointment on a day that you will have a bit of extra time in your schedule, as that first appointment back in the dental chair could go a little longer while your dentist thoroughly checks your teeth and gums to make sure that everything looks okay and that there are no underlying issues that need to be addressed. The dentist might also check your jaw, throat, tongue, and face for any swelling or structural abnormalities that need to be checked or examined more thoroughly.
Apart from your visit every six months, you might also find yourself needing an emergency visit during the year. If anything feels wrong with your teeth or you are experiencing pain that is not going away, do not hesitate to make an emergency appointment with your dentist. Waiting until your next checkup might be too long of a wait, and it is better to have early intervention when it comes to dental care. Your dentist can give you a full examination to see what is happening and talk with you about any treatments that need to be included in your dental care routine.
If you do need to go in for an emergency appointment, but sure to discuss with your dentist if you will still need to come in for your routine biannual cleaning, or if it would make sense to go ahead and do it while you are there that day. But keep in mind that an extra visit to the dentist like this does not count as a routine cleaning. If your dentist doesn’t perform a cleaning during this emergency visit, you will need to come back for your normal, six-month checkup.
When You’re Expecting a Family Addition
Many new mothers-to-be are nervous about visiting the dentist while they are expecting. However, visiting the dentist for a routine cleaning is actually highly recommended for expecting mothers! During pregnancy, your gums can become more sensitive and actually bleed a bit more when you brush and floss regularly, as blood flow is increased throughout your body to accommodate your growing baby. Pregnant women also have a higher risk for gum disease and tooth decay, meaning that a visit to the dentist during your pregnancy should be a part of your overall healthcare plan.
While most activities are more recommendable during the easier second trimester, a dental cleaning is actually safe for any trimester of the pregnancy, and your dentist will be sure to keep you away from any rooms that have x-ray machines or chemicals that might be harmful to your baby. If you are in the first stages of pregnancy or you think you might be pregnant but you aren’t certain yet, be sure to let your dentist know so that he can take care of you in the best way possible. If you do find that you have developed gum disease because of your pregnancy (called “pregnancy gingivitis”), know that it is common and completely treatable in a safe way for you and your growing baby.
Bring Your Kids
This is also a great time to ask your dentist any questions you have about bringing your child to the dentist’s office in the future. We recommend that you plan your future dentist visits together as a family so that your toddler can watch each parent undergo dental cleanings and understand that it isn’t a scary thing! In this way, when it comes time for your child to have their first examination, they will feel prepared and understand better what is going on during the visit.
Take Care of Your Teeth
Our teeth are a vital part of our daily lives, self-confidence, and overall health from the very beginning of life throughout the years. Taking care of our teeth needs to be a top priority for our families and our personal wellbeing, as routine care can help prevent future health problems and keep us feeling confident about our smile. Ready to get started on a dental care journey together? Call Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA today to schedule a dental consultation.