When it comes to maintaining a bright, healthy smile, most of us are less than perfect. It’s OK because, even though you don’t floss every day, at least you brush your teeth twice a day … right? Or, maybe you don’t remember the last time you visited the dentist, but, hey, at least you brush those pearly whites for at least two minutes each time.
We often justify these not-so-healthy dental habits, leading us to think we’re giving ourselves a passing grade on our oral hygiene report card. The thing is, we’re not. All of these habits are critical for not only your oral health, but your overall health too.
Going to the dentist twice a year is one of the most important habits for maintaining a healthy mouth—that many people tend to, well, brush off.
“I wish patient understood better about the preventative measures of coming to the dentist twice a year for a cleaning,” says Jennifer Jablow, DDS, a dentist in New York City.
Going to the dentist regularly is crucial because even if you’d give yourself an A+ for your own teeth-cleaning efforts—you know, flossing everyday and brushing twice a day for two minutes each time (which, by the way, very few people do)—you’re still not able to get those pearly whites 100% clean.
“It’s impossible to reach those deep areas where the bacteria that cause gum disease actually starts to form,” says Dr. Jablow.
What’s scary is that symptoms of gum disease and signs of cavities are often subtle. When you do feel or see something, such as tooth pain or bleeding gums, most often the disease has already progressed.
“It’s not just about keeping your oral health and preventing problems such as decay or gum disease, it’s also preventing problems in the rest of your body,” says Dr. Jablow. “Sometimes your dentist can actually detect disease processes that are going on in the rest of your body by just looking at your mouth.”
Leaving these conditions untreated may not only mean bad news for your mouth, like losing your teeth (eek!), but it can also put your overall health at risk as well. “There have been studies that show periodontal disease is linked to heart attack, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and even premature births,” says Dr. Jablow.
Frightening, yes, but you can do something about it: Visit your dentist at least twice a year or as frequently as your dentist advises.
“Someone who has a more advanced gum problems or even bone problems needs to see the hygienist every three or four months to get on top of that disease process and get it under control,” says Dr. Jablow.