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Dental check-up

6-minute read

Key facts

  • A dental check-up is when a dental practitioner checks inside your mouth and gives your teeth a thorough clean.
  • All children and adults should have regular dental check-ups, even if their teeth are in good shape, and they feel healthy.
  • Having a dental check-up every 6 to 12 months can help you prevent problems before they become painful, costly or difficult to treat.
  • If you’re feeling nervous about your dental check-up, let your dental practitioner or their staff know so they can take extra care to minimise any pain or discomfort.

What is a dental check-up?

A dental check-up involves a thorough examination of your teeth, gums, lips, tongue, mouth and saliva. Along with brushing and flossing your teeth, a dental check-up forms an important part of your dental hygiene routine. Dental hygiene involves anything that helps to prevent dental diseases and keeps your mouth healthy. The 2 main dental diseases are tooth decay and gum disease.

Dental check-ups usually happen in a dental clinic, and are carried out by a dental practitioner, such as a dentist, dental hygienist, oral health therapist, dental therapist or sometimes a dental student. Regular check-ups can help catch potential issues early on, when they are easier to treat.

Who needs dental check-ups?

Everyone should start seeing a dental practitioner from 12 months old or when their first teeth become visible as a baby (whichever comes first). Dental check-ups are important even if you think your teeth are in good shape and you feel healthy.

Why are dental check-ups important?

Regular check-ups mean that a dental practitioner can help you to keep your teeth, gums and whole mouth healthy and functioning well. They can screen for oral cancer, check if you need repair or replacement fillings or other dental work and check on other habits that can affect your teeth and mouth such as grinding your teeth and smoking. By examining your mouth, a dentist practitioner can also learn how other parts of your body are functioning, for example, your heart and gut.

A dental practitioner is the best person to identify and address any issues you or they have with your teeth and mouth early, before it becomes painful, difficult to treat and costly.

What happens if you don't get dental check-ups?

If you don’t go for dental check-ups, you may be increasing your risk of developing dental diseases, such as tooth decay and gum disease. Neglecting to take care of your teeth and mouth is also associated with several chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Other major health concerns, such as oral cancer may also go undetected.

What's involved with a dental check-up?

A dental check-up will generally include:

  • providing a dental and medical history, such as previous dental work, your medications and allergies
  • a look inside your mouth for any signs of tooth decay or bleeding gums and how your teeth fit together
  • an x-ray to check for tooth decay, infections in your mouth, teeth that haven’t come through your gums properly, damage to your jaw bone and serious medical issues such as a tumour
  • preventative care such as fluoride and polishing
  • advice on how to brush and floss your teeth and maintain healthy teeth and gums — you may also receive advice on hygiene habits and diet

Is a dental check-up safe?

Yes, dental check-ups are safe. Some people feel nervous about dental check-ups or treatment. Dental anxiety can cause delay or avoidance of check-ups or important treatments.

If you’re feeling nervous about your dental check-up, let your dental practitioner or their staff know. They can take extra care to minimise any pain or discomfort and help to make your experience as easy as possible.

When should I see a dentist?

Generally, you should get a check-up every 6 to 12 months. However, a dental practitioner can tell you how often you need to go for a check-up since it will depend on the overall health of your teeth.

In addition to your general check-ups, see your dentist if:

  • you experience pain in your mouth
  • your face becomes swollen
  • you’re having trouble swallowing
  • you have any damage to your teeth
  • you’re concerned about your oral health or something in your mouth doesn’t feel right

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

How much does a dental check-up cost?

You can get a dental check-up at a private or public clinic. Public dental facilities include mobile, school and community dental clinics. There may be long waiting lists to see a public dentist.

Most dental check-ups happen in private clinics and are not covered by Medicare. Private health insurance can help you pay some general and specialist dental costs. You should check with your insurer before you go so you know what’s covered. Private health insurance can also help cover some costs for dental procedures and hospital stays.

Read more about the costs of dental care.

The Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) helps eligible children aged 0—17 years to receive basic dental services at low or no cost. You don’t need to apply or register for CDBS. Services Australia will send you a letter to let you know if your child is eligible. If you’re unsure, check your Medicare online account through your MyGov account or call the Medicare program line on 132 011, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

Find out if your child is eligible for the CDBS.

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Last reviewed: May 2023

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