Be honest, when was your last dental checkup? The view I get of attendance for checkups is very skewed - I only know about the people who turn up! I do however see a lot of people who have had a lapse in their dental care, and a lot of people who only come for treatment when they're in pain. Some of the common reasons seem to be a lack of time, concern about the cost of treatment, and a fear of dentistry.
If you've got no time to visit the dentist, that's not something I can help you with. Your life must be much busier than mine! If you're someone who has a fear of dental treatment, consider reading my article on options for anxious patients before deciding that avoidance is the way to deal with it.
Financial concerns? That's a hard one. Dental treatment isn't covered by the government for a lot of people, and in most states of Australia there is still a co-payment for those who are eligible for public dentistry. Having dental health insurance helps, so if you've got it make sure you're getting the most out of it. A basic checkup with x-rays and a scale and clean is all considered general dentistry, which should be covered by the most basic of ancillary policies. If you're not visiting your dentist regularly for the bread and butter stuff, you're missing out on being able to claim those rebates from your health insurer. As a matter of interest, the Australian Dental Association Dental Fees Survey published in 2016 showed the average cost of a checkup in an Australian private practice, (with the usual two x-rays plus a scale and clean), is well under the $300 mark for capital cities. Remember that if you have health insurance, you will be able to claim on this, and the rebated amount will vary depending on your insurer and your individual policy.
It's also important to remember that small problems cost less to fix. And what's the best way to find problems while they're still small? Have regular checkups of course! Early decay is mostly painless and undetectable to the layperson, but can be fixed with remineralising agents or small fillings. Wait until the holes get big, and you're in for bigger fillings which cost more. Consider also the risk of needing more complex treatment like root canal therapy and crowns, and the costs add up fast.
Your dentist can also assess your risk of dental disease and provide preventive care, which is far less costly than treating the disease once it's happened. A great example of this is fissure sealants. This can be done where there are deep grooves on the back teeth which are more likely to accumulate plaque, and are thereby at a higher risk of decay. Your dentist will clean the grooves, then seal them up with adhesive filling material. Think of it as like a preventive filling without the drilling. According to the same ADA survey, the average fissure sealant will set you back $59.47 per tooth, (remember that's without health insurance). If you wait for decay to start before taking action, the smallest filling will set you back an average of $162.42. If money is a concern, it becomes obvious pretty fast that the old adage of "prevention is better than the cure" holds true.
All these factors aside, research shows the biggest predictor of dental attendance is the perception of how much oral health impacts overall quality of life. Spend some time considering if you value your ability to eat painlessly, speak properly, and smile with confidence. If the answer is yes, then regular checkups should be something you set as a high priority.