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Sure, we all know dentist visits are important. After all, we only have one set of teeth and if we don’t take care of them dental work can become costly, painful, and can even result in losing teeth. We all know we should visit the dentist regularly. But, according to the American Dental Association, while eighty-five (85) percent of Americans see their oral health as very important to their overall health, only fifty-eight (58) percent have visited the dentist within the last year.

People avoid the dentist for various reasons, certainly not least of all to be simple inconvenience. Still others suffer from dental anxiety, while some people just don’t see the dentist as important. It really is vital, though, for us all to attend routine dental checkups. It allows the dentist to monitor potential dental issues and intervene before they get worse. It allows us to maintain clean teeth with cleaning procedures only a dentist office can perform. And it keeps oral health in the forefront of our minds so that we remember to keep up our daily hygiene.

What Happens at Dental Checkups

Dental checkups consist of two parts: the checkup and the teeth cleaning virginia beach, both of which are vital to overall oral health and need to be performed twice each year. While there are different components of the appointment, they work together to help you have a healthy mouth.

The Cleaning

Usually before you actually see the dentist, a dental hygienist will clean your teeth. Even if you brush your teeth two or three times a day, floss regularly, and remember to rinse with mouth wash every time you brush, you still need a professional cleaning. Dentists have tools and procedures you don’t have at home and will use them on your teeth to maintain optimal health. First the hygienist will scrape your teeth for tartar that builds up (at-home teeth cleaning may prevent plaque, but it doesn’t clean tartar) between visits. S/he will also use a polisher machine with an abrasive paste to leave a smooth surface that will help prevent plaque and tartar from building up between visits.

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The Checkup

Once the teeth are squeaky clean, the dentist will perform a checkup. At the checkup portion of a routine dental visit, the dentist evaluates for overall oral health. S/he inspects the patient’s mouth for things such as cavities, swollen gums, sores, and large periodontal pockets (the space between the top of the gum and where the gum attaches to the tooth). Sometimes, the dentist may also utilize x-rays to check between teeth for cavities, especially if s/he knows you haven’t been keeping up with routine visits. The sum of all of these inspections gives the dentist a great idea of your overall oral health, and allows him/her to tailor your dental care to your unique needs to address any potential issues before they worsen.

What Happens if You Skip Dental Checkups

Unfortunately, knowing how valuable dentist appointments are to keeping nice, shiny pearly whites just isn’t enough for many people to attend dentist appointments. Life gets in the way and a dentist appointment becomes an inconvenience, overshadowed by things like work, laundry, and caring for the family. But it’s important to attend those dentist appointments. Here’s what can happen if you routinely skip dentist appointments, not only for appearance sake, but for your overall health.

Health problems

Because dentists see you more than your primary care physician, they can catch many health problems at the first sign. Heart disease, hypertension, and even diabetes are all things a dentist can catch onto before it gets out of control. In checking your oral health they can catch wind of more serious health problems. Skipping these appointments puts you at a disadvantage by severely limiting the number of times in a year you see a medical professional, which can allow serious health complications to worsen when they could instead be treated at the first sign.

Tooth Decay

Attending a dental checkup every six months allows your dentist to catch any cavities when the first appear. When treated right away, taking care of a cavity is a simple procedure that’s virtually painless and allows minimal damage to the tooth. However, allowing cavities to go undetected can result in serious tooth decay. As plaque builds up on the teeth over time, without being removed at the dentist, it corrodes enamel and allows teeth to decay and eventually reach the point of no return. This means the only resort is to remove the tooth completely.

Gum Disease

Once tooth decay has taken foothold in the mouth, the next step is gum disease. And this is serious. The gums provide a protective coat around the roots and more sensitive areas of the tooth. Once tooth decay has reached the gums, they can become infected which eventually progresses to periodontitis. Periodontitis left untreated will eventually corrode at the jaw bone and destroy the gums. And not only that, but it increases the risk factors for heart and lung diseases.


As if your overall health wasn’t enough of a concern, missing dentist appointments will – just as the icing on the cake – seriously mess with your appearance. We all hope to have nice, white teeth, but missing the dentist will allow coffee, wine, and soda to stain the teeth more. During a dental cleaning, a hygienist removes stains and creates a smooth surface that makes it much more difficult for unsavory tints to stick onto the teeth in the future.

What to Do At Home

One of the most important things about visiting the dentist is it’s a twice-per-year reminder to take care of your teeth on a daily basis. Knowing someone will inspect your teeth soon helps keep your oral health at the forefront of your mind, and it’s a great way to hold yourself accountable for daily care. Here are some things you can do at home to keep up your oral hygiene so you can get the most out of your routine visits to the dentist.

Brush at least twice daily

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Keeping plaque at bay between visits is the best way to prevent cavities. Because food bonds with bacteria in your mouth to create plaque that corrodes enamel (your teeth’s only way to protect themselves), the best way to prevent plaque and tartar is to keep your teeth clean and remove food and drink via brushing. Brushing before bed prevents plaque from forming overnight. And brushing after breakfast sets you up to go into the day with a clean mouth.

Floss, floss, and floss!

You must floss at least once per day. And twice is even better. It doesn’t matter if you use the most expensive toothbrush and the most protective toothpaste, if you aren’t flossing you aren’t removing the food particles between your teeth that will rot, bond with bacteria, and form plaque between your teeth which will result in cavities. Flossing is the most important part of oral care that people neglect.

Use a good mouth wash

The final obvious step in your daily oral care is using a good mouth wash. It’s the best way to swish away any food or drink particles and residue that you miss by brushing your teeth. It also helps prevent bad breath, and it helps get all the residue from your cheeks, tongue, and gums that can’t be reached by brushing or flossing.

Tongue Scraping

Take a look at your tongue and you’re likely to notice a white film. This is residue that will spread to the rest of your mouth if left unchecked. Daily tongue scraping is something many people don’t know can remove residue from on and between taste buds to prevent that residue from bonding with bacteria, moving around the mouth, and coating the teeth to start cavities.

All of these components add up to good daily oral hygiene, and even if you use the most expensive tooth paste and tooth brush on the market the routine isn’t complete if it’s missing one of these components. Brushing is vital as the base and foundation of your routine, but if you miss out on flossing you aren’t cleaning between your teeth. And if you don’t swish away the particles in your cheeks and under your tongue, they’ll inevitably spread to your teeth. And still further, if you don’t make sure to clean your tongue the debris stuck between your taste buds will make their way to the rest of your mouth.

But just taking care of your teeth daily (though your dentist will be so proud of you for it!) isn’t enough in and of itself. If you care for your teeth every day and do all the right things for personal oral hygiene, you still need to schedule and attend your dentist appointment every six months. Your dentist needs to complete routine cleanings on your teeth to tackle all the tartar build-up that you can’t get rid of on your own. Your dentist also needs to perform occasional x-rays to check for cavities between your teeth, and s/he needs to inspect your gums for optimal health. Maintenance is important, and so is prevention.