We have all been told of the importance of visiting your local dentist every six months for a routine dental exam. Although many of us fail to maintain that schedule, it’s something that should be a priority. I know many adults that don’t even remember the last time they visited a dentist. They believe that they only need to visit a dentist once they become aware of a problem with their oral health. As long as they brush and floss consistently, they believe the dentist is unnecessary.
So what happens if you never go to the dentist? There are several reasons the dentist recommends two visits each year. Regular dental exams are a necessary part of preventing tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease, and several other oral health concerns in both children and adults. When you avoid the dentist, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of one or several of these problems.
During your routine dental visits, the dentist is also able to identify many early warning signs of serious health problems. Avoiding the dentist means that those health problems could go undetected until they have progressed to a more serious state. Continue reading about the many side effects of skipping the dentist before you decide to cancel your visit.
What is Plaque Buildup?
Plaque is a film comprised of both bacteria and sugars that form over our teeth. The development of plaque is one of the primary reasons we must brush our teeth. It is also one of the reasons that a deep cleaning appointment is necessary twice a year. If you do not remove the plaque from your teeth, it will eventually turn into tartar.
Tartar is a mineral buildup that forms when plaque hardens on the teeth. It can only be removed by a professional and is fairly common among those who do not visit the dentist regularly. You can usually spot tartar easily as it typically forms around the lower teeth or gumline. It is a yellow or brown color that is one of the primary culprits of your teeth appearing dirty.
What is Tooth Decay?
Plaque also eats away at the enamel on your teeth. If it is not removed, it will cause tooth decay. Tooth decay left untreated will result in a pricey and lengthy treatment plan which could involve dental crowns, root canals, or even the loss of your teeth! Another unpleasant side effect of tooth decay is bad breath. Regular dentist appointments are important as they allow the dentist to remove all plaque and bacteria that your daily brushing has not removed.
Not visiting the Dentist can lead to lost teeth.
As discussed above, tooth decay will lead to eventual tooth loss. During your bi-annual visit to the dentist, you will be examined for warning signs of tooth loss. Most dentists also use x-rays as a way to detect both bone or gum recession. These conditions would lead to the loss or one or several teeth. If you have warning signs of eventual tooth loss, your dentist will be able to establish an action plan to address the problem before it becomes worse. If you do not visit the dentist regularly, you will not find out about bone or gum recession until it is too late. At that point, you will lose that tooth and have to pay a high price for the treatment that you require as a result.
What is Halitosis? (Bad Breath)
You may think that bad breath is just something you were both with. Maybe you just need a better toothpaste or stronger mouthwash. While your daily oral health habits (such as brushing and flossing) play a huge part in preventing halitosis, there can be underlying conditions that are contributing as well. A dentist is able to assess any tooth decay or disease that is causing bad breath.
Bad breath (also called halitosis) can also be a sign of a much more serious health concern. During your routine dental visit, your dentist will be able to advise you on steps to take to eliminate your bad breath. Your family and friends will thank you!
Untreated cavities are a result of not visiting the dentist.
One of your first memories of the dentist is likely the feeling of relief once you were told you didn’t have any cavities. This is something to be proud of! When you avoid the dentist for long stretches of time, the likelihood of cavities increases. A cavity is a permanently damaged area of your tooth that is the result of bacteria eating through the protective outer layers of your tooth. It begins as a small hole. However, if left untreated, it will continue to progress into a much larger cavity which presents a much more challenging treatment.
You will not be able to see a cavity with untrained eyes until it has progressed to a much more serious stage. Although inconvenient and uncomfortable at the time, it is much easier to treat a small cavity in the beginning stages. A more serious cavity may result in a root canal or dental crown. In extreme cases, the tooth may be unable to be salvaged, resulting in the complete loss of a tooth.
What is Periodontal (Gum) Disease
When left untreated, tooth decay can lead to periodontal disease. While your gums are designed as a protection around the base of your teeth, bacteria from plaque can cause your gums to swell. When your gums are not healthy, bacteria is able to settle underneath. This is called gingivitis and is the beginning stages of periodontal disease.
In the early stages, gum disease may present itself as swollen or bleeding gums. This is your bodies natural response to ridding itself of the bacteria that has snuck in. Early stages of gum disease can be treated relatively easily with a thorough cleaning from your dentist.
If left untreated, periodontal disease will progress. The severe stage of gum disease is called periodontitis and is characterized by the loosening of teeth due to severely damaged gums. Once gum disease has progressed to this stage, it is much more complicated and pricey to treat. Severe gum disease typically leads to permanent loss of teeth.
Many researchers and dentists are beginning to observe the link between gum disease and various health concerns including concerns, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disease. The implications for your overall health should cause you to treat your oral health with greater priority.
Serious Health Problems
During your regular dental exams, your dentist will also look for early warning signs of many serious health problems. Many of these conditions would not be detected until it was more advanced, making treatment much more serious. Early detection is key to treating any health condition, especially one that is potentially life-threatening.
Oral concern is one of the primary conditions that your dentist will look for during a routine dental exam. A dentist may be able to see the warning signs of several types of oral concerns. They may also observe symptoms of other concerns in your body. The odds of beating concern improve greatly when it is treated in the very early stages of the disease.
Surprisingly, your periodontal health can offer warning signs to undetected heart disease. Swollen or bleeding gums in someone that brushes correctly and regularly, coupled with family history, could raise a red flag regarding heart disease. Learning of heart disease in the early stages can help you prevent a stroke or heart attack that could be fatal.
Digestive Health Problems
Because the digestion process begins in your mouth, your dentist may be able to detect various digestive health problems in the early stages. Acid reflux causes erosion of the teeth because of the pH levels of the acids that come in contact with your teeth. Dentists may also be able to detect Crohn’s disease through a dental exam. Crohn’s causes inflammation of the digestive tract which can also spread to the gums around your teeth.
Maintaining routine dental exams may provide you with the earliest warning signs of these and several other serious health problems. Once detected, your dentist would be able to suggest a course of action including the best type of doctor to see.
If you avoid the dentist, you may not become aware of these health problems that could have a serious impact on your quality of life. Visiting the dentist regularly seems like a small price to pay for possible early detection of one of these conditions.
Although the majority of these implications to avoiding the dentist impact your health, there are cosmetic implications too. Your smile is one of the first features that people notice. Many of us drink coffee, tea, or soda each day that leave dark stains on our teeth. If left untouched, these stains can become permanent. Visiting the dentist regularly will play a large part in maintaining a bright, white smile.
As you can see, visiting the dentist twice a year plays a large part in maintaining your oral health as well as the overall health of your body. When you avoid the dentist, you open yourself up to the possibility of tooth decay or loss, gum disease, and bad breath. You are not able to address staining of your teeth which results in a dingy smile. Cavities and other health problems are undetected while they are in their early, treatable stages. This leads to serious health implications and expensive treatment plans in the long run. Take care of your health and schedule your next dentist visit today!
You can read more about proper oral care here.