NDCS experts address FAQs about dental treatmen​t​s

Is it really necessary to see a dentist every six months? Why this interval? Why not just once a year, for example?

Dr Marianne Ong, Senior Consultant, Periodontic Unit, National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS), a member of the SingHealth group: This would depend on your medical and dental health. For people with good dental health, including those with well-controlled medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, I recommend they see a dentist every six months to a year. This is because brushing and flossing alone cannot get rid of plaque in harder- to-reach areas, such as the back of the molars or around tilted teeth.​

Healthy people with oral diseases such as caries (ca​vities) or gum disease due to poor oral hygiene, need to visit a dentist every three to six months. This is to ensure that oral diseases are nipped in the bud. When picked up early, caries and gingivitis (the early stage of gum disease) can be treated to minimise the consequences of leaving the disease to progress (for example, irreversible bone loss around the teeth), which can lead to more expensive dental treatment.

People with poorly controlled medical conditions such as diabetes, who also have poor dental health, should see their dentist once every two to four months. This is because patients with poorly controlled diabetes are more prone to developing periodontal disease, which may make it more difficult for them to control their blood sugar levels. This increases their risk of diabetic complications, such as kidney failure and retinopathy.

People with multiple medical conditions and who are taking multiple medicines (usually the elderly) should make a trip to the dental clinic once every two to four months as they are more prone to developing xerostomia (dry mouth). A reduction in saliva as a side effect of medication can lead to increased risk of dental caries.

In summary, the prevention of disease and the early treatment of identified disease are key to maintaining optimal oral health. Your dentist will advise you on the appropriate dental recall interval based on your current oral and general health.

Which is better in the long run: getting a root canal treatment or simply extracting the tooth?

Dr Lui Jeen Nee, Senior Consultant and Unit Head, Endodontic Unit, NDCS: Root canal treatment is a viable alternative to tooth extraction and is the only way to save a tooth with irreversible pulp inflammation or infection. After a root canal procedure, the tooth is restored either with a filling or a crown. Choosing to retain your natural teeth, when possible, is always the best decision. But when there is inadequate tooth structure to support the restoration of the tooth due to extensive damage or decay, an extraction may be recommended instead.

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