Not Just a Teeth Cleaning: General Dentists Emphasize the Importance of Wellness Checkups

  • by AGD Staff
  • Jul 28, 2017

CHICAGO, July 28, 2017 – A recent survey from the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) shows that some Americans are unaware their dental wellness checkups cover much more than hygiene.* Only a quarter (25%) of respondents said they associate going to their general dentist with getting screened for oral cancer, and even fewer (14%) reported viewing their general dentist as being an expert in making broader connections to improving or maintaining systemic (or overall) health.

“The AGD represents nearly 40,000 general dentists who treat millions of patients each year; we know dental visits can feel unnecessary when patients don’t perceive anything to be wrong,” said AGD President Maria A. Smith, DMD, MAGD. “This survey underscores the need for greater awareness about oral health’s relation to overall health. The condition of your mouth often mirrors the condition of the rest of your body, and maintaining a healthy body includes taking care of your oral health on a regular basis.”

“What makes general dentists unique is that no other health practitioner is supposed to be seen as frequently, even without any symptoms,” Dr. Smith added. “The mouth is the gateway to the entire body, and poor oral hygiene can result in or worsen cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and other illnesses. Regular dental visits, every six months, are a chance to establish an oral care home base, educate patients, prevent disease, and screen for other conditions.”

Milestone studies have demonstrated the connection between oral health and cardiovascular health, but general dentists may also be the first line of defense against other maladies, such as anorexia and bulimia since the first signs of these disorders often are revealed in the mouth.

In fact, many systemic diseases have oral manifestations. Swollen gums can be a sign of a serious health issues such as diabetes, oral cancer, or heart disease.** AGD is working to help raise awareness that good oral health is closely linked to overall wellness. The organization is advocating at both the local and national levels and is collaborating with AGD members to provide them with resources to better support their patients and communities.

Additional findings from the survey include:

  • More than half (58%) of respondents said they view general dentists as being experts on teeth cleaning.
  • Half (50%) of respondents reported they don’t view their general dentists as being experts on prevention, while more than half (59%) reported they don’t see their general dentists as being experts on overall health.
  • Respondents reported that they have low expectations for general dentists to keep up with evolutions in equipment and technology: less than a quarter (23%) of survey respondents said they view their general dentists as being experts on the latest equipment, even though general dentists regularly update their skills and participate in continuing education (CE) opportunities.
  • Although teeth-whitening began in general dentistry practices and has grown to a multibillion-dollar industry***, fewer than one-third (30%) of survey respondents said they knew their general dentists could provide this service.
  • Twenty-two percent (22%) of survey respondents said they don’t have a general dentist.
  • Young adults, aged 18 to 34, are least likely to view a general dentist as being an expert on a range of oral wellness topics, compared with older adults.

“Establishing a strong relationship with a primary general dentist has both health and monetary benefits,” said Dr. Smith. “AGD members report that people with a solid oral-care home base experience better overall wellness, and accrue lower health costs over their lifetime.”

AGD, which recently launched a new logo and brand expression, focuses on providing CE opportunities for general dentists to help them build bright practices and deliver the best patient care. This includes helping to reach and educate patients on modern dentistry issues and to encourage optimal oral health, which leads to optimal overall health and wellness.

*AGD conducted an online survey in June 2017 among 1,174 U.S. adults (of those, 918 said they have a dentist). Some data was weighted to match U.S. Census Bureau data by gender, age, race, income and region.

**Miller, K. (2015). Periodontal Disease and Heart Health. Retrieved from

***Lee, D. (2015, June 9). America’s obsession with perfecting its teeth. Retrieved from

About the Academy of General Dentistry

The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) is a professional association led by general dentists and dedicated to oral wellness. Founded in 1952, the organization helps members deliver the best patient care by offering lifelong learning, professional networking and advocacy for building a dental care home base.