Well, in answering this question there are a number of aspects to consider. One is about health, another about reassurance, and the third is about information.
Health – One of the most important reasons for a dental check-up is to make sure that you don’t have any signs of mouth cancer. It is a rare disease affecting roughly 5000 people each year in the UK (population 62.74 million) which is 0.008%. However there is a very large difference in the outcome, between early detection which can have an 80% survival rate at 5 years, to late detection where this drops to 20% survival. As such having a good look around the soft parts of the mouth every 6-12 months is a very good idea indeed. This is not a new thing we have been doing this every time we do a check-up for a very long time indeed,
Once we’ve done this check we can move on to the gums and teeth. There are some things a check-up can, and does find, such as tooth decay, gum disease and wear & tear. These are all problems that with a little warning can be prevented, avoided, or treated minimally and without any drama. Other conditions such as persistent dry mouth are very serious and can cause a lot of trouble, but with early detection and management can be reduced to a smaller problem.
There are however some problems that a check-up cannot always find such as cracking in teeth. Cracking teeth can be sensitive and painful to bite onto (some do not cause any pain at all). They are such a tricky problem to solve as teeth can break without warning, sometimes even in the days just after a check-up. The simple answer is that, with a few exceptions, we cannot predict which tooth will break or when. The exceptions are the rare cases when cracks can be seen on the surface. Although we still cannot predict when it will break, we might suggest some treatment, such as using low-shrink white fillings instead of metal fillings or even the crowning of teeth to strengthen them and prevent breakage.
The next reason for a check-up is to do with reassurance. Teeth are a cause of concern and stress for many of us. Getting the clean bill of (oral) health (or as close as we can get), takes the weight off the mind of the person worried about their teeth. It is normal for us to associate failing teeth with getting old and losing our strength and capability. In fact it is said that dreams concerning worry about the future often include teeth going bad or falling out. This need not be the case with good management of the long term problems such as tooth wear. The earlier the causes of these are addressed the less damage is done,
The last reason is about information and education. The key to health is education – what does this mean in practice? It means that it isn’t treatment that we need to improve our health (in fact that’s what we have when we fail to improve our health), it is knowing how to be healthy. What choices to make to prevent disease. On many occasions I’ve had to defend my decision to spend time speaking with patients about their health when in reality each minute spent talking about health can be worth many hours of treatment avoided later on.
The other main reason for information exchange at a check-up is to make sure that our patients know what their options are. It’s no use there being many hi-tech solutions to a problem if, as dentists, we aren’t telling people about them.
In conclusion it is my assertion that dental check-ups will, for most people, reduce the frequency and severity of dental problems (although not all the way down to zero), enable information to be exchanged about health and reassure our patients about their oral health. In comparison for those who do not attend dental check-ups there will be some who will be worse off for it and have more problems, and more severe problems, rather than fewer.
If you haven’t been for a while give us a call on 01761 413663 or email us via our website Northwaydental.co.uk and we will be happy to book you in. And don’t worry, we won’t tell you off if you haven’t been for a while, we’re just happy to have the opportunity to help.