Dental health is a significant factor when evaluating an individual’s holistic well-being. Proper oral hygiene is the foundation for good oral health, but it is not enough. It is essential to visit a dentist regularly for a thorough dental evaluation.
If you miss a dentist appointment, it poses significant risks to your dental health because new infections can go undiagnosed, and existing ones can worsen. Other organs, such as the heart, kidneys, brain, and stomach, can also be severely affected by untreated dental infections.
As you read further, you will learn more about the risks associated with missing a dentist appointment, first to your oral health, and then to your general health. I will also give you some valuable tips to help you stay on track with dentist appointments so that you can boost your dental health.
How Missing a Dentist Appointment Can Affect Your Oral Health
Few people enjoy dentist visits because it can provoke anxiety about pain, discomfort or embarrassment. This type of anxiety is called dentophobia, which may be mild to severe, and it is a leading cause of missing dentist appointments.
Rescheduling one dentist appointment may not significantly impact your dental health. However, continuously putting off that visit to the dentist can put you at risk of developing preventable oral health conditions, which will not only cost more to treat but also take longer to manage and treat.
Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to treat severe dental diseases is by removing the affected teeth, which is often an unpleasant experience.
Let’s examine some of these preventable oral health issues that can affect you if you leave them untreated:
Plaque (or tartar) is a sticky, yellow biofilm that forms on the surface of teeth. It is made up of oral bacteria.
Naturally occurring bacteria are present in our mouths, which are beneficial to our oral hygiene. Nonetheless, harmful bacteria may also be present in our mouths in varying quantities.
Oral bacteria feed on the sugars in our food, helping them multiply rapidly. Unfortunately, the bacteria produce harmful acid, eroding your enamel and making you susceptible to gum disease and tooth decay. Enamel does not regenerate itself, and when it is corroded, it causes other symptoms, such as tooth sensitivity and discoloration.
Brushing your teeth at least twice a day helps to control these bacteria. Dentists or oral hygienists can further help to prevent plaque by professionally cleaning your teeth. A dentist will also diagnose and clean out plaque early enough before it leads to further problems.
Tooth Decay / Cavities
As mentioned in the previous section, dental plaque contains acids that erode the tooth enamel. This results in the formation of tiny holes in teeth, called cavities.
Small cavities are more challenging for you to notice because they do not cause pain or discomfort. A dental appointment will help identify and treat the tiniest holes early enough before they progress and cause more damage to the tooth.
When untreated, tooth decay progresses, destroying each layer of the tooth, gradually causing tooth sensitivity and pain. Severe tooth decay cannot be treated and will require complete tooth removal.
Untreated tooth decay can also cause a tooth abscess, a severe condition requiring you to be rushed to the emergency room.
A research study conducted by Microbione showed that tooth-decay-causing oral bacteria could move from person to person through kissing. Therefore, missing that dentist appointment may put your loved ones at risk.
Gingivitis / Gum Disease
Gum disease is another risk associated with dental plaque. Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis, which usually has more severe effects on the gums.
The first signs of gum disease include reddening and inflammation of the gums. Dentists can identify these during an oral examination and prescribe suitable remedies to treat and prevent future infections.
Untreated gum disease can lead to the following:
- Bleeding gums
- Painful and inflamed gums
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth that may fall out
- Damage to the underlying bone
How Missing a Dentist Appointment Can Affect Your General Health
Untreated dental issues can progress and cause infections in other body organs. Some of the associated conditions, such as sepsis and cancer, pose serious health risks and can require urgent medical attention.
The following demographic groups are the most vulnerable to health conditions that can develop from compromised dental health:
- Pregnant women
- People with weakened immune systems
- Individuals with heart disease
- People who are more prone to gum disease and tooth decay
Let’s examine the health conditions associated with untreated dental issues:
Sepsis and Septic Shock
Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream, causing your immune system to produce an influx of chemicals in the blood, causing septic shock. The result of this is inflammation and potential organ damage.
Untreated tooth decay can cause sepsis when the bacteria responsible infect the tooth’s pulp, which contains a network of blood vessels. When this bacteria enters the bloodstream, sepsis may be inevitable.
The relationship between diabetes and periodontal diseases is quite interesting because each is a risk factor for the other.
Untreated gum infections can cause increases in blood sugar, which increases the risk for diabetes and also makes it harder to manage.
Uncontrolled diabetes is also a risk factor for gum disease because of the increased blood sugar, which increases saliva sugar levels. Saliva with increased sugar levels aggravates tooth decay and gum disease.
Untreated gum disease is also associated with kidney disease. In a recent study, researchers concluded that there is a higher prevalence of kidney disease among people suffering from periodontal disease.
Gram-negative bacteria, which are present in dental plaque, have potentially harmful effects on kidney health. Since gum disease has also been linked to diabetes (which affects the kidneys), we can use this relationship to justify poor dental health’s role in promoting kidney disease.
Studies have shown an association between oral health and pancreatic cancer. Scientists have hypothesized that some of the bacteria responsible for gum disease and cavities may increase the risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
The inflammation and antibodies produced by these bacteria are suspected of contributing to pancreatic cancer by suppressing the body’s ability to fight it.
Periodontal/gum disease has also been linked to rheumatoid arthritis.
Porphyromonas gingivalis, which causes gum disease, has been a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis. For this reason, a crucial aspect of treatment is maintaining proper oral health involving regular visits to a dentist.
How To Avoid Missing a Dentist Appointment
Undoubtedly, at this point, you have recognized the value of dentist appointments. So, how do you ensure that you are always on track with each one?
Here are a few tips to help you out:
- Plan ahead. Clear your schedule, setting aside a reasonable amount of time for a dentist visit, so you are not caught unprepared.
- Recognize the financial implications. Paying insurance premiums for a service you are not using is simply wasteful, so take advantage of your dental benefits!
- If you cannot make it, reschedule immediately. Sometimes circumstances don’t allow you the opportunity to honor the appointment. When this is the case, call in to reschedule at the soonest available time.
Missing dentist appointments may have potential repercussions on your dental health and also puts you at risk of contracting other serious diseases. Oral bacteria can also move from person to person, so you may also be putting others at risk of oral infections.
Untreated dental issues can become progressively more expensive to treat, and so it’s far more cost-effective to honor all dentist appointments.