Originally posted 11 February 2011
One of the most common complaints about dental care is the expense – costs that many people have to pay out of pocket for lack of insurance. But usually, as we’ve written before, dental work only gets really expensive when you avoid seeing your dentist until something goes wrong. Then, yes, you could be looking at thousands of dollars to fix problems that likely could have been prevented in the first place. Sure, you may save a hundred dollars here and there by not having regular checkups and cleanings, but you’ll more than likely find yourself paying many times that savings for crisis care down the road.
In essence, seeing your dentist regularly for preventive care is some of the best dental insurance you can have.
A study just published in the American Journal of Public Health bears this out. For it, the records of over 10,000 older Americans were reviewed to see the impact of preventive dental care.
The Dental School study…showed that Medicare beneficiaries who used preventive dental care had more dental visits but fewer visits for expensive nonpreventive procedures and lower dental expenses than beneficiaries who saw the dentist only for treatment of oral problems. (Emphasis added)
While the authors are focused on the possible benefits of adding preventive dental care coverage to Medicare, we think it provides a good lesson to all: The best way to lower your total dental costs is to consistently take good care of your teeth. Regular dental visits are one key part. Good home hygiene matters, too (at minimum, regular brushing and flossing), as does a healthy diet based on whole foods, regular exercise and other positive life choices.
Such actions may not guarantee good dental health. (Some people, for instance, may be genetically predisposed to gum disease and have perio problems despite taking excellent care of their teeth. Likewise, some less susceptible people may be less than diligent about their home hygiene and show no problems at all.) But the odds of their helping are much better than the odds of your saving money over the long haul by avoiding the dentist until your teeth or gums start causing you grief.
Image by Patrick Hoesly, via Flickr