During the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of dental offices were forced to shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. After reopening, a lot of patients were reluctant to return for their bi-annual cleanings even though safety precautions were in place and experts deemed visits safe. Now that it’s been longer than a year since the pandemic began, a large number of people have still not had a dental cleaning. Without regular dental cleanings and exams, a number of things can happen including a decline in oral and overall health.

Learn what happens when you skip one or more dental cleanings and why you should return to the dentist ASAP.

What Happens After One Skipped Dental Appointment

Most dental offices recommend visiting the dentist for a cleaning and exam every six months. During these appointments, we remove plaque and tartar and look for potential problems occurring. When you skip just one of these appointments, a small dental problem can go unnoticed and start to get more severe. Plaque and tartar will also begin to build up which can lead to cavities and gum disease. If you have a strict home oral hygiene regimen you follow at home, missing one appointment likely won’t result in life-changing results, but it can affect your oral health.

Woman covering mouth with bad breath

What Happens After a Year Without a Dental Appointment

When a year since your last dental cleaning and exam finally rolls around, a lot can happen. Small unnoticed cavities can start to become more serious. Early signs of gum disease can develop to a more severe level of gum disease. Plaque and tartar accumulation will grow even more which can result in cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. 

When dental problems go unnoticed for over a year, they will only continue to grow worse and affect your overall health.

What Happens Beyond a Year of Skipped Dental Appointments

If it’s been more than one year since your last dental exam, or 10 years, 20 years, or even 30 years, a lot can happen.

Plaque & Tartar Build-Up

One of the first things that will happen when you skip going to the dentist is plaque and tartar build-up. With proper brushing and flossing, the majority of plaque gets removed. However, some usually get missed. When plaque doesn’t get cleaned off, it will harden into tartar which can only be removed with special dental instruments. Tartar can cause bad breath, cavities, and gum disease. When you skip regular dental cleanings, plaque and tartar will continue to accumulate because there isn’t a dentist removing it.

Bad Breath

Plaque and tartar are made of bacteria. When this bacteria continues to rest on your teeth, it can result in smelly breath. You can use all the mouthwash and mints you want, but until you get a professional dental cleaning, the bad breath will continue to persist. 

Gum Disease

As bacteria builds up along and under the gum line, the gums will start to get infected. As the infection spreads, you may experience symptoms such as bleeding, red, or swollen gums. These are signs of gingivitis. Without treatment, gingivitis can result in severe periodontal disease that can cause receding gums, bone and tooth loss.


If plaque and tartar aren’t removed from your teeth, they will begin to eat away at your teeth and cause cavities (tooth decay). Without treatment, the cavities will continue to grow. What once only needed a simple tooth filling may require a root canal and dental crown without early treatment. Cavities that go untreated can cause an infected tooth which requires a root canal to treat. That’s why it’s so important to visit the dentist regularly. A small cavity is much easier and less invasive to treat.

Weakened Immune System

When you have gum disease, your immune system begins to focus all of its attention on fighting off that infection. Then, when your body comes into contact with any other bacteria or viruses, it doesn’t have the strength to fight them off because it’s too busy fighting off gum disease. Regular dental cleanings and exams can help prevent and treat gum disease in the early stages before it can cause damage.

Bone Loss

Without gum disease treatment or replacement for lost teeth (like dental implants), you will begin to experience bone loss in the jaw. This can cause remaining teeth to become loose and shift in place. It can also result in premature signs of aging like wrinkles around the mouth, sagging, loose skin under the chin and on the neck, and more. 

Shifting Teeth

If you lose a tooth and don’t replace it, the surrounding teeth will begin to shift into the empty spot and throw off your bite. Teeth can also shift if you fail to wear a retainer after getting orthodontic treatment. Regular exams can help us provide you with treatments to prevent teeth from shifting.

Stained Teeth

When we professionally clean your teeth, we don’t just remove plaque and tartar, but also surface stains. Without professional cleanings, your teeth can look yellow and not white due to stains from unclean teeth.

Oral Cancer

We also check for signs of oral cancer during your dental exams and cleanings. If we see anything unusual, we will recommend getting a biopsy which can help diagnose oral cancer. It’s difficult to notice any signs of oral cancer yourself unless you’re frequently looking in your mouth with a mirror and light. Regular appointments can help us catch oral cancer early which can save your life.

Increased Health Risks

When gum disease goes untreated, it increases inflammation levels in the body which can increase serious health risks including stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and more.

Tooth Loss

The last thing that can happen when you skip dental appointments is tooth loss. If your teeth and gums experience too much neglect and they become infected, eventually they will either fall out or require extraction.

Schedule Your Next Dental Cleaning in Aberdeen

If you’re overdue for a dental cleaning, don’t feel embarrassed. At Kuhn Dental Associates, we’re free of judgment. We want to help you achieve and maintain good oral health to benefit your overall health and quality of life. Please contact us at (910) 692-4450 to book your next dental cleaning in Aberdeen with Dr. Grimshaw or Dr. Kuhn.