How often should you visit the dentist?

It can be confusing for patients to know how often they should visit their dentist, and a recent article in The Guardian this week may have added to that confusion!

The article reported that, for adults who are not experiencing any problems with their teeth, it may be an unnecessary expense to visit their dentist every six months and that a check-up every 24 months should be adequate. 

The article also referenced ‘findings’ from the Cochrane Oral Health Group and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and suggested that ‘there is no good evidence to support six monthly check-ups’. 

We feel this is misleading for patients, as the Cochrane report actually says that there is “no evidence to support or refute the practice of encouraging patients to attend the dentist at six monthly intervals”. Furthermore, the data was extracted from one randomised controlled trial that only monitored the number of decayed, missing, filled and sound tooth surfaces, and not the full range of oral problems that a dentist routinely checks for.

In addition, the guidelines from NICE advise that the frequency of dental check-ups should be “determined specifically for each patient and tailored to meet his or her needs”, meaning that one size does not fit all.

Man with dentist

We advise patients to visit the dentist as often as recommended

Our view

We support a preventive approach to dental care and our dental payment plans help patients to visit their dentist as often as recommended. For the majority of our patients, this would be every six to 12 months. And, because patients are able to spread the cost of their dental care, they tend to visit their dentist regularly because they want to, rather than basing the frequency of their visits on financial reasons.

We recognise that a dental check-up is an important part of a patient’s wellbeing. A dental examination is not to just look for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, or perhaps have a scale and polish. In reality, a dentist carries out a comprehensive examination looking at many areas of your oral health and overall health including your tooth and gum health, alignment, your lifestyle (smoking, diet, alcohol consumption, relevant medical conditions) and, very importantly, checking for signs of mouth cancer. Because a dentist is able to spot the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer at an early stage, we would advise that patients visit their dentist every 12 months at the very least.

This advice is especially relevant at the moment, because November marks Mouth Cancer Action Month. This important campaign - run by the British Dental Health Foundation and sponsored by us - encourages people to be aware of the risks and symptoms of the disease, and to recognise the importance of regular dental visits to help spot signs of the disease early on.

It’s not unusual for patients to be unaware that their dentist checks for mouth cancer during a routine dental examination. Research conducted on our behalf revealed that 40per cent of patients didn’t know or were unsure that their dentist can check them for mouth cancer during a dental check-up*.

Why is detecting mouth cancer early on important?

When mouth cancer is detected and treated in its early stages, the survival rates are very good – as much as 90 per cent**. However, it is too often a disease that is diagnosed at a late stage – usually because patients don’t realise they have any signs or symptoms, or perhaps have not seen a dentist who might have spotted something for a while. At late stage diagnosis, five year survival rates are as low as 50 per cent.

If an at-risk patient does not have regular dental examinations, it is possible that mouth cancer could develop in between visits and go unnoticed by the patient. If a patient visits their dentist more regularly, such as every six or 12 months, the chances of any changes in their mouth being detected by their dentist are greatly increased.

*One Poll online survey of 2,500 respondents conducted September 2014 on behalf of the British Dental Health Foundation and Denplan.
**Source: British Dental Health Foundation 2015 –

Published: November 4th, 2015

Back to the MyTeeth blog »