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