Dental hygiene, do we really need two dental visits per year? The NY Times investigates.

Steve Martin playing the dentist in Little Shop of Horrors

Dental hygiene, do we really need two dental visits per year? The NY Times investigates.

That smile, those teeth, and the problems caused by improper dental care. I recently heard on a podcast that almost 30% of the British, known for crooked teeth do not brush regularly. For myself, I go three time per year to a periodentist who cleans my teeth and makes sure I do not have any gum issues, which were present 21 years ago; he basically saved my teeth in the back of my mouth.

On the other hand, many people have few if any dental issues, and a new study suggests some people can visit the dentist less regularly and maintain their dental health. For those who find this twice yearly ritual a bit more than they would like to handle, this may be some great news for you if you have healthy teeth and have few dental issues.

Rethinking the Twice-Yearly Dentist Visit

For decades, dentists have urged all adults to schedule preventive visits every six months. But a new study finds that annual cleanings may be adequate for adults without certain risk factors for periodontal disease while people with a high risk may need to go more often.

Almost half of adults age 30 and older, about 65 million, have a form of chronic inflammatory gum disease that can ultimately lead to tooth loss.The study, published on Monday in The Journal of Dental Research, suggests that the frequency of dental visits for cleanings and other preventive services should be tailored to each person’s risk factors for periodontal disease.

“The findings suggest that for low-risk patients, a yearly prophylactic visit does prevent tooth loss over a protracted period of 16 years, and there’s no significant difference in an added visit,” said Dr. Robert J. Genco, a periodontist and SUNY distinguished professor of oral biology at the University at Buffalo, who was not involved in the study. “They found if you had more than one risk factor, that maybe two visits isn’t optimal.”

Prevention reduces tooth loss, but there has been little evidence to support a twice-yearly visit to the dentist for everyone. The new study looked at insurance claims data for 5,117 adults, primarily in Michigan, to determine whether tooth extraction was linked to a previous history of one or two dental visits a year in patients with varying risks for periodontal disease. The subjects were classified as high risk if they smoked or had diabetes or certain variations in the interleukin-1 gene, which some studies have suggested may be linked to periodontal disease in white people. Subjects were deemed low risk if they had none of these risks.

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