Study shows six-month dental check-ups not always necessary

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A new review by Scottish researchers provides reassurance to patients who have missed routine dental check-ups due to COVID-19 restrictions by showing that six-monthly check-up appointments do not improve oral health.

A University of Dundee team in collaboration with the University of Manchester and Cochrane Oral Health, have conducted a systematic review to identify the best time interval between dental check-ups for maintaining good oral health.

There is a longstanding international debate about the optimal frequency of dental check-ups. Traditionally, dentists recommend their patients visit for a check-up twice per year, even though the risk of developing dental disease is different for each individual.

A personalised risk-based recall interval between check-ups (where time between check-ups depends on an individual’s risk of developing dental disease), varying between three and 24 months, has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, England, since 2004. Despite this, most practices continue to encourage adults to schedule appointments at regular intervals of six months.

To investigate the issue, the review group looked at the most current and robust evidence available, including two randomised controlled trials involving 1736 patients which looked at how different intervals between check-ups affected how many people had tooth decay, how many tooth surfaces were affected by decay and gum disease, and wellbeing.

“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,” review lead Patrick Fee said.

“The absence of any difference between check-up frequency indicates a risk-based check-up frequency can be supported, as 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.”

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