Six-month dental check-ups do not improve oral health

In a new review, researchers concluded that the traditional six-monthly dental check-ups are not necessary for healthy adultsAttending the dentist every six months does not improve a patient’s oral health, a study suggests.

In a new review, researchers concluded that the traditional six-monthly dental visits are not necessary for healthy adults.

The team – hailing from the University of Dundee – looked at current evidence to determine if more frequent visits improve one’s oral health.

Working alongside the University of Manchester and Cochrane Oral Health, conclusions were drawn from two randomised controlled trials. They investigated how intervals between dental check-ups impacted:

  • Number of people with tooth decay
  • How tooth surfaces were affected by decay
  • Gum disease
  • Wellbeing.

Little oral health improvement

Researchers concluded there was little or no difference between six-monthly and risk-based check-ups for the number of tooth surfaces with decay, gum disease, and wellbeing after four years.

Additionally, there was little or no difference for how many people suffered from moderate to extensive tooth decay.

‘The review shows that current practice of scheduling six-monthly check-up appointments for all patients does not improve oral health compared 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,’ said Patrick Fee, review lead.

‘The absence of any difference between check-up frequency indicates a risk-based check-up frequency can be supported. This is because it is not detrimental to oral health and is acceptable to patients.

‘But it should be emphasised this is about adults having routine check-ups, not those who need to seek emergency treatment or children.

‘Current practice of six-monthly check-ups could be considered an inefficient use of NHS resources. For example, this adds unnecessary patient and health service costs for no gain in dental health outcomes.’

Move towards risk-based assessments

The research group also found moderate to high evidence that there is little to no difference between dental check-ups taking place every 24 months, every six moths or according to risk.

He added: ‘This research is also valuable when considering the significant impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic and its effect on dental services worldwide, limiting patient access to dental treatment.

‘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. Intervals between check-ups can therefore be extended beyond six months without detriment to the oral health of patients.

‘Six-monthly check-ups are highly valued by the general population. Moving towards personalised risk-based check-ups will require the cooperation of health care policy makers, clinician knowledge and patient involvement.’


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