1 Guidance

Section 1.1 of this guidance contains the clinical recommendations. Tools to support clinicians in implementing these recommendations can be found in Appendix E.

1.1 Clinical recommendations

1.1.1 The recommended interval between oral health reviews should be determined specifically for each patient and tailored to meet his or her needs, on the basis of an assessment of disease levels and risk of or from dental disease.

1.1.2 This assessment should integrate the evidence presented in this guideline with the clinical judgement and expertise of the dental team, and should be discussed with the patient.

1.1.3 During an oral health review, the dental team (led by the dentist) should ensure that comprehensive histories are taken, examinations are conducted and initial preventive advice is given. This will allow the dental team and the patient (and/or his or her parent, guardian or carer) to discuss, where appropriate:

  • the effects of oral hygiene, diet, fluoride use, tobacco and alcohol on oral health

  • the risk factors (see the checklist in Appendix E) that may influence the patient's oral health, and their implications for deciding the appropriate recall interval

  • the outcome of previous care episodes and the suitability of previously recommended intervals

  • the patient's ability or desire to visit the dentist at the recommended interval

  • the financial costs to the patient of having the oral health review and any subsequent treatments.

1.1.4 The interval before the next oral health review should be chosen, either at the end of an oral health review if no further treatment is indicated, or on completion of a specific treatment journey.

1.1.5 The recommended shortest and longest intervals between oral health reviews are as follows.

  • The shortest interval between oral health reviews for all patients should be 3 months.

    A recall interval of less than 3 months is not normally needed for a routine dental recall. A patient may need to be seen more frequently for specific reasons such as disease management, ongoing courses of treatment, emergency dental interventions, or episodes of specialist care, which are outside the scope of an oral health review.

  • The longest interval between oral health reviews for patients younger than 18 years should be 12 months.

    There is evidence that the rate of progression of dental caries can be more rapid in children and adolescents than in older people, and it seems to be faster in primary teeth than in permanent teeth (see full guideline). Periodic developmental assessment of the dentition is also required in children.

    Recall intervals of no longer than 12 months give the opportunity for delivering and reinforcing preventive advice and for raising awareness of the importance of good oral health. This is particularly important in young children, to lay the foundations for life-long dental health.

  • The longest interval between oral health reviews for patients aged 18 years and older should be 24 months.

    Recall intervals for patients who have repeatedly demonstrated that they can maintain oral health and who are not considered to be at risk of or from oral disease may be extended over time up to an interval of 24 months. Intervals of longer than 24 months are undesirable because they could diminish the professional relationship between dentist and patient, and people's lifestyles may change.

1.1.6 For practical reasons, the patient should be assigned a recall interval of 3, 6, 9 or 12 months if he or she is younger than 18 years old, or 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21 or 24 months if he or she is aged 18 years or older.

1.1.7 The dentist should discuss the recommended recall interval with the patient and record this interval, and the patient's agreement or disagreement with it, in the current record-keeping system.

1.1.8 The recall interval should be reviewed again at the next oral health review, to learn from the patient's responses to the oral care provided and the health outcomes achieved. This feedback and the findings of the oral health review should be used to adjust the next recall interval chosen. Patients should be informed that their recommended recall interval may vary over time.

The interval may be maintained at the same level if it is achieving its aims. For someone with low disease activity, it may be possible to gradually extend the interval towards the 24-month maximum period – once the patient and the dental team are confident that this is satisfactory. Patients whose disease activity continues unabated may need a shorter interval and may need more intensive preventive care and closer supervision.

Patients should be encouraged to seek advice from a dentist before their next scheduled review if there are any significant changes in their risk factors. They also need to understand that (as is the case with the current 6-month recall regimen) there is no guarantee that new disease will not develop between recall visits.