Intended for healthcare professionals


How often should we go to the dentist?

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 24 July 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:204

About once a year—but rates of disease progression vary greatly

  1. Elizabeth J Kay, professor of dental health services research
  1. Turner Dental School, University of Manchester, Manchester M15 6FH

    The 1993 United Kingdom Child Dental Health Survey showed that children who only attended dentists when having problems had more decayed and filled teeth than children who attended when asymptomatic.1 The so called “regular” attenders tended to have fewer teeth extracted. A similar survey of adults also showed that those who had check ups had almost half as many teeth missing as those who visited the dentist only when they had a problem.2 At first glance therefore the evidence suggests that individuals who go the dentist to seek treatment before symptoms arise actually do suffer fewer sequelae from the progression of dental disease. The picture is not, however, that simple.

    Oral ill health shows a social class gradient just as every other chronic lifestyle related disease does.13 The most affluent and socially advantaged individuals suffer low levels of dental disease, and those in the poorest and most disadvantaged groups have the highest disease rates. Similarly, those in higher socioeconomic groups are more likely to register with a dentist and are more likely to attend for check ups when …

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