Between 2019 and 2020, the number of adults who saw a dentist dropped by 3.2%. That’s concerning as approximately 35% of U.S. adults did not see a dentist in 2019, but it was at 37% in 2020. Adults list the cost of dental care as a leading reason they don’t go.
Even with insurance coverage, the cost can get high, but it’s also incredibly important. Regular dental care ends up costing less in the long run as you avoid complications like root canals, gum disease, extractions, and implants, bridges, or dentures. Those are just a few of the issues that occur. Poor dental care also impacts your mental and physical health. Explore the problems that arise when you don’t see a dentist for cleanings and exams.
Anxiety and Poor Self-Esteem Increase
Dental anxiety can keep people from seeing a dentist. An estimated 36% of Americans have dental phobia, and 12% of them have extreme dental phobia. But, not seeing a dentist can also cause anxiety if you develop a toothache that keeps you up at night and has you panicking over what it’s going to cost or what the dentist will think of you.
Chipped, crooked teeth impact self-esteem. So can missing teeth, gaps, and discoloration. You may not think about this wreaking havoc on your life, but it can make people less likely to be hired, less likely to smile and appear friendly, and more likely to experience anxiety in social situations.
With regular visits with a dentist, you’ll have an expert available to help you learn how you can improve your smile, gain confidence, and improve your self-esteem. If anxiety is an issue, dentists who specialize in dental anxiety are available and have techniques they can use to help you through the appointment.
For some, that means using a light sedative, but for others, it can be as simple as taking breaks when needed. Nashville’s sedation dentistry expert Dr. Jody Jones understands dental anxiety and is happy to arrange a care plan that helps you feel at ease.
Difficulty Detecting Oral Cancers in the Early Stages
Over 54,000 new cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancers are diagnosed every year. The most common sites for these cancers are the gums, lips, roof or floor of the mouth, top of the throat (oropharynx), and tongue.
Survival rates for oral cancers are highest when it’s caught early. The problem is that it’s hard for a person to see each area of their mouth. Dentists and dental hygienists have dental tools that allow them to see the less visible areas and detect problems in the early stages. Here are the five-year survival rates for the common areas of oral cancer (Early vs. Advanced).
- Floor of the Mouth – 73% vs. 23%
- Lips – 94% vs. 38%
- Oropharynx– 59% vs. 29%
- Tongue – 84% vs. 41%
Every case is different, and it’s important to realize that risk factors can also play a part. People who smoke, drink alcoholic beverages in excess, have been diagnosed with HPV, or use chewing tobacco have a higher risk. No matter what, the sooner the cancer is found, the better the chances of successful treatment.
Gum Disease Is Likely
When you do not go for regular cleanings, plaque and tartar build up. That can irritate the gums and create pockets between the teeth and gums where bacteria collect. Signs of early gum disease are red, swollen, and bleeding gums. As it worsens, it can spread to the bones and impact the ability to chew, cause teeth to loosen and fall out, and lead to the infection spreading into the bloodstream. Persistent bad breath is another sign of gum disease.
People who smoke or have diabetes have an increased risk of gum disease. It’s important to treat it before the infection spreads or teeth start to loosen and fall out. To do this, a dentist or dental hygienist measures the pockets around the teeth. If they’re greater than three millimeters, it can be a sign of gum disease. X-rays can then determine if there is bone loss.
Infections (Abscesses) Are Possible
Nine out of ten adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have tooth decay. One out of four adults have cavities that haven’t been treated by a dentist. This can increase the risk of a painful tooth abscess.
The tooth’s surface is covered with enamel. As you get older, acidic foods, improper brushing habits, and wear and tear while chewing can all weaken the enamel. This makes a tooth prone to bacteria reaching the dentin that covers the tooth’s pulp, which is where the nerves are.
When a cavity reaches the dentin and still isn’t taken care of, that bacteria can lead to an infection that fills the pulp with pus. That’s known as a tooth abscess and is incredibly painful. It also increases the risk of the infection spreading to the bloodstream. At this point, the tooth may need to be extracted or a root canal is necessary.
Malnutrition Is a Risk
If a tooth is pulled and nothing is put in place, teeth will shift and impact your bite. If a person loses too many teeth and has only gums left, it makes it difficult to chew certain foods. While raw vegetables can be one of the healthiest options, they’re hard to eat without teeth.
If a person is only eating soft, cooked, pureed foods, the dietary value may not be the same. It can lead to malnutrition. A study found that older adults with fewer than 20 teeth had higher risks of malnutrition.
Another consideration is that malnutrition can also increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. If a person is not eating a balanced diet and focusing on specific foods that may be higher in acidity or sugar than other foods, that can increase the risk of tooth decay.
Preventative Care Goes Ignored
If you’re not seeing a dentist regularly, you aren’t getting the latest tips and information regarding preventative care. A dentist can tell you that you have weakening enamel and recommend the different kinds of toothpaste and mouth rinses that will help.
You may have noticed the trend of charcoal toothpaste a few years ago. What you may not realize without talking to a dentist is that charcoal powder can be abrasive and damage your enamel. It’s also unlikely that you’ll learn some of these products don’t contain fluoride and are doing more harm than good.
With regular dental exams and cleanings, you’ll know everything you should know about your teeth and gums. You have a dentist offering insight into problems that aren’t a big deal right now, but in a year could become something that needs to be corrected. That gives you time to save up for the treatment you’ll need.
Dr. Jody Jones is a comprehensive dental practice in Nashville specializing in general, cosmetic, restorative, orthodontic, and sedation dentistry. Our goal is to make sure you feel at home and get quality dental care, even if anxiety is a problem. Arrange a free video consultation with Jody Jones DDS today.