How To Save Money At The Dentist

Posted on Apr 25, 2017 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

When we purchase or lease an automobile, we realize there are maintenance requirements to ensure our investment stays in good working order. We have oil changed, fluids checked, and tires rotated or replaced. We do this because we know the consequences of not tending to the upkeep of an auto can be costly.

Your oral health also requires regular maintenance. In addition to twice daily brushing and daily flossing, 6-month dental check-ups and cleanings are needed to prevent problems from occurring. By avoiding problems, we save ourselves from costly and time-consuming treatment.

Prevention is key when it comes to both oral and overall health. A 2014 report on National Health Expenditures estimated that U.S. adults spend nearly $10,000 annually on health care. And, dental expenses are extra. According to the Government Accountability Office, the average annual out-of-pocket for dentistry increased by 26% between 1996 – 2010, from $520/year to $653/year.

Like tending to our vehicles, caring for our dental health is necessary. If ignored, the result is more than losing natural teeth. Research now shows that the infectious bacteria of periodontal (gum) disease can trigger inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body. It has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some cancers, diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies and impotency.

Gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. It is estimated that over 47% of adults over age 30 have some level of gum disease. For those over the age of 65, 64% are said to have moderate to severe gum disease. Symptoms include tender gums that bleed easily when brushing, persistent bad breath, gums that darken in color, gums that recede from teeth and expose darker tooth root sections and pus pockets on gums.

As a Periodontist, the majority of the problems I treat are one that were essentially preventable. With the proper home care and regular dental check-ups, you can save money by avoiding problems and costs for repairs. For those that do arise, early treatment helps to minimize expenses. This is why your regular dental cleanings and exams are so important.

Between visits, the goal is to keep oral bacteria levels to a minimum. While brushing twice daily is important, we urge patients to get into the habit of flossing. This is a significant benefit in the fight to keep oral bacteria buildup from damaging tooth enamel and gum tissues.

For those who floss daily, it only takes a minute. By removing particles caught between teeth, you can reduce oral bacteria growth tremendously. Find flossing awkward? Our hygienist can show you how to comfortably hold floss and move it easily between teeth (even those hard-to-reach teeth). However, for those who have dexterity problems, an electronic flosser can make the task easy yet still effective.

Another way to greatly reduce oral bacteria is to use a tongue scraper. This small tool uproots oral bacteria that are embedded in the tongue. Scrape back to front over the tongue 2 – 3 times and rinse after each pass. Brushing your tongue after brushing teeth is also helpful in removing bacteria from the tongue.

For many, a surprising cause for oral bacterial growth is ‘dry mouth.’ Saliva flow is designed to continually rinse oral bacteria out of the mouth. When saliva levels are low, oral bacteria accumulate and reproduce quickly. When your mouth is dry, you may notice that your breath odor is bad. This results from an overgrowth of oral bacteria.

Causes for a dry mouth are smoking, alcohol, caffeine and some medications as well as mouth breathing, including snoring. The aging process and health conditions such as anemia, hypertension, arthritis and diabetes also contribute to dry mouth.

To lessen the negative effects of dry mouth and enjoy fresher breath, drink water throughout the day. If you take medications that are drying to the mouth, ask your doctor if alternatives are available. For frequent dry mouth, purchase an over-the-counter mouth rinse that is designed to replenish oral moisture. Be sure the ingredients do not include alcohol, which is drying to the mouth even in this form.

Remember, your smile is more than teeth and gums. It is an important part of your overall health and well-worth the care you give it. In addition to avoiding costly dental problems, a healthy mouth will reward you with fresh breath and a confident smile. Plus, when you keep your natural teeth, you avoid a long list of expenses and associated problems for replacement teeth.

If you are missing teeth or have tender gums that bleed easily when brushing, call 828-274-9440 for an appointment.

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