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The Six Month Examination

August 15th, 2013

There have been recent questions in the medical field lately on how frequently some tests or examinations, that are considered good preventive routine, should be done.  These have included mammography, PSA tests for prostate screening, and even annual physicals for children.  Included in this group recently is the six month dental visit.
For many years the cornerstone of the preventive dental model, the six month interval has been considered the ideal time span for the early identification of dental and oral disease.  Particularly in children, where problems can occur and progress rapidly, this time frame has been shown to be effective in maintaining a healthy mouth.
Routine examinations include a thorough inspection of the teeth and soft tissues of the mouth.  The roof of the mouth, cheeks, tongue and floor of the mouth are examined visually and the lips, floor of the mouth, and neck area are checked manually for oral cancer and other abnormalities.  The gums are checked for signs of periodontal disease and recent x-rays are reviewed.  All of this seems quick but is quite thorough and involves your dental staff’s years of training and experience.  The dental hygienist completes a prophylaxis or cleaning and reviews any oral hygiene recommendations.
The question has been asked as t the necessity for a six month recall appointment for all patients.  The fact is that dental disease is the most common disease affecting Americans.  Further, most dental disease is preventable and manageable with proper care and guidance.  In order to control the disease process, the six month frequency proves to be the most effective for most people.  You can talk to your dental staff and, in some cases, a more or less frequent routine is appropriate.
For many years it was known that a three month cleaning was effective for those with periodontal disease.  We now know that bacterial plaque will transform into biofilm in about 12 weeks.  So it is clear that the disease process can be contained better with more frequent visits in these cases.

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