Going to the dentist is a miserable chore which is universally disliked, and we are often told we should go twice a year to keep our teeth and gums in good condition.
However, a new study has found that healthy adults can get away with going just once every two years.
UK researchers claim routine six-monthly check-up appointments do not improve oral health and could be a drain on national resources.
Less frequent dental trips would reduce demand on dental services during the pandemic and would also save Brits money, they suggest.
In England, people have to pay £22.70 for check-ups unless they’re under 18 years old, on low income, are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months.
Their review could also provide reassurance to patients who have missed routine dental check-ups due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The experts stressed that their findings apply to adults with good dental health and don’t apply for children or people needing emergency dental treatment.
University of Dundee, University of Manchester and Cochrane Oral Health conducted a systematic review to identify the best time interval between dental check-ups for maintaining good oral health. They say six monthly intervals is too frequent for healthy adults
‘The review shows that current practice of scheduling six-monthly check-up appointments for all patients does not improve oral health,’ said Patrick Fee at the University of Dundee, who led the review.
‘[This compares] to a personalised risk-based check-up approach or compared to check-ups every two years where patients are at low risk of dental disease.
‘Current practice of six-monthly check-ups could be considered an inefficient use of NHS resources, adding unnecessary patient and health service costs for no gain in dental health outcomes.
‘Patient access to dental care may remain limited for some time – however, the results of this review provide reassurance to those providing and seeking dental treatment that intervals between check-ups can be extended beyond six months without detriment to the oral health of patients.
‘Six-monthly check-ups are highly valued by the general population and moving towards personalised risk-based check-ups will require the cooperation of health care policy makers, clinician knowledge and patient involvement.’
The last NHS dental statistics for 2019/20 found that only 49.6 per cent of adults had attended an NHS dentist in the previous two years, let alone six months.
Despite this, check-ups function as an oral cancer screening, the British Dental Association pointed out to MailOnline.
Cases of oral cancer are growing fast and the condition claims more lives in the UK each year than car accidents.
WHO IS ENTITLED TO FREE DENTAL TREATMENT IN ENGLAND?
You don’t have to pay for NHS dental treatment if you’re:
- under 18, or under 19 and in full-time education
- pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months
- being treated in an NHS hospital and your treatment is carried out by the hospital dentist (but you may have to pay for any dentures or bridges)
- receiving low income benefits, or you’re