If you drive, the manufacturer of your car probably suggests you get the oil changed every 3,000 miles. There are even warning lights on the dashboard that turn on every 3,000 miles to remind you. Do you follow your car manufacturer’s suggestion, or do you change the oil every 5,000 or 10,000 miles? So what’s the big deal? The car runs just as good with 3,000-mile oil changes as it does with 10,000-mile oil changes. Maybe! Except you’ll never know if your car would have lasted an extra 5-10 years had you followed the manufacturer’s guidelines. Damage to the engine can be slow and cumulative and may not be evident for several years.

So why is the office of Dr. Brei—your neighborhood dentist—writing about car maintenance? Because, like automobile manufacturers, dentists for decades have urged patients to schedule a checkup and cleaning every six months and, statistically, only 64% do.

To continue the analogy, you can probably schedule a checkup and cleaning every year, or even every other year, without noticeable problems, at least for the short term. However, like the slow and cumulative damage that neglect can inflict on a car, ignoring regular checkups and professional teeth cleanings can have a negative impact on your teeth and on your general health in future years.

The purpose of a dental checkup is to find small problems before they become big ones. A cavity can often go undetected until it starts to cause pain, and then it may require more dental work than if it were caught earlier. The same is true of gum disease. Early signs of gum disease can go unseen for a long time as plaque slowly accumulates causing gingivitis, and gingivitis evolves into periodontitis.

So what does a dental check up include? According to the Mayo Clinic, the dentist may:

  • Evaluate your overall health and oral hygiene
  • Evaluate your risk of tooth decay, root decay, and gum or bone disease
  • Evaluate your need for tooth restoration or tooth replacement
  • Check your bite and jaw for problems
  • Examine prosthetic replacements such as bridges or dentures
  • Demonstrate proper cleaning techniques for your teeth or dentures
  • Assess your need for fluoride
  • Take dental X-rays or, if necessary, do other diagnostic procedures
  • Discuss health problems you may have and medications you may be taking

One thing that will most likely be a part of your checkup will be a cleaning. Delta Dental, the nation’s leading provider of dental insurance, lists six advantages of getting your teeth professionally cleaned. A cleaning can:

  • Prevent cavities
    The whitish film that builds up on your teeth is called plaque and is the leading cause of tooth decay. This acidic substance eats away at the tooth enamel and, if left unattended, can lead to cavities. Plaque can be removed by brushing, flossing and dental cleanings.
  • Stop tooth loss
    Gum disease, which starts with built-up plaque, is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. As gum disease advances, plaque moves further down the tooth, where it can destroy the supporting bone in your jaw, causing teeth to loosen and even fall out. Luckily, the chance of this happening to you can be greatly reduced through regular dental cleanings combined with good oral hygiene habits.
  • Brighten your smile
    Drinking coffee, tea and wine or using tobacco can stain your teeth. A dental cleaning can remove built-up stains and leave you with freshly polished teeth. The result? A whiter, brighter smile!
  • Freshen your breath
    Good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent persistent bad breath. Even if you brush and floss regularly, getting a cleaning is a great way to keep your mouth healthy and odor-free.
  • Boost your overall health
    Studies have shown a connection between oral and overall health. Regular dental cleanings may help lower your risk for some diseases, even heart disease and stroke. Some medical conditions can be detected in their early stages by your dentist during a routine oral exam.

Dr. Robert Brei may also suggest a deep cleaning, which cleans below the gumline. This procedure involves scaling and root planing.

While brushing and flossing goes a long way toward keeping teeth clean, it’s important to visit your dentist to prevent gingivitis. Only with a dental visit can plaque and tartar be removed from below the gum line. The American Dental Association found that scaling and root planing is beneficial to patients with periodontal disease—gum disease that has advanced past gingivitis—and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that chronic periodontitis affects nearly half of all adults in the United States over the age of 30.

If you schedule dental care every six months, with a checkup and cleaning, it’ll soon become part of your oral health routine. You may not see significant changes today or tomorrow, but decades from now, when all your teeth are healthy and fully functioning, and you’re able to eat all sorts of foods you love, you’ll be thankful you had the foresight to have Dr. Brei check and clean your teeth every six months.

There are many ways to schedule a dental checkup and cleaning with the office of Dr. Brei. You can email the office at appointments@drbrei.com, call 520-325-9000, or click here to book online and schedule an appointment directly. Then—after you schedule a checkup and cleaning—you might think about taking your car in for an oil change. It can’t hurt.