Why you should visit the dentist every six months

Few people like sitting in the dentist’s room, but making regular visits to the dentist ensures your teeth stay in good condition. Dentists say making a visit every six months prevents a host of oral-related problems from developing, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Dr Dona Sanju attends to a patient with a dental problem at Legacy Clinic in Kigali. / Diane Mushimiyimana.
Dr Dona Sanju attends to a patient with a dental problem at Legacy Clinic in Kigali. / Diane Mushimiyimana.

Few people like sitting in the dentist’s room, but making regular visits to the dentist ensures your teeth stay in good condition. Dentists say making a visit every six months prevents a host of oral-related problems from developing, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

They assert that regular care and maintenance of one’s teeth reduces the chances of developing gum disease and tooth decay, and one is less likely to require costly dental procedures, such as a tooth extraction.

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Leandre Bitwayiki, a Kigali-based dental surgeon, says the mouth is the body’s initial point of contact with the food people consume. So what one puts in their mouth impacts not only general health but also that of the teeth and gums. In fact, if one’s nutrition is poor, the first signs often show up in the mouth, he adds.

“Empty calorie foods such as sweets, cookies, cakes and muffins, and snack foods like fries are a cause for dental concern, not only because they offer no nutritional value, but because the amount and type of sugar that they contain can compromise dental health. The bacteria in the mouth feed off these sugars, releasing acids, leading to tooth decay - the destruction of the outer layer of the teeth from sugary foods. This condition can worsen every six months as plaque builds up and slowly ruins one’s teeth,” explains Bitwayiki.

Sugar-containing drinks such as soda, lemonade, juice and sweetened coffee or tea (iced or hot) are particularly harmful because sipping them causes a constant sugar bath over teeth, which promotes tooth decay, he adds.

Dr Dona Sanju, a dentist at Legacy Clinic in Kabuga, Kigali, says although one may be doing their daily tooth-brushing routine it is not enough to prevent all dental diseases. There’s need to get medical checkup to be sure their oral health is good, she says.

“Nowadays than ever before people are consuming sugary food and beverages more. This puts their oral health at risk. Thus, by adhering to checkups, dentists can quickly diagnose that tooth decay and prevent it from damaging the teeth and improve general oral health. If left untreated, tooth decay often causes pain and dental cavities and can even irritate the gum”, she says.

Sanju adds that getting a dental checkup every six months also prevents plaque build-up.

“Plaque is a sticky deposit that clings to your teeth and gum line and is full of harmful bacteria. When plaque builds up on teeth, it can result in tartar, which discolours the teeth. There are multiple causes of plaque including irregular brushing,” she explains.

Research shows that one in four adults don’t brush their teeth twice a day, while one in 10 people regularly forgets to clean their teeth. Visiting your dentist twice a year, however, prevents plaque build-up and leaves the teeth in a cleaner, healthier condition.

On the other hand, Claude Nzanzimana, a dentist at University of Rwanda’s College of Medicine and Health Sciences, says the dentist can spot the first signs of gum disease, long before it becomes a serious problem. This way, one can tackle the issue before it gets worse and better protect teeth in future.

“It doesn’t take long to see when one’s mouth lacks attention. In just a matter of days you’re able to see yellow build-up of dental plaque from not brushing. And when poor oral hygiene continues, the plaque gives way to inflammation of the gum and eventually infection,” he says.

Nzanzimana adds that if left untreated, gum disease causes the gums to become red and swollen, and can even make it painful to consume food and drinks.

“A good dentist will suggest ways you can prevent gum disease, including regular cleaning from a dental hygienist, flossing, swishing with mouthwash and proper brushing.

“Achieving dazzling snow-white teeth cannot be a distant dream thanks to a number of treatments available that will whiten, brighten and clean your teeth,” he adds.

Other safety options

Making dental visits is not only a part of a complete dental care routine. For a healthy mouth and smile dentists recommend:

  • Minimising sugary food intake and adhere to healthy and complete diet.
  • Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled brush.
  • Replacing the toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn out toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
  • Make sure to use fluoride toothpaste.
 

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