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Dental Checkup

We all know we should see our dentist at least once a year for a checkup, but according to a 2014 survey, roughly 1/3 of Americans skip their annual checkup, and Southerners are the worst offenders. While it might seem like skipping that checkup will save some money, in the long run, it’s bad for both your dental health and your wallet.

At your annual checkup, we can often identify problems while they are still minor. A small filling is far less expensive than a root canal, and a bridge is much cheaper than a full set of dentures. Not only that, but uncorrected dental problems can lead to major and even life-threatening infections. Sometimes we can even spot mouth and throat cancers while they are still in an early stage.

Dental Checkups for Kids

While we’ll see below that adults need regular checkups too, kids are especially susceptible to cavities. In addition, kids tend not to clean their teeth as well as adults, so the cleaning that accompanies the annual checkup is also very important to maintain their oral health. Finally, while it’s not as common, children can get all the same oral health problems that adults do.

Dental Checkups for Adults

Even if you’ve never had a cavity, dental checkups become increasingly important as you age. There are many problems in our mouths that we can spot during your dental checkup, in time to make what would have been a major issue a minor one. Here are just a few of the more common ones you should be aware of.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal refers to the area around our teeth, specifically our gums and supporting bone structure. After the age of 35, Americans lose more teeth to periodontal disease than we do to tooth decay. This is especially true if your daily cleaning routine of flossing and brushing has become lax. The plaque on our teeth is a breeding ground for bacteria, and tartar can cause physical damage to the gums and supporting bone structure. This can cause your teeth to start to loosen and in severe cases will require removal of teeth or even surgery to your jaw.

Oral Cancers

According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, approximately 36,000 Americans will develop oral cancer every year, and almost 7,000 of those will die from this disease. Most oral cancers are detected by dentists rather than doctors. Men over the age of 40 are most susceptible to oral cancers, often from asymptomatic HPV infections they got many years before. Of course, smoking and tobacco chewing also greatly increase your risk of oral cancer.

Breakdown of Dental Fillings

Fillings don’t last forever. In fact, many fillings will only last for about 10 years. When a filling starts to break down, you may not notice for some time however, bacteria is getting under the filling and attacking the tooth. Left untreated, this could lead to a root canal and crown. Found early, the filling simply needs to be replaced.

Temporomandibular Joint Problems

TMJ problems can be painful and even cause locking of your jaw. Our bite changes as we age, and even more so if we have had teeth removed, as the other teeth will shift over time. This movement of our teeth and changing jaw shape as we age can affect the joints in our jaw. Grinding your teeth while you sleep can cause similar problems. In both cases, we can often spot these issues while treatment is still minor. For grinding of your teeth, we can make a night guard that will protect them, and we can adjust your bite by smoothing areas of your teeth that are causing interference with a normal bite.

An Ounce of Prevention…

Just as we need to see our doctor for regular checkups to keep our body healthy and find problems while they are still treatable, so too regular dental checkups can save a great deal of pain, preserve our teeth and protect our overall health.