Years ago, people didn't have access to regular dental care, and tooth decay was much more of a problem than it is today. However, access to dental care only helps if you see your dentist regularly. Generally speaking, it is best to go to the dentist every six months. When you go to the dentist every six months, you enable your dental-care provider to take care of routine maintenance and preventative processes that can help you to stop tooth decay or head it off before it even begins. You also allow your dentist to take note of any serious problems that may be developing.
When you go to the dentist every six months, you can generally expect to have a tooth cleaning done. This regular cleaning is intended to scrape off the plaque and tartar that you're unable to get off with regular tooth brushing. Your dentist may also use special instruments, or even regular dental floss, between your teeth to get out the buildup you may miss with your regular oral hygiene routine. In addition, your dentist may apply fluoride to your teeth to further prevent decay.
In addition to your cleanings, your dentist will regularly examine your mouth for signs of decay and gum disease. Using a mirror and special dental instruments, he will typically tap and probe each tooth to discover whether or not it has problems. He may also check for pockets of space between your gums and your teeth. Too much space between your teeth and the gums may indicate the early stages of gum disease. Additionally, your dentist will probably look for visible signs of oral cancer at every regular examination.
Besides regular cleanings, you can also expect periodic x-rays when you go to the dentist regularly. These x-rays are intended to catch problems that your dentist may not see with the naked eye. For example, if you have a cavity that is about to touch your nerve, an x-ray will demonstrate this to your dentist much more reliably than if he simply looked at it. Likewise, dental x-rays can discover such things as impacted teeth, cysts and abscesses.
Though most people recommend that you go to the dentist every 6 months, you may need to go more frequently. For example, if you start to have pain in a tooth, in your gums or in any other part of your mouth, you don't want to wait for your six-month checkup in order to go to the dentist. Instead, it is best to make an appointment right away to head off problems.