Dental check-ups

You may assume you should have a dental check-up every six months, but some people may not need to go so often and others may need more frequent checks.

Your dentist will suggest when you should have your next check-up based on how good your oral health is.

The time between check-ups can vary from three months to two years depending on how healthy your teeth and gums are and your risk of future problems.

Why do I need a dental check-up?

A check-up allows your dentist to see if you have any dental problems and helps you keep your mouth healthy. Leaving problems untreated could make them more difficult to treat in the future, so it's best to deal with problems early, or, if possible, prevent them altogether. 

What happens during a dental check-up?

At each check-up, your dentist should:

  • Examine your teeth, gums and mouth.
  • Ask about your general health and any problems you’ve had with your teeth, mouth or gums since your last visit.
  • Ask about, and give you advice on, your diet, smoking and alcohol use, and teeth-cleaning habits.
  • Discuss with you a date for your next visit.

How often should I have a dental check-up?

After your check-up, your dentist will recommend a date for your next visit. The time to your next check-up could be as short as three months or as long as two years (or up to one year if you're under 18).

Generally, the lower your risk of dental problems, the longer you can wait before your next check-up. So people with good oral health will probably need to attend only once every 12 to 24 months, but those with more problems will need check-ups more often.

What about dental treatments?

This advice is about routine check-ups only. You may have other appointments for dental treatments such as fillings, teeth cleaning (scale and polish), having a tooth taken out or emergency treatment.

If you have problems with your teeth between check-ups, contact your dental surgery to make an earlier appointment. In an emergency outside normal working hours, contact your surgery on its usual number and you will be told how to access emergency dental care.

If you're not registered with an NHS dentist, read about how you can find an NHS dentist.

Common dental Q&As

Read the answers to the most common questions about NHS dentists and dental charges.

Page last reviewed: 02/12/2013

Next review due: 02/12/2015

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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Leah_M said on 18 July 2012

Preventive care is good business. It will save you a lot of money and pain. Delta Dental of Iowa has a great blog about why you should put more importance on preventive dental care.

http://www.deltadentaliablog.com/2012/06/preventive-care-can-save-you-money-stress-and-time-why-a-dental-check-up-can-save-you-from-more-than-tartar-and-plaque/

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Poppy2 said on 28 December 2011

I would love to know if 6 month check ups are really necessary. I have used a private dentist for 20 years since he stopped doing NHS work. I now feel compelled to visit him twice a year and his hygienist as well. The dental insurance scheme I currently use will now only pay for these visits once a year.

I am recently retired and have never had trouble with my gums but have quite a lot of fillings and two crowns. I don't want to keep spending all this money if it really isn't necessary.

It also seems crazy to me that the hygenist's time is more expensive than the dentist's at these visits. Surely he is more extensively trained! In former days the dentist used to clean teeth as part of his routine examination.

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Heena Modi said on 15 April 2011

The dental practice I attend has a new policy in which they ask patients to visit the hygienist every 6 months, as well as, the dentist.

The check up that the dentist carries out usually lasts 5 mins unless there's an issue. They allow for 15 mins but I've rarely used that amount of time. This costs £17:00

The hygienist carries out a 30 mins clean which costs £45:00. This includes cleaning and polishing.

If ones teeth aren't very unhealthy should the dentist clean our teeth, meaning that we don't need to see the hygienist?

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