5 tips to keep dental costs under control

5 tips to keep dental costs under control

While virtually everyone understands the importance of regular brushing and dental care, there are a few who stay away from the dentist as long as possible because of the expense. That’s a short-sighted view, because preventative dental treatment is a great way to save money on health care.

Cavities are the most common chronic disease of children and adolescents, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They afflict 25 percent of children 6 to 11 years and 59 percent of 12 to 19 years old. The unfortunate aspect is no matter a person’s age, tooth decay is almost completely preventable.

Many of the more expensive (and painful) dental procedures are only necessary because the patient waited too long before seeking treatment from a dental professional. To maintain control of dental expenses and to make sure your family has good dental health, here are some guidelines to follow.

Don’t delay treatment

Annual checkups can catch problems before they become serious. Most dental insurance plans include coverage for checkups and cleanings because they understand the value of preventative care.

Because they don’t like going to the dentist, some people ignore visible cavities or tooth pain until the situation becomes unbearable. “Once established, the disease requires treatment,” explains the CDC. “A cavity only grows larger and more expensive to repair the longer it remains untreated.”

Dental problems are virtually always less expensive and less painful when they are caught early. A $90 filling is much easier to deal with than a root canal and crown that could cost $2,000 or more.

Consider sealants

Applied by your dentist, sealants provide a thin, protective coating to the chewing surface of your back teeth. “They’re no substitute for brushing and flossing, but they can keep cavities from forming and may even stop early stages of decay from becoming a full-blown cavity,” notes mouthhealthy.org. “In fact, sealants have been shown to reduce the risk of decay by nearly 80 percent in molars.”

Some dental plans cover the cost of sealants and sealants can provide several years of protection. While they are commonly recommended when children start getting molars at about age 6, adults can also benefit — particularly patients with a history of cavities.

Avoid using tobacco

Smoking and using smokeless forms of tobacco cause serious oral health problems. They include stained teeth, loss of taste and smell, canker sores, failure of dental implants, gum recession, bone loss and tooth loss.

The American Dental Hygienists Association reports smokers have up to six times greater risk of developing periodontal diseases than nonsmokers. Research has linked chewing tobacco to an increase in cavities.

Practice good oral hygiene

Most people know daily brushing, flossing and cleaning of teeth, gums and tongue can help prevent tooth decay, gum diseases and oral infections. In spite of that, WebMD.com reports only about 50 percent of people brush at least twice daily and floss once.

If you eat sticky, sugary foods you should brush afterward or chew sugar-free gum to help clean your teeth. In addition, you should replace your toothbrush at least three or four times a year.

Prevent serious health risks

Many don’t realize poor dental hygiene can have serious implications. Today, there is mounting evidence that inflammation from gum disease or oral infections can be a complicating factor in heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic illnesses, reports WebMD.com. Research is ongoing because the links are not conclusive. But people with elevated risk factors should pay close attention to their oral health as a precaution.

Properly maintaining your teeth is something that saves money in the long run and boosts your overall health. It also has emotional benefits because you can be happy and confident about your beautiful, white smile. Visit your dentist regularly to ensure the best possible oral health.

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