A: Most dental problems start small, but then go through a rapid growth phase. Regular six-month checkups enable us to catch these problems before they become serious.
Plaque, which is a sticky film of food and bacteria that forms constantly on your teeth, can harden in as little as 24 hours to become tartar. Even with proper brushing and flossing, most people are not able to remove all the plaque every day.
Plaque and tartar buildup are the main cause of gingivitis (inflammation that makes gums swell and bleed), which untreated may lead to periodontal disease which causes receding gums, bone loss and sometimes tooth loss. Periodontal disease has also been linked to heart disease and other serious illnesses. The bacteria in plaque also cause tooth decay. A small cavity can easily be fixed and should be taken care of in a timely fashion as to not risk further decay.
To keep these dental problems from becoming serious, it is recommended that you visit your dentist twice a year for an exam and cleaning. And if you do have dental insurance, most employers allow two checkups a year. Plus, it is always fun to come to the dentist.
Information provided by Grove & Platt Dental Associates, PLC, 1541 S. Third St., Suite 300, 986-4001 and the American Dental Association.