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Can't Afford Dental Care?

Living a Better Life® (from the editor's desk)
by Michelle Jones

I’ve wanted to write about this subject for over a year now and you can bet my dentist will be glad when he learns that I finally have. I know dental care is not an exciting subject, however, reading this month's column can save you thousands of dollars in unwanted dental bills. And, you’ll also have healthier teeth!

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As frugal and budget-minded people we often will cut anything from a monthly budget that can be cut, including regular dental visits.  But the reality is these regular dentist visits which may cost up to $200 a year for two visits (if you do not have dental insurance), are likley to save you THOUSANDS of dollars in dental repair bills as you get older.

Of course there are also other things you need do to keep your teeth healthy besides regular dental cleanings, including brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day, or after every meal is even better. And flossing your teeth is not over-rated; it really does make a big difference in keeping your teeth and gums healthy, even if you don’t do it every day.

There are many different types of dental floss on the market so if you’ll test a few of them out hopefully you'll find one you like. My favorite is the Oral-B® Pro-Health Comfort Plus (mint flavor) and my family seems to like it. The Satin Tape is great too, if you can find it. They are always coming up with new dental floss products that make it easier to maintain good dental health. If you really struggle with flossing you might even try the disposable dental picks.

Bonus perks of going to the dentist every 6 months, free samples! Your dentist will usually give you a new toothbrush and dental floss at every cleaning visit, but if your budget is tight you can also ask for more if you need them (to help you get through to the next visit without having to buy toothbrushes and dental floss at the store).

Toothbrushes do NOT last forever as one might like to believe. Once they start to show a little wear they need to be replaced.  So by keeping your regular visits to the dentist office you'll always have a new toothbrush and so will every member of your family.  That will save a small bundle of money as well.

If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while you may not know that children also need to be flossing their teeth daily, even though they are only 'baby' teeth. And if you do have children, it probably goes without saying... please take them to the dentist for regular cleanings!

Otherwise, just think of how you're going to feel when you get a bill from your dentist for $300, for filling a cavity in just one of those baby teeth that will be coming out in a few years anyways. What a waste of money. Not to mention the very unpleasant experience for your children that could have been avoided with regular dental care.

Note: Unless the baby tooth is about to come out within a few months, go ahead and fill it no matter what the cost. The results of letting a cavity go too long can be a cracked tooth that will then need to be crowned or pulled, or a cavity that reaches down to the tooth nerve and may require a root canal. Much more expensive than the filling would have cost, and much more painful.

Trust me. This is a "been there-done that." And even though the child got through the procedure okay her mom almost fainted in the waiting room.

Then there’s sugar. We all know it’s bad for our health and bad for our teeth. While drinking sodas with a straw may help save your teeth because the sugary soda doesn’t coat your teeth as when you drink straight from the glass, the better thing to do is avoid sugary drinks altogether and choose water instead. (Friendly reminder... water is FREE!)  Sugar-free gum can also be helpful for keeping your teeth healthy. And, skipping the candy.

If you can get dental insurance through your job then it is probably wise to do so. The problem is many companies do not offer it. So, if you do not have insurance and need an inexpensive policy we recommend getting a dental plan like our family has used many times over the years for huge savings. Until we were offered a better (and more expensive) insurance policy with a new employer. I believe with the family plan we had cleaning visits were practically free and fillings and crowns were covered by 50%. That's as good as many dental insurance plans and a lot less expensive!

Everyone should have an annual dental checkup and cleaning at least twice a year (every 6 months, or, more often if your teeth or gums are not healthy). The American Dental Association can back me up on this. It may seem unimportant to you now but by not having these semi-annual cleaning visits there could even be some damage to your teeth and gums that cannot be repaired.

Sadly, some people end up just having their teeth pulled because they can’t afford the $1,000 bill to get one crowned. That's about the same amount they would have paid to get annual cleanings for 10 years – but in that case they’d have healthy teeth.

Here's a shocker that will hopefully get you on the phone to make your next dental check-up. It’s taken my family 6 years and over $8,000.00 to make up for not having dental insurance for our first 10 years. Sure, even with the regular dental appointments we might have had a few fillings over the years, but nothing compared to this. And all because we couldn’t “afford it.”  What an irony.

It’s your money, and your teeth. Find a way to keep them both. An ounce of prevention could save you $8,000!

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Related Article: What to Do If You Do Not Have Dental Insurance.

Copyright © 2002, 2015 by Michelle Jones. All rights reserved.

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