It's a sad fact: Many people postpone needed dental treatment because of their finances. There's no doubt that treatments for many tooth and gum problems can be expensive. But delaying treatment can make matters worse—and when they do see their dentist to address the issue, the costs can skyrocket.
The thriftiest way to manage your dental health is to prevent disease before it occurs or seek treatment as early as possible. You may incur some initial expense, but you'll pay less in the long-run and have better health to boot.
Here's a common sense approach for easing the impact of dental care on your budget.
Form a customized care plan. The key to keeping your dental expenses in check is to be proactive, not reactive with your care. Don't wait until you begin noticing problems—instead, invest in regular dental visits where your dentist can assess your ongoing individual risk for dental disease. Using that assessment, your dentist and you can then create a care plan that lowers your disease risk and promotes optimal health.
Adopt sound hygiene practices. A simple toothbrush and a roll of floss could save you thousands in dental care costs over a lifetime. Using them daily removes dental plaque, the top cause for both tooth decay and gum disease. Couple that with regular dental cleanings and your risk for costly dental disease will go down significantly.
Try less expensive, short-term restorations. Even with the best prevention strategy, there's always a chance you'll encounter a problem with your teeth or gums. Unfortunately, the best permanent fix may be more than your budget can handle. In that case, consider a less expensive restoration (like resin or glass-based fillings) to protect and restore your problem teeth until you can afford a better permanent solution.
Talk with your dentist about long-term financing. Spreading out the bill for dental treatment over several payments can help you manage unforeseen costs. Talk with your dentist about treatment financing options they offer or sponsor. If possible, have a contingency plan for payment in place before you need it—just in case.
Any kind of dental care, even preventive maintenance, can cost you. But if you manage your care wisely, you can keep that cost to a minimum.
Like the rest of healthcare, antibiotics have transformed dentistry. Advanced oral infections that once eluded successful treatment are routinely stopped with the use of these “wonder drugs.” But their overuse over the years has given rise to dangerous “superbugs” resistant to many antibiotics.
Antibiotics are one of the 20th Century's most significant healthcare achievements. Drugs like penicillin played a major role ending the global threat of tuberculosis, cholera and bacterial meningitis. Over the last few decades, more antibiotics have been developed to defend against an even wider array of bacterial dangers.
But along the way doctors and dentists began prescribing antibiotics for all manner of illnesses including viral infections like colds or flu for which they're less effective. They've also been increasingly used as a preventive measure, including inclusion in animal feed to fight disease.
But our tiny biological nemeses are adaptable. As bacterial strains come in contact with greater amounts of antibiotics, individual bacterium that survive transmit their resistance to subsequent generations. This can produce new strains like Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) that are resistant to methicillin and other common antibiotics that once contained them.
There's deep concern that these new resistant strains, often recent incarnations of old diseases once thought defeated, will lead to higher rates of sickness and death. Increasing resistance could also make common procedures like those performed by dentists and oral surgeons, much riskier to undertake.
To combat this, pharmaceutical companies are racing to create new drugs to compensate. Recently, they've received an encouraging sign of hope in this battle from an unlikely source: viruses. Researchers in Tel Aviv, Israel have discovered an antagonistic protein to bacteria among a group of viruses called bacteriophages. The protein, injected into a bacterium, commandeers the cell's DNA function to aid virus reproduction, which kills the host.
In the words of one researcher, this makes these particular “enemy of our enemy” viruses our “friend.” Although the discovery is still a long way from practical use in antibiotics, harnessing it in future drug versions could help pack a greater punch against resistant bacteria.
In the meantime, providers and patients alike must practice and advocate for stricter protocols regarding the use of antibiotics. The viability of tomorrow's healthcare is on the line.
Your tooth enamel’s main nemesis is oral acid: normally produced by bacteria, foods or beverages, acid can dissolve enamel’s mineral content and cause erosion and decay. But acid might be a bigger problem for you if you also have gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
GERD is a digestive condition in which stomach acid backs up into the digestive tract. Normally, a ring of muscle at the end of the esophagus prevents stomach acid from coming up into it. But if it weakens, this powerful acid can splash up into the esophagus and irritate its more delicate lining and result in a burning sensation known as heartburn or acid indigestion.
The problem for teeth, though, is that GERD could cause stomach acid to potentially come up into the mouth. Because of its high acidic pH (2.0 or less), stomach acid can cause major erosion in tooth enamel, leaving them pitted, yellow and sensitive. If not caught and treated early, some of your teeth could be damaged to the point that they have a questionable prognosis.
There are some things you can do to minimize GERD’s effect on your dental health. First and foremost, see a doctor about managing your symptoms, which might include medication. Be sure you also inform your dentist that you have GERD and what medications you’re taking.
One way to lessen the effect of higher acid in the mouth is to stimulate saliva production, which helps neutralize acid. You can do this by drinking plenty of water, taking a saliva booster or chewing xylitol-sweetened gum. You can also rinse with plain water or water mixed with baking soda (1/2 teaspoon to a cup of water), or chew an antacid tablet to help balance your mouth’s pH level.
And don’t forget to look out for your enamel. Be sure you’re practicing daily brushing and flossing and using fluoride hygiene products to strengthen it. Your dentist can also apply topical solutions or prescribe special rinses with higher concentrations of fluoride.
GERD can be an unpleasant experience that escalates into major problems. Don’t let it compromise your dental health.
Kathy Bates has been a familiar face to filmgoers since her Oscar-winning performance as Annie Wilkes in Misery. She's best known for playing true-to-life characters like Wilkes or Barbara Jewell in last year's Richard Jewell (for which she earned her fourth Oscar nomination). To keep it real, she typically eschews cosmetic enhancements—with one possible exception: her smile.
Although happy with her teeth in general, Bates noticed they seemed to be “moving around” as she got older. This kind of misalignment is a common consequence of the aging process, a result of the stresses placed on teeth from a lifetime of chewing and biting.
Fortunately, there was an orthodontic solution for Bates, and one compatible with her film career. Instead of traditional braces, Bates chose clear aligners, a newer method for moving teeth first introduced in the late 1990s.
Clear aligners are clear, plastic trays patients wear over their teeth. A custom sequence of these trays is developed for each patient based on their individual bite dimensions and treatment goals. Each tray in the sequence, worn in succession for about two weeks, places pressure on the teeth to move in the prescribed direction.
While clear aligners work according to the same teeth-moving principle as braces, there are differences that make them more appealing to many people. Unlike traditional braces, which are highly noticeable, clear aligners are nearly invisible to others apart from close scrutiny. Patients can also take them out, which is helpful with eating, brushing and flossing (a challenge for wearers of braces) and rare social occasions.
That latter advantage, though, could pose a problem for immature patients. Clear aligner patients must have a suitable level of self-responsibility to avoid the temptation of taking the trays out too often. Families of those who haven't reached this level of maturity may find braces a better option.
Clear aligners also don't address quite the range of bite problems that braces can correct. Some complex bite issues are thus better served by the traditional approach. But that gap is narrowing: Recent advances in clear aligner technology have considerably increased their treatability range.
With that said, clear aligners can be an ideal choice for adults who have a treatable bite problem and who want to avoid the appearance created by braces. And though they tend to be a little more expensive than braces, many busy adults find the benefits of clear aligners to be worth it.
The best way to find out if clear aligners could be a viable option for you is to visit us for an exam and consultation. Like film star Kathy Bates, you may find that this way of straightening your smile is right for you.
If you would like more information about tooth straightening, please contact us or schedule a consultation.
If you’re the kind of person who can’t do without a smart phone, you’ve probably heard the expression “There’s an app for that!” These nifty little programs let you get directions, check the weather, watch stock prices… even optimize your sleep patterns and make high-pitched dog whistles. And shortly, you’ll be able to check how well you’ve been brushing your teeth.
News reports have mentioned a soon-to-be-available toothbrush that will interface with an app on your smart phone. The brush has sensors that record how much time you spend brushing, whether you reach all parts of your mouth, and whether you brush correctly (with up and down motions, not just side to side). It charts your oral hygiene habits, scores your brushing technique — and, if you allow it, shares information about how well (or poorly) you’re doing with your family, friends… even your dentist.
So do you need to run out and buy one of these gizmos as soon as they’re available? Of course not! However, anything that encourages you to take better care of your oral hygiene can’t hurt. A wise dentist once said: The important thing is not the brush, but the hand that holds it.
If you’re a “gadget person,” you may be intrigued by the device’s high-tech design, and the fact that it interfaces with your phone. Plus, maybe the idea of compiling (and sharing) your brushing record has a certain appeal. On the other hand, you might prefer a sleek, light electric brush that doesn’t keep track of your movements. Or maybe the simplest brush of all — a manual one, with soft bristles and a comfortable handle — works best for you.
The most important thing is that you regularly practice good oral hygiene: Brush twice a day, for two minutes each time, and floss once a day. Use whichever brush is best for you, and be sure to change it every three months, or when the bristles get stiff. Stay away from sugary snacks between meals (they contribute to decay by keeping your teeth bathed in acidic byproducts). Don’t use tobacco in any form, or chew on things that don’t belong in your mouth. And remember to come in for regular exams and professional cleanings. If an app helps you do these things — we're all for it.
If you would like to learn more about maintaining good oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Top 10 Oral Health Tips For Children.”
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