More Dental Check-ups Better Than Fewer

Tooth loss rates were higher in patients that only visited the dentist once annually

(RxWiki News) It may seem like a hassle to go to the dentist for regular check-ups. But staying on top of dental health can help people keep their natural teeth, especially smokers and diabetics.

A recent study looked at tooth loss rates in people that were either at high or low risk for gum disease and compared their records against whether they visited the dentist once or twice per year.

The results of the study showed that high risk patients kept more of their natural teeth if they went to twice yearly dental check ups compared to once per year.

"Don’t skip dental check-ups."

William V. Giannobile, DDS, MS, from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, led an investigation into gum health, tooth loss and dental check-ups.

According to the authors, gum disease and tooth cavities are the main causes of tooth loss in adults. The study authors claimed that 47 percent of people in the US have inflamed gums and 9 percent have severe gum disease. Gum disease can destroy bone and the connective tissues between the bone and gums.

Previous studies have found that 76 percent of trips to the dentist are routine preventive visits.

For this study, the researchers looked through dental insurance claims of 5,117 adult patient records that had visited the dentist on a regular basis for at least 16 years.

The research first classified people based on whether they visited the dentist once or twice per year. Secondly, the patient records were evaluated for three known risk factors for gum disease: smoking, diabetes or having the interleukin-1 gene.

Patients with one or more of the risk factors were classified as high risk for tooth loss, while patients with no risk factors were classified as low risk for tooth loss.

The results of the study found that 14 percent of low risk patients that visited the dentist twice per year had lost at least one adult tooth. Further, 16 percent of the low risk patients that had visited the dentist only once per year had lost at least one adult tooth.

In high risk patients, 17 percent that had visited the dentist twice per year, and 22 percent that had visited the dentist once per year, had lost at least one adult tooth.

The researchers reported that for low risk patients, visiting the dentist twice per year instead of once per year reduced the risk of losing an adult tooth by nearly 3 percent.

For high risk patients, the researchers reported that visiting the dentist twice per year instead of once per year reduced the risk of losing an adult tooth by 5 percent.

The study authors concluded that dentists should personalize dental care and number of preventive dental visits per year for their patients based on the three risk factors associated with gum disease.

“The study explores the benefit of more frequent (twice yearly) dental check-ups as it relates to a patient’s risk profile. Not surprisingly, those patients with a higher predicted risk seemed to benefit more from frequent oral examinations,” Mark Bornfeld, DDS, told dailyRx.

“However, the study’s use of tooth loss as the sole criterion for calculating “benefit” is simplistic, and may fail to accurately account for other aspects of oral health that derive from regular dental care.”

“The authors imply that risk assessment may be useful to determine an appropriate time span between dental check-ups, Whether this approach offers any advantage over a dentist’s discretion in determining appropriate check-up intervals—a question that is logically raised by the study’s conclusions—remains unanswered,” said Dr. Bornfeld, who was not involved with this study. 

This study was published in June in the Journal of Dental Research.

The National Institutes of Health and the Renaissance Health Services Corporation helped support funding for this project. The Renaissance Health Services Corporation provides dental insurance through various subsidiaries.

Dr. Kornman is Chief Scientific Officer at Interleukin Genetics. Dr. Doucette-Stamm is also an employee at, and Dr. Duff has consulted for, Interleukin Genetics, which manufactures the screening test for the interleukin-1 genotype risk factor. 

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Review Date: 
June 11, 2013