It’s important to take care of your teeth, which is why many people visit a dentist every six months. Still, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), each year 100 million Americans don’t see a dentist at all. Some people dislike going to the dentist and put off scheduling an appointment for as long as they can, and others think they’re too busy.
Regardless of how you feel about dentists, you need to see a dentist on a regular basis. It’s also important to prepare for your visits. This preparation goes beyond making sure the office accepts your health insurance. You should also prepare to have a conversation with your dentist regarding your oral health.
Here are some important questions to ask your dentist.
1. What can I do to prevent cavities?
Dental cleanings remove plaque from teeth and reduce the risk of cavities. Your dentist will check your teeth for cavities after each cleaning. Cavities are tooth decay, or holes that form on the surface of your teeth. They don’t typically cause discomfort in the early stages, but pain and sensitivity may develop if you ignore the problem.
Different factors increase the risk for cavities. These include drinking sugary beverages, eating sugary foods, and bacteria in the mouth. Your dentist can recommend a plan to reduce your number of cavities. This can include brushing or flossing more often, avoiding certain types of foods, and chewing sugarless gum throughout the day to increase the amount of saliva in your mouth.
2. Why is fluoride important to my dental health?
You may hear the term fluoride when watching commercials for toothpaste and mouthwash. Fluoride is a mineral in many foods and treated water. It strengthens tooth enamel and lowers the risk of tooth decay. After an oral exam, your dentist can determine if you need to increase your fluoride intake. You can use toothpaste and mouthwashes containing fluoride.
3. What can I do to improve my dental health?
Since everyone's mouth is different, improving your oral health may require a customized dental routine. Your dentist may make specific recommendations based on the present health of your mouth and teeth. If you have more plaque or tartar than the average person, your dentist may suggest flossing more often, or recommend more frequent dental visits. A dentist may demonstrate the proper way to floss if there’s a lot of a bacteria in your mouth.
Your dentist can also offer diet recommendations for good dental health. For example, the ADA recommends drinking plenty of water and eating a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups. These include:
- whole grains
- lean sources of protein
- low fat or fat free dairy foods
4. Is my medication affecting my oral health?
Some medications can increase the risk for tooth decay. In fact, dry mouth is a side effect of more than 400 prescription and over-the-counter medications, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). People who have dry mouth have a lower amount of saliva in their mouth. Saliva helps control bacteria in the mouth and washes away food particles. A lower amount of saliva can raise the risk for cavities.
5. Do you see warning signs of a serious condition?
Regular dental exams can offer clues about your overall health. When dentists detect an issue, they may recommend following up with your family doctor. For example, erosion of tooth enamel can be caused by acid reflux disease or grinding your teeth at night. Swollen, receding gums can be an early sign of diabetes. Inflamed gums and loose teeth can be a warning sign of heart disease. Although several medications can cause dry mouth, this problem is also a sign of diabetes or Parkinson's disease.
6. Why do I need dental X-rays
Your dentist will take X-rays of your mouth if you’re a new patient, and they may repeat X-rays once a year. An X-ray helps your dentist identify mouth diseases that can’t be detected by oral examination. There’s usually an additional cost for X-rays. But these imaging tests can potentially save you money because your dentist can diagnose and correct teeth issues early. X-rays can detect:
- tooth decay
- bone loss
- changes in the bone
7. What causes sensitive teeth?
Pain or sensitivity felt after eating or drinking something hot or cold can be a nuisance. Many issues can trigger sensitivity, like:
- brushing too hard
- eating acidic foods
- tooth decay
- grinding your teeth
- using teeth whitening products
Gingivitis (a type of gum disease that causes swollen, irritated gums) and periodontal disease (a more severe gum disease that affects the teeth’s supporting structures) can also cause sensitivity. Your dentist can check your mouth for signs of these diseases and offer suggestions for treating pain. Sometimes, sensitivity develops after dental work, such as a cleaning or a root canal. This type of sensitivity isn’t permanent, and usually resolves within a couple of weeks.
Regular dental cleanings are crucial to your oral health. To keep your teeth and mouth healthy, you should see your family dentist every six months, brush at least twice a day, and floss daily. Also, notify your dentist of any changes, such as sensitivity to hot or cold, mouth sores that don't go away, bad breath, and tooth or mouth pain.