Visiting the dentist is one of the least-loved pastimes of most people. For many, a deeply ingrained fear of the dentist began in childhood and carried on well into adulthood. Others may not have received much dental care in their youth and don’t realize its importance as adults. Unfortunately, poor dental care can affect every other area of your health, and neglecting your teeth can have some serious consequences. By understanding the importance of dental hygiene, you can begin practicing an oral healthcare routine that will keep you healthy for years to come.

Why Dental Hygiene is Important

Healthy teeth aren’t just aesthetically pleasing. They’re also necessary to overall well-being. Your teeth are a vital part of your digestive system, and having cavities or gum disease can make eating unbearably painful. Additionally, infections can easily enter the bloodstream from your mouth and lead to serious disease. Infected gums can, in severe cases, lead to organ failure and blood poisoning. Infected teeth can also cause chronic sinus infections and other complications.

Even if your teeth seem fairly healthy, it’s important to realize that infection can build up over time. Neglecting dental hygiene while you’re young may cause a weakening of the teeth and gums; this will leave you more vulnerable in the future. Catching and treating these problems early can prevent more serious or painful conditions from developing. For example, it’s easier to get a cavity filled than it is to deal with a broken tooth. Receiving regular oral care at the dentist’s office can prevent more serious visits later.

How Often Should I Visit the Dentist?

No matter how good you are at cleaning your teeth at home, you still need to get them done professionally on occasion. Home dental care like brushing and flossing can help keep teeth clean, but it does little to remove built-on tartar and plaque. For the removal of these hardened deposits, you will need to have your teeth cleaned with professional scaling instruments. This will also prevent bacteria from infecting the gums or entering the bloodstream.

Bacteria can take hold in the gums after about three months. If you are diligent about taking care of your teeth, you may be able to get by with cleanings twice a year. People who don’t brush and floss regularly would benefit most from teeth cleanings every two to three months. At the very least, you should get your teeth professionally cleaned once a year.

In addition to routine dental maintenance, you may need to visit the dentist more frequently for specific problems. For example, you might need to have a cavity filled or address a broken tooth as soon as it’s discovered. Fortunately, routine maintenance can prevent these dental emergencies from happening. The more preventative care you receive, the less likely you are to need invasive dental procedures like root canals or extractions.

Overcoming Fear of the Dentist

For many people, an annual visit to the dentist can seem overwhelming; cleanings every few months may seem impossibly intimidating. Fortunately, it is possible to overcome your fear of the dentist. In most cases, dentists are friendly and helpful; they want you to be healthy. Modern dentistry is also much different than it was a few decades ago, so it’s worth giving them a second chance even if you’ve had bad experiences in the past. Here are a few tips for reducing your anxiety:

– Discuss Finances Up Front – Many insurance policies do not cover dental care, and not all dentists are in the preferred network. Reduce your anxiety about dental appointments by asking whether they’ll accept your insurance before you proceed with an appointment. If you’re uninsured, don’t despair; many offices are willing to accept payments or work out a convenient billing system for you. This makes it possible to get dental help even if you don’t have much money.

– Ask Around for Recommendations – In the modern age, it’s easy to get information about dentists and other professionals by searching online. Reading reviews of a dentist can help you determine whether the doctor will be a good fit for your personality. Reviews and personal recommendations can help you determine whether a dentist will be gentle and non-judgmental, which will reduce the anxiety felt by many patients.

– Don’t Be Embarrassed – Everyone thinks that their teeth are the worst the dentist has ever seen, but that is rarely ever true. Rather than allowing yourself to fear a lecture on dental maintenance, remind yourself that you’re getting help now and preventing your teeth from getting worse. It’s much less common for dentists to guilt-trip or shame their patients than it once was, and they’ll be happy to see you taking initiative in your oral health.

– Be Open with Communication – Your dentist can’t know what you want unless you communicate. If something hurts, ask for another numbing injection. If you don’t want to be lectured on the state of your teeth, say so up front. It may feel awkward to speak up, but the awkwardness will pass and you will get your needs addressed.

Visiting the dentist is never fun, but it doesn’t need to be traumatic. By following these tips, you can reduce the amount of anxiety you feel at your routine dental cleanings. Following a dental hygiene routine at home will also prevent you from needing extensive dental work and will keep you healthy between cleanings. By focusing on your oral health, you can stop serious conditions before they have a chance to develop.