Dear Curious

Dear Dr. H,
Why do I need to get my teeth cleaned every six months? Why not every 2 months or once a year? Who decided on 6 months?
Dear Curious,
I love this question!
Let me start with some history:
Decay and tooth loss have been a problem since prehistoric times. (We have evidence of dental fillings being placed to stop cavities since about 3700 BC.)
As our food became more plant based and more sugar was used, tooth decay and loss got worse.
Many, if not most, adults in Colonial America suffered from tooth decay and tooth loss.
This continued to be a huge problem until WWII. (It may shock you to know that most people did not brush their teeth every day until after World War II.)
After WWII, the dental community stepped up and began to market how to keep teeth.
“Brush twice a day and see your dentist every 6 months” .
The decison on every six months is because that is the time it takes to develop a new cavity that can be detected on an xray or in the mouth.
Today, most patients go to their dentist every 6 months because that is what insurance covers.
However, the dental community knows that every 6 months is not appropriate for every patient. The dentist’s role is no longer just to detect cavities and fill them. We are also concerned about gum disease, oral cancer, joint problems, acid reflux, sleep apnea, tooth wear and breakage, along with cosmetic concerns.
Every patient should be assessed for their risks of the things mentioned above. Some patients really don’t need to be seen but once a year and some patients need to be seen every 3 months.
(I would say that every patient needs to be seen at least once a year to make sure there are no problems brewing. People seem to forget that new medications, the aging process, and diet changes will affect the mouth.)
The answer to your question is that 6 months is arbitrary and every individual needs to be assessed to see what recall should be for them.
Dr. H

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