How often should you see your dentist for a check‐up?

A dental check‐up helps to keep your mouth healthy and lets your dentist see if you have any dental problems. It allows your dentist to deal with any problems early, or even better, to prevent problems from developing. Leaving problems untreated may make them harder to treat in the future.

At each check‐up your dentist will usually:

examine your teeth, gums and mouth;ask about your general health and if you have had any problems with your teeth, mouth or gums since your last check‐up;advise you about tooth‐cleaning habits, and your diet, smoking and alcohol use.if appropriate, recommend treatment needed for any dental problems.

After your check‐up, the dentist will recommend a date for your next check‐up. Traditionally, check‑ups are recommended every six months. However, some people are at higher risk of developing dental problems and may need more frequent check‐ups, while others may not need check‐ups so often. Having check‐ups every six months might help to keep your mouth healthy and avoid dental problems in future, but could also lead to unnecessary dental treatments. However, having check‐ups less often might let dental problems get worse and lead to difficult and expensive treatment and care.

What was the research?

A systematic review to identify the best time interval to have between dental check‐ups.

Who conducted the research?

The research was conducted by a team led by Patrick Fee of Dundee Dental School, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK on behalf of Cochrane Oral Health. Philip Riley, Helen V Worthington, Janet E Clarkson, Dwayne Boyers and Paul V Beirne were also on the team.

What evidence was included in the review?

We included 2 randomised controlled trials, including 1,736 participants who had regular dental check‐ups.

What did the evidence say?

In adults, there was little to no difference between six‐monthly and risk‐based check‐ups in tooth decay, gum disease and quality of life after four years; and probably little to no difference in how many people had moderate‐to‐extensive tooth decay.

There was probably little to no difference between 24‐monthly and six‐monthly or risk‐based check‐ups in tooth decay (number of people and number of tooth surfaces affected), gum disease or well‑being, and there may be little to no difference in how many people had moderate‐to‐extensive tooth decay.

How good was the evidence?

We did not find enough reliable evidence about the effects of 12‐monthly and 24‐monthly check‐ups in children and adolescents after two years. This was because of problems with the way that one of the studies was conducted.

For adults, there is high‐certainty evidence that there is little to no difference in oral health outcomes (tooth surfaces with any caries, gingivitis and oral‐health‐related quality of life) when comparing 6‐month recall interval with a risk‐based recall interval.

What should researchers look at in the future?

Further studies comparing dental recall intervals for adults seem unnecessary, given the moderate to high certainty of the evidence for the outcomes of this review. Given the uncertainty of the evidence from one study on recall intervals between dental check‐ups for children and adolescents, there is a need for well‐conducted randomised controlled trials in this area, including a sufficient number of participants to detect a true difference, if any; similar outcome measures to this review; and of adequate duration.

Future research could focus on potential harms of providing dental recalls at different intervals.

Link

Fee  PA, Riley  P, Worthington  HV, Clarkson  JE, Boyers  D, Beirne  PV. Recall intervals for oral health in primary care patients. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2020, Issue 10. Art. No.: CD004346. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004346.pub5.

This post is an extended version of the review’s plain language summary, compiled by Anne Littlewood at the Cochrane Oral Health Editorial Base.

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