A dental check-up involves the teeth and gums being checked by a dental professional to detect any oral health issues. The idea behind it is simple: prevention is better than cure. Also, it’s less expensive, especially in the long run.
However, not many people are sure what a “dental check-up” exactly entails, and how long they should wait before going to their dentist for the next one. Since dental check-ups are done regularly, even if you already have healthy teeth, it’s important for you to be aware of these things.
While 6 months was the norm before, certain changes have been introduced to the guidelines by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). And one of the main reasons behind it is the overwhelming NHS dentistry backlog combined with the fact that many dentists are leaving the NHS.
In this guide, you’ll find out what basic dental check-ups are, what’s included in them, and how much you have to pay for them, especially if you’re getting them privately.
What Are Dental Check-Ups?
A dental check-up is an appointment where your dentist checks your teeth and gums to make sure they’re healthy and are not at risk of developing any problems.
If prevention is not possible, through this check-up, they’ll at least try to get you started on treatment as early as possible so that your condition doesn’t worsen.
One study published in the Journal of Dental Research found that routine attendees of dental checkups had oral health that was better than average. Additionally, they had lost fewer teeth due to cavities.
But researchers noted another trend where attendance for dental check-ups fell with age from 82% at age 15 to 28% by 32. And that’s when oral health tends to worsen with age.
In the UK, dental treatments are available on the NHS. However, due to different factors, fewer patients now have access to it. According to NHS Digital, NHS dentists saw 9.5% fewer adult patients in 2021-2022 compared to the previous year. Wait times have also increased alarmingly (some are up to three years).
How Often Are Dental Check-Ups Done?
According to the NHS, the interval between dental check-ups can vary from at least 3 months to as long as 2 years. It depends on the condition of your oral health and whether or not you’re at risk of developing a problem.
It used to be after 6 months for every patient, however, according to the new guidelines, “most adults” don’t need to have check-ups this frequently.
With this measure, dentists can prepare more personalised treatment plans for patients depending on their needs. They’ll decide when the patient needs to come back for a check-up.
Here it’s important to be clear that this guideline is not for dental cleaning treatments like scale and polish, dental radiographs, dental treatments and emergency situations. There are also age-specific recommendations, such as:
- For those under the age of 18, the longest interval between dental check-ups should be 12 months (because of a greater risk of cavities in children).
- For those 18 and older, the longest interval between dental check-ups should be 2 years.
It isn’t that you’d only be able to visit your dentist after a fixed interval. If you’re experiencing any issues, you should consult your dentist as soon as possible and not wait for your biannual or annual dental check-up.
After the dental check-ups, you should ask your dentist when you should come in next.
How Much Is A Dental Check-Up?
A dental check-up falls under Band 1 of NHS England’s charge band, which is £25.80. However, this dental check-up cost can vary depending on the NHS system you’re in:
- NHS Scotland – Free dental check-up
- NHS Wales – £14.70
- NHS Northern Ireland – £7.62 to £23.94 (goes from basic to extensive)
Keep in mind that a check-up is not the same as getting a dental treatment. Depending on the kind of treatment it is, it can fall in Band 2 or Band 3, which costs different in the 4 systems.
What’s included in this check-up can also vary. For instance, in England, Wales and Scotland, the X-ray, if needed, can be included in the check-up. However, it costs £3.53 in Northern Ireland. So, the answer to how much is a dentist’s check-up can vary depending on where you live.
How Much Is A Private Dental Check-Up?
In the UK, the private cost of a dental check-up can be anywhere from £50 to £100. It’s usually a few pounds more expensive for new patients, and then around £40-£50 for routine patients. The X-rays may or may not be included. Dentist check-up costs can vary between clinics, so make sure to ask them.
It’s possible for the private dental check-up cost to vary depending on where the clinic is located and how qualified your surgeon is. Since accessibility is a concern in NHS dentistry, some patients are left with no option but to pay private dental check-up fees.
Still, the dental check-up cost for private care can be thought of as a long-term investment in your oral health.
How To Get A Dental Check-Up?
NHS has a service finder portal through which you can find a dentist by putting in your town, city or postcode. After you’ve found a dentist, you’ll have to check with them to make sure that they’re accepting new patients and are willing to register you.
Following registration, you can have your check-up. It’s also possible to see a dentist without registration as an “occasional patient.” But since check-ups are not meant to be occasional activities, you’ll have to register.
Although the House of Commons Library notes that filling out the “registration form” doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a future appointment on the NHS. Privately, you can find a local dentist near you and get in touch with them to ask if they’re accepting new patients.
What’s Included In A Dental Check-Up?
In general, a dental check-up includes a clinical exam of the mouth (teeth and gums), head and neck, advice on oral health, and a diagnosis of a problem with the development of a treatment plan. An X-ray might also be done to check for underlying issues.
During this appointment, your dentist will ask you questions regarding your oral health (if you’ve had any issues) and ask about your diet and lifestyle to offer advice. Additionally, they may inquire about your teeth brushing technique to make sure that your teeth are properly being taken care of.
Of course, you can also ask any questions that you have from your check-up dentist. If you need additional treatment like filling, veneers, crown, tooth extraction, dental implants, root canal, etc., they’ll discuss a treatment plan with you and give you a date for your next visit; the date for the next visit should be given regardless of your need for dental treatment.
Why Is A Dental Check-Up Done?
There are two main reasons behind doing a check-up for dental health:
- Preventing an oral health issue.
- Detecting an oral health issue at an early stage.
It may seem like an innocuous exercise, but dental check-ups can be very important in ensuring the maintenance of a healthy mouth. Of course, since dental care is quite expensive, it can save you a lot in the long run.
For instance, if you have early signs of gum disease, stopping its progression can save you from a world of pain by eliminating the need for multiple procedures like bone grafting, gum flap surgery, medications, etc.
Similarly, if your tooth is showing signs of decay, your dentist might be able to offer you advice or treatments to protect it before it worsens to the point of needing extraction.
Another instance in which a dental check-up can potentially be life-saving is the detection of mouth cancer. During the examination, your dentist will check for its signs as well.
If you’re feeling nervous or anxious about your dentist’s check-up, you should inform the clinic about it in advance as they can help you feel comfortable in different ways.
How Long Does A Dental Check-Up Take?
Normally, check-up at a dentist’s shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes. But, of course, depending on the condition of your mouth and whether or not you need additional treatments, it can take longer. But if there’s nothing wrong, you might even be out of the clinic within 15-20 minutes.
What Happens During A Dental Check-Up?
During a dental check-up, your dentist will examine you, ask you questions (you can too), give you advice and discuss your personalised treatment plan (written).
NICE has provided guidelines on this as well, which include the following:
- Taking of patient’s full medical history.
- Thoroughly doing a dental, head and neck check.
- Offering initial preventative advice.
- Discussing, agreeing and working on the personal care plan for the patient.
As the patient comes back, their data will be updated for any changes and the dentist will review whether their treatment plan and what was advised previously are enough. If any changes are necessary, they will be discussed and agreed upon with the patient.
Dental check-ups might feel like an unnecessary nuisance, but their importance should not be undermined. Even if you can’t feel a problem or see it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t exist.
If it’s caught early on or stopped from developing in the first place, it can help ensure that you continue to have a healthy mouth. For these reasons, you must consider getting yourself regularly. And, your dentist can advise you on the interval of your routine dental check-up.
You can also get a check-up at a dental clinic in Turkey but since it’s a routine activity, you should find a dentist in your local area. It can be done on the NHS or privately.
With NHS, you might have difficulty finding a dentist, but even if the private dental check-up price is higher, you need to get your mouth checked to make sure there’s nothing to worry about. The answer to “How much does a dental check-up cost” can change depending on where you live and how experienced your dentist is.
Reviewed and approved by Dr Izbel Aksit
How often should oral hygiene checks take place?
While the usual answer to this is 6 months between dental check-ups, your dentist may advise a different check-up interval depending on your oral health or any risk factors for a disease.
Do dental check-ups include cleaning?
A dental check-up is different from a dental cleaning appointment. Dental cleaning can involve treatments like scale and polish or root planing. Usually, these are recommended every 6 months, but only your dentist can further advise you on this.