How many of us retain a childhood fear of the dentist? And how many of us take pains to avoid those chilly, sterile offices as a result? Don’t be ashamed if that’s the case. But there is a multiplicity of reasons why you should try to face your fears and check in with your dentist on a regular basis. Let’s explore just a few of them.

Dental professionals recommend that individuals get their teeth cleaned at least once every one to two years. The purpose of having this done is to have tartar removed–this is mineralized plaque which cannot be removed with even the best brushing and flossing, especially in areas of the mouth which are too difficult to reach for most people.

A general cleaning is usually performed by a dental hygienist, so you should be sure to check in with your dentist. Doing so is extremely important for maintenance and upkeep on any previous dental work that you have had done.

If you have had fillings some years ago, they may have deteriorated enough to be replaced. Ensuring that your dentist has the opportunity to monitor these things can prevent dental emergencies in the future.

Sometimes excessive or harsh brushing, poor flossing habits, or other oral hygiene problems can lead to problems with your gums, which, if not caught early, can lead to periodontal disease at the very least–irritation, chronic halitosis, and swollen gums as the best case scenario.

Periodontal disease frequently leads to tooth loss, especially as we grow older. Up to twenty-five percent of adults over the age of sixty-five have lost ALL of their teeth, primarily due to tooth decay and advanced gum disease.

Gum disease does not only wreak havoc on your mouth–research suggests that certain types of gum disease may spread and hasten the hardening of arteries in the neck, which can ultimately lead to a stroke.

And what’s most important to realize above periodontal disease is that you may be developing it without knowing about it. That is why it is so important to see your dentist regularly, so that is can be caught in the early stages.

Cancer of the mouth is more common than you might think. In 2004, there were over 25,000 cases of oral, tongue, and pharyngeal cancer reported in the United States. Across the globe, mouth and throat cancer combined was the sixth most common malignancies, and it has a fairly high mortality rate. Preventing or catching it in the early stages could save your life.