Healthy Body

What Happens To Your Teeth If You Skip Your Yearly Dental Check Up

Photo: Getty/Willie B. Thomas
In the past couple of years, my dental health hasn't exactly been my foremost health concern (you know, global pandemic and all). Data shows I'm not alone: A February survey commissioned by the American Association of Endodontists (AAE) found that more than half of Americans put off their yearly dental checkups due to COVID-19 concerns. And while it's perfectly understandable to feel wary of someone poking around in your mouth when a deadly virus is circulating, dentists say that—pandemic or not—skipping your dental checkups comes with a price.

First, let's establish how often you should be going to the dentist in a perfect, oral health-centric world. "You should go to the dentist every three to six months," says Adrienne Hedrick, DDS, owner of Longmont Dental Loft in Colorado. "This time frame matters a great deal as the teeth cleanings will remove calculus (hardened dental plaque) and bacteria in the mouth. If left untreated, this bacteria can not only cause issues in your mouth, but bacteria can also flow in your bloodstream to other parts of your body."

What's more, skipping your dental checkup can cause more inflammation, which can lead to periodontal disease: a serious infection that can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth, causing them to loosen or fall out. When your dentist tells you that you have gingivitis, this is actually a precursor to periodontal disease, and a great big warning sign that you need to floss more and be diligent about those dentist visits. "If you get oral diseases such as periodontal disease, it can’t be reversed. It can only be stabilized and treated. Therefore, it’s super important to prevent periodontal disease and go to your regular dental visits," says Dr. Hedrick. She also recommends talking to your dentist about the cleaning schedule that makes sense for you, as some people are predisposed to periodontal disease and may need to spend more time with their dentists.

Finally, if you feel like the last couple of years have been particularly stressful for you (I think that means everyone?), you have even more reason to prioritize a visit, says Dr. Hedrick. "Surprisingly, I’ve noticed many more cracked teeth during the pandemic. The reason for an increase in cracked teeth is people are more stressed which can lead to grinding teeth more than usual," she says. Another pleasant image to conjure when you're wondering whether or not to book a dental checkup.

I know, I know, all of this sounds very doom and gloom, but you have to admit: Your mouth does feel pretty darn good after the dental hygienist has flossed and brushed your teeth, and the dentist has given you a clean bill of oral health. Dentist's appointments may not be as fun as, say, getting your hair or nails done, but they're definitely a crucial investment in your future health and well-being, so keep that in mind.

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