Growing up, many of us learned the value of brushing our teeth twice a day, flossing and visiting a dentist twice per year. But we shouldn’t outgrow these habits – they’re just as important if you’re an adult.
Here are six reasons why you need to keep going to the dentist and practicing consistent oral care as an adult, according to Dr. Ashley Chouinard, Dental Hygiene Department Chair at Herzing University:
1. Prevent Tooth Loss
Dental hygienists have a better toolbox for deep cleanings such as scaling and root planing than what’s in your typical bathroom cabinet. “Even if people performed perfect oral care at home, they can’t remove the calculus - the hardened plaque and biofilm - with just a toothbrush, especially if the calculus is under their gingiva,” Dr. Chouinard said. “Proper home care and maintenance appointments will assist patients in stopping the progression of further bone destruction and get them to a healthier state where they can maintain their oral health in between maintenance appointments.”
Research shows that adults are more susceptible to dental problems such as plaque build-up and periodontal disease or gum disease. According to the CDC, 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease, a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue that supports your teeth. Skipping dental visits and letting them go untreated could leave you with major problems such as potential tooth loss.
“If periodontal disease is not taken care of, it will continue to progress and causes you to lose the bone that is supporting your teeth. Once this bone is lost, it does not come back. If bone loss continues, you may start getting tooth mobility or even losing teeth because there is no supporting bone,” Dr. Chouinard said.
Luckily, dentists and dental hygienists can identify the periodontal disease and work with the patient to try to stop the progression of the disease.
2. Early Detection of Oral Cancer
Regular dental visits can be your best ally in helping to detect oral cancer in its early stages. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), the chances of developing oral cancer increase with age and the overall 5-year survival rate is 66%. The death rate for oral cancer is higher than for some other cancers because it is often discovered late in its development.
Identifying dental cancer yourself can be near to impossible because it not only can appear on any surface of the mouth and throat, but it often develops without any initial pain or obvious symptoms. Needless to say, leave it to the professionals. Dentists and dental hygienists are well-educated and highly trained to recognize the early signs and symptoms, and with regular appointments every six months, the chance of detecting the onset of oral cancer is dramatically higher.
3. Dental Health Impacts Overall Health
Research shows that there is a strong link between your oral health and your overall health. In fact, the American Dental Association (ADA) refers to the mouth as “the window into the health of your body” because sometimes some diseases are initially discovered through oral problems, such as endocarditis and pneumonia. Some can even be related to pregnancy complications like premature birth and low birth weight.
“Dentists actually recommend that if you are planning to get pregnant, then to get your dental needs taken care of beforehand,” said Dr. Chouinard.
Also, health problems such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS and heart disease, can lower the body’s resistance to infection, leading to more severe oral health complications.
“It’s not that your oral health will make you diabetic, but rather it can cause your oral health problems to be exacerbated by having diabetes,” she said.
Seeing your dentist and taking good care of your teeth and gums can substantially help reduce your risk of serious health conditions down the road.
4. Save Your Teeth and Your Wallet
Like most health problems, dental dilemmas are easier to treat and more wallet-friendly when addressed sooner rather than later.
“If someone has a small cavity that keeps growing, then it can eventually get into the dental pulp and cause an infection. So, you have essentially turned what would have been a $200 filling into a $2,000 root canal and crown, or possibly a $4,000 extraction and implant,” said Dr. Chouinard.
Visiting a dentist, “is supposed to be a preventative measure, but when you don’t follow then chances are, it will turn into a bigger issue,” she said. “So, go to your dentist and get regular exams. If something is off, get another exam. That way, providers can catch it when it’s small instead of just avoiding and avoiding it until it turns into an emergency.”
5. Prevents Bad Breath
Experiencing bad breath that not even a strong mint or potent mouthwash can fight off? Chances are you have something a bit more serious than temporary morning breath.
Halitosis, or chronic bad breath, can be caused by leftover food particles, dry mouth and tobacco products. However, a liver or kidney disorder, diabetes, chronic bronchitis or sinusitis could also be to blame. It is recommended to see your dentist and dental hygienist for an exam and appropriate dental hygiene services to determine if the halitosis is dental-related.
6. Boost Confidence
Your smile is the most prominent facial feature and an important part of first impressions. Be proud to show off your beautiful, pearly whites with the help of regular checkups.
Brushing and flossing at home can only do so much. Let your dentist and dental hygienist help you achieve an even healthier and brighter smile by removing the plaque beneath your gum line, polishing off any stains, and cleaning those hard-to-reach places between your teeth that your toothbrush just can’t get to.
“Nice white teeth are a huge benefit of going to the dentist,” Dr. Chouinard said. Stain removal is part of the prophylaxis appointment. External staining, from food, coffee, red wine, etc. can be removed by your dental hygienist.
Poor oral health can not only have a significant impact on your self-esteem, but it can also influence how others perceive you. Dr. Chouinard shared her personal experience with a patient who would cover her mouth when she spoke to hide her broken and discolored teeth and said she had trouble getting a job because of it.
This quick judgment is unfortunately many people’s reality. According to a survey from 2019, 84% of adults aged 18-34 years said that bad teeth can negatively affect a person's personal and professional life. Routine dental visits will ensure that your teeth and gums are in tip-top shape and give you a healthy glow and boost of confidence!
The next time you are considering skipping a dental appointment because of the cost, your busy schedule or dental anxiety, be sure to consider all of the consequences. What you may end up paying in the long run for not visiting your dentist will likely be much higher, both for you and your wallet.
If you are like the 40.2% of Americans who forgo dental care due to cost and lack of insurance, then look for local low-cost clinics such as Herzing University's Dental Hygiene Clinic in Minneapolis. This clinic provides low-cost oral care to the public from Herzing’s dental hygiene students, which are supervised by licensed hygiene faculty and a licensed faculty dentist.
With more than 1,500 active patients, including community members and other students, “we perform adult and child prophylaxis, in addition to periodontal maintenance, full mouth debridement, scaling and root cleaning, sealants and x-rays,” says Dr. Chouinard. Serving as an effective teaching opportunity for Herzing students, this clinic is currently open and could be an ideal solution for adults in the area looking to get their teeth cleaned at a low cost.