How Often Should You Visit The Dentist? Your Genes Will Know
June 11, 2013

How Often Should You Visit The Dentist? Your Genes Will Know

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

The age-old recommendation to visit the dentist twice a year could be a bit excessive, according to a new study in the Journal of Dental Research.

The study, which was based on insurance claims data for over 5,100 American adults and genetic testing results, found that yearly checkups may be enough to stave off tooth loss in people without certain risk factors such as cigarette smoking, diabetes, or certain variations in the interleukin-1 gene.

"We think that now with this new information, we're able to treat patients at the individual level...instead of a one-size-fits-all treatment," lead author Dr. William Giannobile, chair of the department of periodontics and oral medicine at the University of Michigan, told Ryan Jaslow of CBS News.

While dental experts agree that preventative measures can effectively combat tooth loss, very little clinical evidence has shown the value of biannual visits. The new study looked at the incidence of tooth extraction among patients with one or two dental visits a year. The subjects were considered high-risk if they smoked, had diabetes, or certain deviations in the interleukin-1 gene. Subjects were considered low-risk if they had none of these factors.

Over 25,000 adults, mostly from Michigan, were invited to participate in the study. Approximately 20 percent returned their cheek swabs for genetic analysis. The discrepancy in response should be taken into consideration when interpreting the study´s results, researchers cautioned.

The team was unable to find a significant difference in tooth loss among low-risk patients, regardless of their checkup frequency. In the high-risk group, approximately 17 percent of biannual visitors had a tooth extracted, while 22 percent of annual visitors had a tooth removed.

The researchers concluded that biannual visits might not be enough to prevent tooth removal in some patients.

“If you are high risk, it is much more important for you to be seen frequently, but for the low-risk people it´s not,” Giannobile told the New York Times.

“The take-away is not that you don´t need to see the dentist, it´s that each patient needs to be treated in their own individual way,” he added.

The researchers also noted that about 50 percent of the population does not see a dentist regularly, yet people who do not take care of their teeth are more likely to lose them.

In reaction to the study, the American Dental Association (ADA) released a statement saying that the organization "wants to remind consumers that the frequency of their regular dental visits should be tailored by their dentists to accommodate for their current oral health status and health history."

A 2012 study found that about 50 percent of adults age 30 and older have some form of chronic inflammatory gum disease that could lead to tooth loss. Readily bleeding gums, receding gums, or gums that appear swollen and red are all warning signs of gum disease, according to the ADA. Constant bad breath, tooth loss and tooth movement are also possible signs. Anyone experiencing these signs should visit their dentist, the ADA recommends.