What's the worst that could happen if you skip your regular dental checkups? This is a big question, and the outcome depends on your standard of oral hygiene, your diet, and how long you've gone between checkups. But if it has been some years since you last had a dental checkup, what can you expect?
Precautionary in Nature
You should never be embarrassed or hesitant to schedule an appointment with your dentist after an extended break. It's definitely better late than never, and your local dental clinic will happily welcome you back. Remember that dental checkups are mostly precautionary in nature. Just because you've been skipping your appointments, it doesn't mean that radical, intensive treatment will be needed. But for starters, you'll need to have your teeth professionally cleaned.
Professional cleaning is the only way to remove tartar, which develops when dental plaque isn't removed by brushing. You may not have much accumulated tartar if you've been vigilant with cleaning your teeth at home. Tartar is a bacterial biofilm that can lead to gum infection (gingivitis), so it must be removed. But when large quantities of tartar have developed, it can take more than professional cleaning to remove them.
Full mouth debridement is a more intensive form of professional teeth cleaning. Large, particularly tough tartar deposits need specialized removal. Your dentist or dental hygienist will target these deposits with a handheld ultrasonic tool to loosen them before scraping the tartar away. This removes your tartar without damaging the tooth's surface. Once this bacterial biofilm is controlled, any gingivitis should subside. Extreme gum inflammation may need additional treatment, and you may be directed to use an antibacterial mouthwash. Severe forms of gum disease can require antibiotics.
Decay and Corrosion
Once your dentist has professionally cleaned your teeth or performed a full mouth debridement, they'll be able to get a clearer look at the surfaces of your teeth. Decay may have had ample opportunity to develop between your visits. Any cavities will need to be filled, but smaller cavities limited to the tooth's surface (called incipient caries) can be halted with an intensive fluoride treatment to remineralize the tooth. Teeth that have corroded surfaces are more vulnerable to future decay and may require bonding, which is when tooth-colored resin is applied to the tooth to construct a new outer layer.
The best-case scenario for skipping your dental checkups is that professional cleaning is all you'll need. Of course, more dental work might be needed, and the longer you leave it, the more likely this becomes. So isn't it time you got back in touch with your dentist?
Contact your dentist for more information.