Source: Kirsten Fleming/ New York Post
It’s a widely held belief that patients need to see their dentist for cleanings every six months — but is there science propping up the idea of biannual dentist visits?
Dr. Michael Glick, a diagnostic science professor specializing in oral medicine from the University of Buffalo, admits there is very little hard data to support the guidelines.
“Dentists will hate me for saying this, but the popular idea of going to see a dentist twice a year comes from a Pepsodent commercial in 1928,” Glick tells The Post. “As early as 1879, the American Academy of Dental Science said twice-per-year visits were beneficial, and in the early 1900s, the Journal of the American Medical Association advocated for that as well.”
There’s a growing debate over the proper frequency of dental visits, with an article recently published in The Atlantic noting, “Many standard dental treatments — to say nothing of all the recent innovations and cosmetic extravagances — are likewise not well substantiated by research.”
This lack of scientific studies, some argue, gives dentists a wide berth to take advantage of patients by performing unnecessary and expensive procedures.
Glick says that there aren’t tons of studies in the area of oral health because a majority of researchers focus their resources and time on deadly diseases such as cancer and HIV. “Oral health is not a top research priority unfortunately,” he says.
He adds that guidelines are merely recommendations that are not set in stone.
“[Dental care] should be individualized. Guidelines are for average large populations, but no one is average,” says Glick. “Some need a cleaning every six months. Some need one every year or 18 [to] 24 months. Others need to go to the dentist every three months.”
Even the frequency of dental X-rays isn’t a settled rule. The ADA recommends that dentists do an evaluation before ordering more X-rays, taking into account a patient’s medical and oral history.
Glick advises patients to be communicative with their dentists, ask questions and advocate for themselves and their wallets. He also notes that frequent, preventative visits can help mitigate invasive and expensive procedures such as root canals and crowns.
So don’t ditch your dentist just yet. The professor says the industry’s recommendations for frequent care have helped shape oral heath for the better.
“If you look at oral health today compared to even 15 or 20 years ago, it’s like night and day. Can we justify everything we are doing with scientific evidence? No, I don’t think we can,” Glick says. “But we can justify the results.”