Hectic lives and the fact it's not the most pleasant experience means we often delay our dentist appointments. Consider this a warning...
It's easy to let booking a dentist appointment drop down the ever-growing list of things to do, but be honest - when was the last you visited yours?
Well done you if it was less than six months ago.
If it was more than six months ago then - no judgment - but you may want to steel yourself. Especially if you let years elapse between visits to the dentist.
However, even if you are blessed with good teeth, robust health and regularly practise stellar oral hygiene , you should not be leaving more than two years between visits.
Because, depending on how long you do leave it, outlined below is what's happening to your mouth in the meantime.
BUT FIRST, THE AWKWARD QUESTION
When was your last visit to the dentist?
1. SIX MONTHS
Speaking to the Independent , Dr Tariq Idrees explains how, at this point, many patients might be developing cavities they are unaware of.
Which is a pretty scary thought.
But cavities, which can lead to tooth loss and decay, are not the only thing dentists can detect and address.
The early signs of orals cancers can be spotted by dentists, which is important for patients who regularly drink and smoke.
"One of the most common signs of head and neck cancer is an ulcer which develops in the mouth and does not heal within 14 days," says Dr Idrees.
No one enjoys visiting the dentist
The good news is that caught early, survival rates are strong. However, these do obviously dwindle with time.
2. ONE YEAR
One year on from your last appointment and gum disease is likely to have set in, painful and resulting in bleeding gums.
This is not all, however. Left untreated, and painful inflammation and tooth loss may occur. A common mistake patients make, according to Dr Idrees, is brushing less owing to the pain.
This only makes the problem worse.
Dentists can also detect types of oral cancers
3. TWO YEARS
Things are now becoming increasingly serious.
The likelihood, warns Dr Idrees, is toothache is or has occurred, and painful and costly treatments are required to get to the root of the problem.
A cavity detected a few months in is comparatively cheap to sort out. By now, however, expensive, invasive and time-consuming root canal may be needed.
In addition to all these woes are receding gums and the fact that any existing work may need a bit of a facelift.
Brushing is painful when suffering from gum disease
4. FIVE YEARS
Tartar, by this point, is such a problem that it requires a special process called scaling, using a specific type of tool to get scrape it off.
Teeth will also be covered in an alarming amount of the tough, calcified substance, which leads to decay.
The long-term prospects of a patients' teeth are looking grim.
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5. TEN YEARS
Let's put it this way, one of Dr Idrees' patients who had not visited in a decade required 18 months worth of work reconstructing his teeth in a 2,970,000 Ksh procedure.
This is because leaving it this long could cause the entire shape of the mouth to be an issue, with crooked teeth and overcrowding.
Teeth may also be worn down and very sensitive.