There are many compelling reasons to visit a dentist regularly. Dental screenings check for a wide variety of problems, many of which are important to a patient’s overall health as well as their teeth and gums. In addition to a check for general oral health, the dentist screens for oral cancer, cavities, and early signs of gum disease. Regular visits assist the family dentist in getting to know patients’ habits and issues, increasing the ability to catch problems before they become health emergencies.

Routine dental screenings go further than patients may realize. A part of the procedure is a check for oral cancer. A regularly scheduled visit to the dentist provides the best screening for this cancer, which is curable unless it is discovered in the very late stages. Tobacco users are especially at risk; however, people with no known risk factors for oral cancer can still contract this disease. Recent studies have also linked the occurrence of oral cancer to the human papilloma virus, or HPV. Frequent dental check-ups are the best line of defense to fight oral cancer.

Regular dental check-ups provide an opportunity for the dentist to catch cavities before they develop into bigger problems. The dentist can spot tooth decay early on, and design a treatment plan that will keep the patient’s teeth healthy. Early intervention to stop minor tooth decay can prevent costly dental procedures and even loss of teeth down the road.

Dentists also check for the presence of gum disease during regular screenings. Gum disease, or gingivitis as it is called in the early stages, can be prevented through good dental hygiene and professional cleanings. In fact, some forms of decay, like tartar buildup, can only be eliminated by a dental cleaning. Gingivitis forms after plaque and other build up is allowed to remain (and decay) on the surface of the teeth and gums. While tobacco use and genetics contribute to the formation of gingivitis as well, regular dental treatment can help prevent the condition from developing into a bigger issue.

In advanced stages, gum disease becomes periodontal disease, which is truly a threat to overall health. This serious condition can lead to a patient’s bones breaking down, as well as tooth loss. Even more disturbing, bacteria that are present in a mouth full of infected gums can contribute to dire health issues such as heart disease and stroke.

Some researchers also suggest that gum disease raises the risk of developing diabetes. It is thought that infected gums can raise blood sugar levels, a contributing factor to this serious disease.

Surprisingly, current statistics show that the majority of Americans have gum disease in some form or another. This makes it all the more important to incorporate regular dental checkups in your plan to maintain overall good health.

Current recommendations suggest that adults and children should see their dentists at least every six months for a dental exam and cleaning. A regular visit with the family dentist is an essential weapon in the fight against very preventable conditions like tooth loss, gum disease, and oral cancer.

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