By Dr. Nizar Kharma
Visiting the dentist only when you encounter a dental problem is not a good idea. It is a sad fact that most patients do not believe in the importance of seeing the dentist for regular examinations. This shows how little people concern themselves with their dental health. The culture of regular dental check-ups is a product of social, economic and cultural factors, but why are people still not aware that it may affect their entire health? We look at oral health options and explore the importance of attending regular check-ups.
What Is a Dental Check-up?
A dental check-up is the thorough systematic examination of your teeth, gums and mouth. During the examination, the dentist will check for gum disease, tooth decay, or any other problems that, if left undetected, may cause problems in the future. Once a check-up is performed, the examiner will provide the patient with recommendations and advice pertaining to oral health, and book the next visit. As a general rule, the lower the risk of dental disease, the longer the period in between check-ups.
Why Is a Dental Check-up so Important?
- Pain Prevention: No matter how well maintained the patient’s oral health is, there is always the chance of developing dental decay that, if left untreated, can progress into deep “hidden holes” which could lead to severe toothache and sleepless nights. The dentist will check for signs of gum disease, and remove (de-scale) any tartar build up, one of the causes of decay.
- Tooth-loss Prevention:Dental decay or gum-disease could spread and, if neglected for long periods, could lead to fractures and extractions. Moreover, poorly controlled gum disease (caused by bad oral hygiene or smoking) may sometimes lead to complete tooth loss, due to destruction of the tooth-carrying bone.
- Improving Patients’ Oral Health Knowledge and Awareness:For example, the dentist will demonstrate the best tooth-brushing techniques and check that the patient is brushing correctly, which will reduce the risk of gum disease.
- Saving Lives!:The pivotal role of a dental check-up in detecting life threating conditions cannot be stressed enough. Life-threatening oral carcinoma and lip cancer can be detected very early on, therefore dramatically decreasing the chance of metastasis and death. In addition, numerous medical conditions can be diagnosed through their oral manifestations, thereby helping to identify the medical problem early on and improving its prognosis. Examples of orally recognizable medical conditions include AIDS HIV, Leukemia, Crohn’s disease and many others.
But Why is it So Unpopular, Especially in Qatar?
Dental check-ups are not only unpopular, but also misunderstood and verging on non-existent! The reasons behind the dreaded dental check-up can be summarized as follows:
Too Expensive and not Worth It
Many patients assume that the dentist is “after their money”, as they will not only charge for the check-up, but also the cleaning and “along the way” find a couple of problems which may “cost a fortune”.
Some patients don’t realize that a check-up is also preventative—not simply something one books when there’s a problem.
Fear of the Needle!
This is arguably the most common reason why patients wait until they are in agonizing pain. Despite modern, less invasive approaches to anesthesia, the image of the dreaded needle is deeply rooted in the public’s mindset.
The Role of the Dentist
Dental professionals are also expected to improve their image in a way that builds trust with the patients. Confidence in dentists will be enhanced by adopting simple measures such as free (or low cost) check-ups, free non-binding treatment quotes and provision of a relaxed, pain-free environment as much as possible.