You may feel too embarrassed to see a dentist regularly. Perhaps you are ashamed of the condition of your teeth and would rather not be pressured to fix chips, stop smoking that is staining your teeth, or brush and floss more often. About one-third of Americans do not see a dentist even once a year, so you would have a lot of company, but let’s briefly explore the consequences of putting off a dental exam.
Consider the embarrassment of having stained teeth, when they can be cost-effectively cleaned and whitened better than over-the-counter remedies. Or how you would look if a tooth were missing when you met someone new who might be important for your personal life or career?
In many cases, individuals do not go to a dentist because they do not understand just how important oral health is to one’s overall health. Few of us were taught growing up why good dental care can make a significant difference in our risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or even cancer.
Some who know they do need to brush and floss daily rarely see a dentist because they believe their habits are adequate. After all, they don’t feel any pain from cavities. But pain is the final sign that emergency care is needed. And the much more serious problem of periodontal disease (an infection of the gums and underlying bone) is not painful, though there might be bleeding when they floss. Before you know it, this can result in a tooth becoming loose and falling out or needing to be extracted. Once one is missing, the other teeth start to misalign and become loose, as well, unless a dentist intervenes.
Both cavities and periodontal disease can be prevented if you have a dental exam twice a year. Problems that have been developing for half a year can be reversed, but a visit just once a year or even less frequently is much more likely to require serious treatment.
Periodontal disease only gets worse with neglect and if it has progressed far enough, it will require gum surgery or even a bone graft. This can only be fully diagnosed with a digital x-ray (which involves very little radiation).
While at the dentist, you can have the dental hygienist show you how to properly brush twice a day for two minutes and floss before you go to sleep, to be sure you are preventing problems from developing.
In some cases, a fear of pain is keeping people away from the dentist, but modern dentistry can be virtually painless, with a variety of options for anesthetics.
If you are not seeing a dentist out of general anxiety, there are de-stressing supplements with vitamins, minerals, and herbs available at many stores that can keep you calm before and after a visit. You could also follow online instructions on how to do breathing exercises that will lower anxiety.
The best way not to be anxious or embarrassed about your oral health is to have a dentist do an examination so you know what you real status is and your options for better overall health.