How often should you go to the dentist?


5 minutes

27 July 2021

A young woman and man brushing their teeth in the bathroom mirror.

It’s easy to put it off – but regular dental check-ups are essential for keeping your smile healthy and bright. A dentist explains when to go, and why.

There’s nothing like that fresh, clean-teeth feeling after the dentist.

Of course, actually being in the dentist’s chair isn’t many people’s favourite thing to do. But keeping up with your regular dental check-ups is an important part of your health care routine – and your teeth will thank you for it.1

So how often should you go to the dentist?

“We generally recommend patients visit their dentist every six months,” says Dr Bee Hong Tan, a dentist from HBF Dental.

“Regular check-ups allow dentists to closely monitor your dental health and pick up any concerns early.

“It’s also a good opportunity to remove any plaque and calculus that has not been removed with regular tooth brushing.”

Why should you go to the dentist every six months?

Even if you feel like your teeth are fine, it’s a good idea to stick to the recommended schedule, as you may not notice the early signs of tooth decay or other problems.1

Prevention is better than cure, and Dr Tan says treating any potential problems early will give you the best chance of keeping your smile healthy for longer.

Other signs it's time to go to the dentist

So what are some signs your teeth need a little attention? Dr Tan shares a few common things to look out for.

1. You have tooth pain

“Tooth pain can be caused by a number of things – including dental decay, a crack in the tooth, a worn tooth leading to sensitivity, and dental trauma,” Dr Tan says.

It can be tempting to ignore a mild toothache and hope it goes away, but Dr Tan says it’s best to see your dentist so they can determine what’s causing it, and your options for relieving the pain.

2. Your gums are swollen, sore or bleeding

Swollen or bleeding gums can be a sign of inflammation, or gum disease.2

“In places where it’s difficult for your toothbrush to reach, plaque can often build up on the teeth. This irritates the gums, causing them to become inflamed,” Dr Tan explains.

“This is why your dentist will ask you to floss as part of your home care routine, so the plaque can be removed from in between your teeth and areas difficult for you to clean.”

The good news is gum disease can be reversed if it’s caught early and treated with good oral care.2

“Your dentist will check your gums each time you have a dental check up to make sure they are healthy,” Dr Tan says.

“If not, they can discuss with you how to improve your gum health and avoid progression of gum disease.”

3. You’re clenching and grinding your teeth

If you often wake up with jaw pain, sore teeth or a headache, it could be a sign that you’re clenching or grinding your teeth.3

This is a common problem known as bruxism, and it’s often associated with stress or anxiety, Dr Tan says.

It can happen during the day, but it often happens in your sleep – so you might not even be aware that you’re doing it.

If left untreated, clenching and grinding can damage your teeth, so it’s important to talk to your dentist.

They can assess your teeth and suggest strategies to help you, such as creating a special mouthguard for you to wear at night to protect your teeth.3

4. Your jaw aches

Along with clenching and grinding, Dr Tan says there are several things that can cause jaw pain, including other tooth problems, injuries and arthritis.4

“If you’re experiencing aching, clicking, locking or discomfort in your jaw joint, it’s best to see your dentist for further assessment,” she says. “They can then discuss your treatment options to address your pain.”

5. Your teeth are feeling sensitive

Do you feel a sharp pain in your teeth when you eat or drink something hot or cold?

Tooth sensitivity often occurs when the enamel (the hard, outer layer of the tooth) is worn down, exposing the soft, inner layer.5

“There are a number of reasons this can happen, including toothbrush abrasion (caused by using a hard toothbrush or a brushing technique that is not quite right), trauma that has caused the tooth to chip or fracture, tooth decay, grinding habits, or gastric reflux,” Dr Tan explains.

Your dentist can assess what the cause of your sensitivity might be and suggest some strategies that might help reduce it.

6. You’ve got sores in your mouth

Many mouth sores or ulcers are harmless and will heal on their own. 6 But if you have a sore that doesn’t go away in a couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to get it checked out by your dentist, Dr Tan says.

“Mouth sores can often be caused by infections or trauma, such as an accidental injury while toothbrushing, a poor-fitting denture, or wearing braces,” she says.

An ulcer that won’t heal can also be a sign of oral cancer, so it’s important to keep an eye on any sores and see your dentist if needed.5

7. You’re struggling with dry mouth

Dry mouth is caused by a lack of saliva, creating an uncomfortable feeling of thirst and stickiness.7

“Dry mouth can occur with things like mouth-breathing, stress, dehydration, taking certain medications, or some medical conditions,” Dr Tan says.

“Saliva is important because it helps protect your teeth against tooth decay and erosion. So if you’re experiencing dry mouth it’s important to talk to your dentist.”

8. You’re experiencing bad breath

Bad breath (or halitosis) can have a significant effect on people, both personally and socially.8

“This can be a result of gum disease, tooth decay, smoking, or ingesting certain foods and drinks,” Dr Tan says. “But it can also occur with things like a sore throat or tonsillitis or other medical conditions such as diabetes.”

If you’re concerned about your breath, talk to your dentist – they can assess possible causes and suggest some things that might help.8

9. You feel like you need a good clean

If your teeth are feeling grimy and stained, a good scale and clean at the dentist could be just what you need to feel fresh and confident.

During a regular scale and clean, your dentist will remove plaque and tartar that has built up on your teeth.

Then, they’ll follow it up with a polish – leaving you with that clean, fresh feeling, and a good reason to smile.

Dental cover to keep you smiling

Stay fresh, clean and bright with HBF dental cover. Explore our extras cover now and find our best option for your needs.

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1Teeth and mouth care – Better Health Channel
2Gum disease – healthdirect (2021)
3Teeth grinding – Australian Dental Association
4Temporomandibular joint disorder – healthdirect (2019)
5Ouch! I have sensitive teeth – Australian Dental Association (2016)
6Mouth ulcers – Better Health Channel
7Dry mouth syndrome – healthdirect (2020)
8Halitosis – healthdirect (2019)


This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.

^Annual limits and waiting periods apply. Percentage back benefits are payable for services, programs and providers approved by HBF, when provider charges in accordance with the Member Plus schedule fee. Excludes Basic Extras and closed products.