It is widely known that dental check-ups are supposed to be every 6 months for both adults and children, and most professional organizations including the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommend so. However, have you ever wondered why it’s exactly 6 months and not 4, 8, or 10? Ever asked yourself why it has to be twice per year?


Origins of the 6 Month Check-Up

It’s not quite clear how the 6-month dental check-up (officially called a dental prophylaxis) rule came to be, but most people who have looked into this issue agree that it is not based on scientific findings. One of the greatest legends about how the 6-month check-up interval gained ground is based on the fabrication of a toothpaste advert by an advertising genius called Claude Hopkins in the early 1900s.

Mr. Hopkins was an advertising guru who created crafty marketing campaigns that massively boosted the sales of Schiltz beers and the Pepsodent toothpaste. He made the Pepsodent toothpaste one of the most popular brands in the world within 5 years by associating tooth brushing (which was rare at the time) with health and beauty. In the Pepsodent marketing campaign, Hopkins created a catchphrase that read “Use Pepsodent every day – see your dentist twice a year” that caught on and formed the basis of dental check-up intervals to date.


6 Months Is an Arbitrary Time Frame…Sort Of

Although 6 months has since become the industry standard for dental prophylaxis intervals, it may not be the not the optimum interval for everyone. It’s just that it has become self-fulfilling and it’s what people now expect. Plus, the insurance industry has incorporated it into its system and typically covers 2 dental check-ups and cleanings per year.

However, different people have different genetics, diets, and dental care habits. Some people could get away with 8 months before the next dental visit (not recommended), while others might need a dental appointment every 4 months.

Patients that require dental check-ups regularly (say every 3 to 4 months) often have periodontal diseases such as gum infections or are highly susceptible to cavities. If these infections are not spotted and treated in time, they could progress to become severe dental problems. A minority of dental patients could go slightly longer than 6 months without an appointment and maintain healthy teeth, but the risk is high and the benefits of delaying a check-up so scant that the 6 month period is typically set as the maximum time frame between check-ups. This is the policy we adopt at Bunker Hill Dentistry.


A Year is Too Long to Wait

While 6 months is not the ideal interval for everyone, a year is certainly too long for a majority of people. Within a year, a filling can turn into a root canal, and a gum treatment can turn into gum graft. You can’t afford to wait a year if you don’t fall into the “lucky” category. Mouths are quite unpredictable, and it doesn’t take long for a problem to pop up and become potentially dangerous. The sooner a dentist catches the issue, the simpler it is to treat it.

Also, people can develop bad habits – both dental and non-dental such as smoking – in 6 months, or symptoms from an existing bad habit that weren’t present in the last check-up may then develop and worsen if left for a year. Patients could also start taking medication, and most medicines are known to increase the risk of plaque buildup and cavities formation.

Depending on your dental habits, the chemistry of your mouth, and the last findings of your tooth examination, it’s essential to have a check-up after 6 months to establish the state of your dental health.


Good Reasons for Regular Visits

Here are a few reasons why regular dental visits are recommended:


1. Prevent Plaque And Tartar Buildup

Brushing and flossing your teeth diligently (2 to 3 times a day) is one of the best ways to maintain excellent dental health. Brushing and flossing comprise 2 of the 5 core practices for healthy teeth and gums which we make clear in our caring for teeth guide (we’ve also compiled a list of secret dental tips that go beyond core practices for strong teeth and gums). However, certain areas of the mouth simply can’t get adequate cleaning with brushing and flossing. Plaque and tartar accumulates in these areas over time and need to be removed every 6 months for good oral health. If they are not eliminated, they can lead to tooth decay and gum disease which is not something to be desired.


2. Discovery Of Potentially Dangerous Dental Problems

Frequent dental check-ups allow a dentist to spot potential problems early on so that they can find ways to prevent serious health issues in the long-run. They can carry out dental X-rays on your teeth and gums to discover problems that are not visible to the naked eye. They can also undertake oral cancer checks, and if they find any traces of the disease take appropriate treatment action fast to increase the chances of full recovery.


3. Save Money

Identifying and treating dental-related problems early can save you plenty of money in the long-run. Regular dental visits can help detect potential dental issues early when they don’t require expensive treatment. Dental check-ups and cleaning also reduce your chances of developing tooth decay and gum disease, which are likely to require costly treatment such as tooth surgery. Plus, fillings and sealants are much cheaper than root canals and tooth extractions.


4. Keep a healthy, beautiful smile

A healthy smile incredibly boosts one’s confidence, but it cannot come by with poor dental health. According to a study by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, a huge number of people (96% of all adults interviewed), think that an attractive smile makes a person more good-looking. Regular dental visits guarantee you a wide range of treatments and procedures to clean, whiten and brighten your teeth; ensuring your smile is one of the best among those around you.


All in all, the importance of visiting a professional dentist regularly cannot be understated. The industry standard requires you to visit them twice per year, but depending on the state of your dental health a physician will recommend whether to lower that frequency for best results.