Despite the importance of good dental care to overall health, millions of Americans have limited access to dental care. Estimates vary, but about 100 million Americans do not have dental insurance and even those covered by dental insurance may have a hard time paying out of pocket costs. Part of the problem is the misconception that good oral health is not related to overall health but the studies have shown a link between poor oral health and diabetes, heart disease, stroke and low birth rates. In addition, tooth loss is widespread among older Americans and leads to poor diet and reduced health.
Getting regular preventative care including dental cleanings and checkups and having restorative dental work done as soon as it is discovered is crucial for maintaining overall health. There are numerous alternatives to help reduce the impact of dental care on your wallet.
The most common type of dental insurance is that purchased through employment. If dental insurance is offered through your employer, you may be able to get an excellent group rate for the dental insurance that can keep a lid on your dental care costs.
Whether you are insured or not, consider paying for your out of pocket dental care expenses using your flexible spending account. Most dental care expenses are eligible except for purely cosmetic procedures such as teeth whitening.
If you are eligible for Medicaid, you may be able to obtain some dental coverage. Dental coverage under Medicaid varies by state. Some states cover only children while other offer benefits to adults too.
Another option is to use a financing plan to pay for dental expenses. As an added service to their customers, many dentists have financing available. Most dentists accept credit cards and you may be able to get a lower rate on a credit card or earn rewards on the dental expenses you put on the card.
Whatever option works best for you, the important thing to remember is that putting off dental care will negatively impact your overall health and lead to more expensive dental work in the future.
If you are wondering whether routine dental care including checkups and cleanings are really necessary, the answer is a resounding “Yes”! While modern dentistry has a wide variety of excellent restorative dental techniques to replace missing teeth and repair damaged teeth and gums, by far the most effective dental technique is prevention.
The majority of Americans are missing one or more teeth and ten percent of Americans are missing all of their natural teeth. Missing teeth are especially prevalent among older Americans and studies have shown that tooth loss is linked to a decline in health. Tooth loss, even when addressed with dentures, leads to a poor diet and jaw bone loss.
Despite being almost completely preventable, gum disease is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults. Gum disease is caused by naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth. Bacteria forms plaque, a sticky substance that adheres to tooth surfaces and causes tooth decay. Brushing and flossing removes most plaque, but some plaque will harden into tartar that can only be removed with a professional cleaning by your dentist or dental hygienist.
In addition to attacking the surface of your teeth, plaque and tartar irritate the gums and cause gingivitis and gum disease. Left untreated, gum disease can result in permanent tooth loss.
Regular dental checkups and cleanings are the key to preventing gum disease. Plaque and tartar is removed and your dentist can examine your teeth and gums for signs of gum disease, cavities, and other imperfections. Any cavities or other tooth damage can be repaired while the damage is minor. Otherwise, the tooth damage can progress to the point where the tooth cannot be saved.
Regular dental cleaning and checkups are very important for maintaining good oral health. If tooth decay is identified during a check-up, your dentist will repair the tooth by removing the decay and placing a dental filling. Dental fillings normally last for many years. The length of time varies depending on the patients’ oral hygiene habits, how well the placement was done, and other variables but in general an amalgam (silver) filling can be expected to last 10 to 15 years. Composite (white or tooth colored) fillings don’t last quite as long – about 5 to 7 years.
Dental fillings are under a lot of stress from chewing, grinding teeth, and clenching. Over time, a filling can wear away or it can chip, crack, or fall out of the tooth. Fillings can wear around the edges and leave a small space between the filling and the tooth enamel. Bacteria can enter this space and cause tooth decay around the filling.
Good oral hygiene including good brushing habits will help reduce the incidence of tooth decay around fillings. Brushing twice a day and daily flossing will reduce the amount of decay causing bacteria and help prevent tooth decay. Regular dental check-ups can identify a damaged filling or tooth decay around a filling before extensive damage occurs.
Worn, chipped, and cracked fillings should be replaced promptly. In most cases, the filling can be replaced but if the patient waits until the tooth hurts or the filling falls out, the tooth may have too much damage to repair. In this case, your dentist will need to install a crown instead of replacing the filling.
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