It used to be common for people to make a dentist appointment only when problems actually arose.
Health organisations have since set standards aimed at preventing dental problems. Consistent oral hygiene and yes, regular check-ups, are two of the mainstays of preventative dentistry. But in today’s busy world it can be all too easy to let one or both of these practices slide.
So before you go eyeing off that potential free slot on your calendar, here are seven side effects that’ll make you rethink skipping that dentist appointment.
1. Plaque and Tartar Buildup
Even the most well-cared-for mouth is full of bacteria. That bacteria can mix with food byproducts and proteins to form dental plaque. Plaque alone can damage tooth enamel, which is why regular removal is all-important.
But left unattended, plaque can also harden into tartar. Tartar is a rough, porous dental buildup that compromises the health of your gums. Unlike plaque, it can’t be removed through regular brushing or flossing. Only your dentist can remove tartar once it’s formed.
2. Increased Risk of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay occurs when a tooth’s enamel is broken down by acids in our saliva. Those acids are produced by the bacteria in plaque buildup when we eat or drink. Left untreated, the breakdown of enamel can lead to a cavity in the tooth. At its worst, that decay can progress through to the nerve or pulp of the tooth.
Those acids are produced by the bacteria in plaque buildup when we eat or drink. Left untreated, the breakdown of enamel can lead to a cavity in the tooth. At its worst, that decay can progress through to the nerve or pulp of the tooth.
Tooth cavities start small so the odds of you spotting the beginning of one yourself are slim to none. During your dentist appointment, your teeth will be closely examined to catch cavities before they progress. This will save you a lot of pain and money down the road.
3. Increased Risk of Gum Disease
Gum disease is the inflammation of the gums caused by the bacteria in plaque. If left untreated, it can affect the bone that supports and surrounds your teeth.
There are three stages of gum disease:
When plaque isn’t properly removed, it produces toxins that can cause inflammation of the gum tissue — this is gingivitis. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease and the only stage at which the damage can be reversed.
Periodontitis occurs when gingivitis is left untreated. At this stage, gum disease has affected the fibres and supporting bone that hold your teeth in place. This damage is irreversible, but proper treatment can usually prevent further damage.
At this stage, the fibres and supporting bone holding your teeth in place are mostly destroyed. This can cause your teeth to loosen or shift. Aggressive treatment is needed at this stage of gum disease, but even then, teeth may need to be removed.
Keeping your next dentist appointment could mean the difference between catching gum disease at its first stage or its third. So you’d be doing yourself, and your teeth a favour, if you keep that hour blocked off on your calendar.
4. Bad Breath
The leading cause of bad breath is sulphur-producing bacteria that generally live on the surface of your tongue and in your throat. However poor oral hygiene is a close second.
Gum disease and tooth decay can both cause and contribute to bad breath. But even simple plaque buildup can play its part, by becoming a medium for anaerobic bacteria.
5. Increased Risk of Tooth Loss
General knowledge states that one naturally loses their teeth as they get older. But general knowledge, in this case, is wrong.
Thanks to modern dental practices, our adult teeth can and often do last us our whole lives. Tooth loss is now as preventable as the oral health conditions that predominantly cause it. In this case, tooth decay and gum disease.
As we’ve already stated, gum disease is both preventable, and treatable in its early stages. So keeping your dentist appointments can go a long way to ensuring your teeth last as long as you do.
6. You May Miss the Signs of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer includes cancers of:
- the tongue
- the floor of the mouth
- soft and hard palate
- and sinuses
Like any cancer, you have a far better chance of successful treatment if you diagnose oral cancer early.
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, this year will see almost 49,750 Americans diagnosed with oral oropharyngeal cancer. Of that number, only 57% will be alive in the next 5 years.
An oral cancer screening can be performed as part of your biannual dentist appointment. It’s a simple exam involving your dentist checking for precursor tissue changes in your neck or face, examining the inside of your mouth for discolourations or sores, and asking you about potential risk factors.
Putting off your next dentist appointment could also mean you put off identifying oral cancer, possibly until it’s too late.
7. Increased Risk of Heart Disease
Poor oral health has long been an indicator of more extensive overall health problems, but new studies have shown that poor oral care can directly increase your risk of heart disease.
The connection is in the spread of bacteria and other germs from your mouth through your bloodstream. These bacteria can cause illnesses like endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart) by attaching themselves to any damaged areas of your heart and causing inflammation.
The American Heart Association has also linked that same inflammation to other cardiovascular conditions like clogged arteries and stroke.
Do Yourself a Favour and Keep That Dentist Appointment
Dentist appointments aren’t just for fixing teeth. They prevent the buildup of harmful plaque and tartar, catch small oral health issues before they balloon into bigger problems, and check for abnormalities that could signal larger health issues.
Skipping a dentist appointment may not seem like a big issue, but oral health problems can develop and progress very quickly. Keeping your next appointment may mean the difference between the early diagnosis of a small oral health issue and an aggressive, expensive treatment plan.
Overdue for your next check-up? Get in touch to kick off your preventative dental plan today.