Getting a Healthy Smile Back After an Absence from the Dentist

A smile is one of the first things we notice in other people, but for those suffering with dental health issues like cavities, missing or damaged teeth, or gum disease, smiling, laughing, eating, and simply talking can be a source of embarrassment, shame, or even discomfort and pain. However, many of the problems that make you hide your smile can be treated or even entirely prevented, and while early detection often makes treatment faster and easier, it isn’t impossible to rediscover a healthy smile, even if it’s been awhile since you’ve been to the dentist.

Your smile doesn’t have to be perfect to be healthy, but it does need to be taken care of. At Dental Depot of Oklahoma, we understand that everything from financial concerns and lack of time to dental anxiety can keep people from getting the dental services they need for their best oral health. That’s why we work hard to help people get the care they need no matter when they last saw a dentist. Whether you need an evening or Saturday appointment, a flexible payment plan, or the freedom to see a favorite provider, Dental Depot of Oklahoma makes it easy and affordable for you to get back on the road to a healthy smile.

The Time it Takes for Dental Problems to Develop

When you don’t visit the dentist regularly, small problems can become big ones. Even issues that seem to crop up all of a sudden likely developed earlier and have just now worsened to a point of discomfort or discoloration that you have started to notice.

Here’s what happens without routine checkups and cleanings after:

6 months

Gingivitis and early gum (periodontal) disease.


Dentist is working on a dental patient while they lay in the dental chair.

The purpose of seeing a dentist twice a year is so a dental hygienist can professionally remove plaque and tartar buildup that you can’t get off at home. If not removed, these sticky substances can harden on your teeth and cause gingivitis, which begins when gums swell and become inflamed and is a precursor to periodontal disease. Over time, the gums will start to pull away from the teeth, allowing bacteria to get even closer to the areas of the tooth (like the root) that were formerly protected. 


Plaque and tartar buildup, as well as the acids from certain foods and beverages like coffee and wine, can cause staining and discoloration that make your teeth appear yellow or even brown.


Cavities can also begin to form within six months. Bactria on the teeth feed off of sugar from food and drinks and will start to eat away at the enamel, creating damaged spots that soften and allow bacteria to enter the tooth. In addition to being painful, cavities will not go away on their own, and if left untreated, can foster further decay until a tooth cracks, create discolorations, or worsen into an abscess in the tooth root.


Swelling in the gums due to poor oral hygiene can start to affect the alignment of teeth. When they are no longer sitting straight, it can be even harder to correctly brush and floss their surfaces, compounding the problem.

1 year

If it’s been more than a year since you’ve been to the dentist, you might start seeing some more severe problems, such as:

Gum disease that has progressed to periodontitis. 

If your gum disease has been left untreated for more than a year, you might need scaling and root planing, during which the dentist will lift the gums from the teeth in order to clean near the roots.

Teeth that have loosened in their sockets or have fallen out.

When a tooth is not firmly attached to the jawbone anymore, the bone can become weak and atrophied. This is the cause behind the sunken look some people get when they are missing teeth, as the shape of the face itself will change when teeth are not replaced.

Tooth infection and rot.

The cavities you’ve been putting off may degrade all the way to the tooth root, providing an avenue through which bacteria can enter the sensitive inner blood vessels and nerves of the tooth. The only way to fix this type of infection is with a root canal, and the infection itself frequently causes significant pain that makes it difficult to focus or sleep.

Impacted or infected wisdom teeth.

If you still have your wisdom teeth but there is not enough room in your jaw for them to properly erupt, the wisdom teeth can become impacted, leading to infection and significant pain.

Jaw misalignment or pain. 

Tooth loss, improper bite from shifting or decayed teeth, or TMJ issues can cause the jaw to move out of its proper position, requiring orthognathic surgery.

The Timeline for Recovery from Dental Issues

The good news is that even if you are experiencing some of these issues, it is not too late to regain a healthy smile. 

Dental problems that can be treated in a day include:

  • Plaque and tartar buildup can be removed in a routine cleaning.
  • Cavities and certain types of damage can often be corrected in a single appointment with a filling.
  • Discolorations can be corrected in a variety of ways, depending on the location and severity. You may be able to have them whitened in a single office visit, or you may be a candidate for veneers, which can also sometimes be placed in one visit. 
  • Abscesses (infected tooth roots) can be treated with root canals that are typically performed in a single appointment, providing instant relief, though you may have to come back for a second one for a permanent crown.
  • Damaged, broken, or missing teeth can be treated with restorations like bridges, crowns, and veneers that can often be placed in a single visit.
  • Impacted or infected wisdom teeth can be removed in a single procedure, with a few days of recovery.

Dental problems that can be treated within a few weeks:

  • Gingivitis and periodontal disease can be reversed in their early stages. With proper intervention and good oral hygiene, gingivitis and early to moderate periodontal disease can be treated in 2-3 weeks.
  • Professional at-home teeth whitening kits correct discolorations gradually, producing results within 1-2 weeks.
  • Missing teeth can be replaced with dentures, which are custom-created in a lab, then fitted to your mouth.

Dental problems that can be treated within a few months:

  • Gum disease that has progressed to periodontitis cannot be reversed, but it can be reduced in severity through dental deep cleaning & scaling, with symptoms improving in 5 to 8 weeks. You can also manage periodontitis with good oral hygiene and routine dental visits to prevent it from advancing further.
  • Misaligned teeth can be corrected with orthodontic treatment including Invisalign and braces.
  • Replacing decayed or missing teeth will be specific to your unique situation, including whether or not you need teeth extracted or bone grafting to improve the strength and density of your jaw and what type of prosthesis you will need.
    • Dental implants can take six months to a year to complete, to account for recovery time between procedures. However, you may be a candidate for Dental Depot of Oklahoma’s All-on-4 dental implants, or “Teeth in a Day,” a procedure that removes existing decayed or non-restorable teeth, places dental implants, and an implant-supported temporary prosthesis all in one day.


Your First Visit Back to the Dentist

Visiting the dentist, especially after a long time, can be intimidating and uncomfortable, but simply showing up for an appointment tells your dentist a lot about how much you care for your oral health. While many issues that are caught early can be treated fairly quickly and easily in a single office visit, more serious and advanced conditions can take weeks, months, or even years to fully recover from. Having a realistic idea of what you may experience during your first visit back can help you manage your expectations and stay committed to your treatment plan.

If you haven’t been to the dentist in awhile, you should expect:

Sensitivity. Inflamed gums, exposed tooth roots, and thin enamel can lead to increased sensitivity to things like the cold water used to rinse your mouth. You may also notice some soreness or discomfort around your gums after your appointment. 

Bleeding. Without regular stimulation from the brushing and flossing of daily hygiene and routine dental cleanings, your gums have likely become soft and inflamed. This makes it more likely that they will bleed during your appointment, especially during flossing. Your dental hygienist will try to be as gentle as possible and the bleeding will stop once he or she is done with your cleaning. 

Multiple appointments. Your first appointment back to the dentist will most likely focus on a standard cleaning to get your mouth back to its best baseline. However, the dentist might uncover issues that will need follow-up treatment, such as cavities or tooth extractions. They might also need to allow time for your swollen gums to rest before they go back in to clean more thoroughly. Significant restorations such as implants may require several appointments as well.

Heading back to the dentist is an important first step toward a healthier smile and a healthier future. And, regardless of the condition your oral health is in when you do go back, compassionate and experienced dentists like those at Dental Depot of Oklahoma will reassure you rather than reprimand you, treat you with respect and kindness, and help you develop a proactive and personalized treatment plan to get you–and your smile–back on track.

Get Your Healthy Smile Back with Dental Depot in Oklahoma

Going back to the dentist after a long absence can feel overwhelming, but it’s absolutely necessary to restore your oral health and your overall health. Like many dentists, the dentists at Dental Depot of Oklahoma entered their profession because they are passionate about helping people achieve the healthiest, most beautiful smile possible. They see patients from all walks of life in all stages of dental health, so not only are your worries not new to them, but they aren’t going to judge you or make you feel bad about your current situation.

No matter how long it’s been since you last visited the dentist, the team of caring professionals and specialists at Dental Depot of Oklahoma can help you rediscover the confidence that comes with a healthy smile. We believe everyone deserves quality dental care regardless of their condition, and we make it easy, convenient, and affordable for you and everyone in your family to get the services you need for a healthier, happier life. Schedule your appointment today and let Dental Depot of Oklahoma be your partner for great dental health.

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