A recent survey has revealed how infrequently people visit the dentist.
According to the survey of NHS dentists in Wales, only 52% of adults visit their dentist every 2 years – leaving 48% who do not.
The NHS advises that dental checkup frequency depends on the individual, and will be recommended by the dentist. It can vary between three months and 2 years, depending on how healthy your teeth are and whether you’re at risk of developing problems. Every six months is the average frequency.
Regular checkups are absolutely vital for many reasons. The dentist will advise whether you should visit the hygienist or change your brushing habits, potentially helping you avoid decay in future. Even if a filling is required, this is preferable to a root canal or extraction. Younger patients may also have problems with alignment and wisdom teeth, which can develop over time and should be monitored carefully. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the dentist will check your mouth, gums, tongue and lips for the early signs of mouth cancer – a disease which kills 1,900 people in the UK each year.
Of the Welsh survey stats above, Plaid Cymru said it is a sign of the lack of available NHS dentists.
In a separate survey by NHS England in December 2013, 93% of respondents who tried to get an NHS appointment in the last two years had been successful in getting one.
However, only 61% of respondents had actually tried to get an appointment in the first place. Whatever the reason – apathy, being too busy, fear and anxiety, avoiding costs or simply not believing a check up is needed – there is no excuse for neglecting dental health.
You can call NHS England to find dentists near you that are accepting new patients. If demand is high in your area, you may need to join the waiting list. A checkup costs just £18.50*.
Alternatively, a private dental insurance plan is a good way of managing your dental health. Cover provides quick and convenient access to a dentist, and protects you from unexpected treatment costs – although checkups are cheap, Band 3 treatments (crowns, veneers, inlays, dentures, braces or bridges) will set you back £219*.
Whether you receive NHS or private treatment, there is no cure for fear and anxiety associated with visiting the dentist. But rest assured, the consequences of not going could be much more scary.