Six Risks You Take When You Avoid the Dentist
There are many reasons people avoid the dentist. Common excuses might include a dental phobia due to a past negative experience, fear of pain, and financial challenges. However, avoiding the dentist for any reason increases the risk that you’ll face more serious dental issues down the road. From gum disease to shifting teeth, even tooth loss, it just takes a quick online search to see the consequences of neglecting your teeth. The damage caused when decay and gum disease is left untreated can have devastating results not only on your smile but on your overall health.
Here are six risks of avoiding the dentist.
1. Higher dental costs
We are starting here because the fear of cost is a very common reason people will avoid the dentist. Consider this: Visiting the dentist just once a year — we would recommend twice a year at least — incurs a relatively small fee. But if you look at the cost of more involved dental and cosmetic treatments to restore and repair teeth, not to mention specialized periodontal treatments for gum disease, you are looking at fees ranging in the thousands. Regular preventative dental care prevents you from incurring these more serious issues and higher fees in the future to repair the damage that resulted from this neglect.
2. Tooth staining
As time goes by and you avoid dental cleanings, you can see a progression of tooth staining. Lifestyle habits can increase staining such as smoking or drinking red wine or tea and coffee. With regular dental check-ups, you receive a professional cleaning that includes tooth polishing, as well as important recommendations and advice that will improve your home oral care regime.
Without regular dental care at checkups, your teeth will begin to yellow and severe yellowing can turn into a deeper, very unsightly brown colour — common for smokers. This will require intense and costly whitening, or in some cases even more advanced cosmetic treatments such as veneers. Considering even a simple dental cleaning and polishing can refresh your smile each year, it seems silly to avoid your annual or bi-annual appointments.
3. Tooth decay
Tooth decay destroys your tooth enamel, the outer layer of your teeth. When the sticky bacteria called plaque is left to form on your teeth, it produces an acid that eats away at the protective enamel. This can lead to cavities that require a filling. When left undetected, cavities can continue to deepen as the decay progresses. This leads to the need for more complicated restorations such as root canals. If left too long, it can even lead to tooth loss.
With age, the risk increases for deterioration as older fillings begin to loosen around the edges, making them more susceptible to decay. You will also experience pain and sensitivity as the recession of your gums progresses, potentially leading to gum disease and cavities along the lower edges of your teeth. By avoiding proper dental care, all of these threats may continue to go unnoticed.
4. Advanced periodontal disease
Advanced periodontal disease is an inflammatory condition affecting the structures supporting your teeth. It begins as gingivitis with swelling gums, redness, and bleeding due to harmful bacteria. Gingivitis is easily spotted at regular dental checkups. However, when left to progress, your teeth will become loose, your breath will become extremely unpleasant and you will often have a bad taste in your mouth. The consequences of severe periodontal disease can include:
- The formation of bacterial pockets between your gums and teeth
- Infections, pus, and swelling of the gums
- Increasing pain
- Tooth loss
- Systemic inflammation
- Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia, and in pregnant women, birth defects.
You will also see an increasing need for more involved and costly treatments including:
- Scaling and root planing by a periodontist
- Tray delivery systems to deliver medications prescribed by your periodontist
- Gum graft or gum flap surgery if you have overly exposed roots
- Dental implants due to tooth loss
Most of these treatments are very uncomfortable, costly, and can even require a painful recovery period.
5. Tooth loss
When left unchecked, decay and gum disease can lead to advanced destruction and in the most severe cases, complete tooth loss. This means the removal of all of your teeth. This is a painful process that requires costly solutions such as dentures or dental implants.
Even the loss of a single tooth can lead to serious issues. When left unreplaced, your adjacent teeth will begin to shift towards the gap. This leads to spaces between your teeth providing an ideal place for food and bacteria to get caught. Because you are avoiding the dentist, you will be unable to maintain proper hygiene to remove the additional cavity-causing bacteria. This leads to cavities, gum disease, and over time, bone loss.
Other negative effects of tooth loss can include:
- Jaw pain
- Greater tooth sensitivity due to exposed roots
- Loss of tooth and root sturdiness
- Chewing and bite issues
- Premature wear
- Premature aging of the face due to sagging of the facial support tissues
- You will have to consider tooth replacement options that include:
- Removable Partial Denture
- Temporary Denture
- Dental Implants
6. Poor diet
With the loss of teeth or even challenges presented by painful teeth, your gums and jaws have to work harder to eat and swallow. They may become irritated due to the extra wear and tear and you might be more inclined to reach for softer, less healthy foods to avoid this. A poor diet has many health consequences including:
- Weight issues
- Further tooth decay
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease and stroke
- Type-2 diabetes
- Some cancers
- Eating disorders
- Improper nutrient absorption
Poor dental health and not chewing properly affect digestion because food is not broken down properly. This can lead to bacterial growth, flatulence, and indigestion.
Proper chewing produces saliva which is required to assist with the movement of food through your digestive tract. It relaxes the small muscle at the lower end of the stomach, allowing food to pass to the small intestine and signal digestion.
To summarize, annual or bi-annual check-ups are far easier than dealing with the potential consequences down the road. Now, isn’t it time you called your dentist to book an appointment?