Patients are usually surprised if my team or I recommend more frequent dental office visits than semi-annual. For some patients, six months is too long to wait. In fact, most of our patients come in for regular check-ups or treatment sooner than six months. 

The habit of visiting the dentist every six months is rooted in marketing, rather than science.

In the early 1900s, toothbrushing was extremely unpopular and only 7% of people had toothpaste or tooth powder in their homes. 

During that time, marketing genius Claude Hopkins designed an ad campaign for a new toothpaste called “Pepsodent.” Rather than focusing on its many health benefits, Hopkins boasted about the cosmetic benefits of a “Pepsodent smile,” which included the jingle, “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent!” 

The campaign was so successful that within 10 years of its introduction, an estimated 65% of households owned a tube of Pepsodent. 

After World War II, Pepsodent created a new catchphrase: “Use Pepsodent every day – see your dentist twice a year.” The slogan pleasantly surprised dentists. By 1954, dental insurance companies referred to it when determining the number of covered visits in their annual dental benefits. 

Today we know that preventative dentistry is not one-size-fits-all medicine. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that regular dental visits for preventive care be set at intervals determined by a dentist and the frequency be tailored to each patient. 

Patients who have diabetes, smoke tobacco, or have a family history of gum disease usually require additional and more extensive hygiene cleanings. Even patients with the most proficient home care routine cannot replicate a cleaning from a highly trained hygienist using professional instruments.

Many older patients benefit from more frequent cleanings because their loss of dexterity makes it more difficult to reach and clean the entire mouth. Certain medications they take have side effects like less salivary production resulting in dry mouth. 

Saliva is the premier cavity-fighting, natural resource for maintaining a healthy mouth. In addition to keeping your mouth moist and comfortable, saliva prevents cavities and periodontal problems by washing sugars off your teeth and reducing the mouth’s acidity. 

Above all, regular dental visits are about making sure your mouth is healthy and preventing bigger, more costly, inconvenient and painful dental health issues in the future. Make sure to consult with your dental professional to determine which dental office visit frequency is best for your unique needs, but biannual visits should be the bare minimum.

Matthew Mastrorocco, DMD is the owner and founder of ROC Dental Group, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head Island.