The frequency with which patients should attend the dentist for a routine check-up has been the subject of an ongoing debate. There is no universally recognised definition of the term “routine dental check up”, and recommendations vary between countries and dental healthcare systems. Should you see your dentist every six months, or less often? This Cochrane review looks at the evidence.
What was the research?
A systematic review of the evidence to find out the optimal interval for dental check-ups (the time period between one dental check up and the next).
Who conducted the research?
The research was conducted by a team led by Phil Riley, on behalf of the Cochrane Oral Health Group. Helen V Worthington, Jan E Clarkson and Paul V Beirne were also on the team.
What evidence was included in the review?
Data was extracted from one randomised controlled trial. A total of 185 young adults and children participated in the trial, and were randomly assigned to a check up every 12 months, or every 24 months. The number of decayed, missing, filled and sound tooth surfaces was recorded and checked.
What did the evidence say?
As there was only one study included in the review, there was no evidence to come to a conclusion on the optimal time interval. The one included study was more favourable towards a 12 month recall interval than a 24 month interval in terms of decayed, missing, filled and sound tooth surfaces. However, the study was assessed at being of high risk of bias.
How good was the evidence?
The quality of the evidence was very low due to there only being one study suitable for inclusion.
What are the implications for dentists and the general public?
There is insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion on this question, which is disappointing as it is of considerable interest for dentists and the general public. There is no evidence to support or refute the practice of encouraging patients to attend the dentist at six monthly intervals.
What should researchers look at in the future?
There is a need for well-conducted randomized controlled trials in this area which include a sufficient number of participants to detect a true difference. The studies should specify what a dental check-up includes, and any advice given by the dentist should be documented. The trials should conform to the CONSORT guidance.
Riley P, Worthington HV, Clarkson JE, Beirne PV. Recall intervals for oral health in primary care patients. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD004346. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004346.pub4.