Making an "investment" in your teeth with good dental hygiene

Good Dental Hygiene is $$ in Your Pocket

by Cynthia Bower


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As Americans dig deep into their lifestyles, finding more and more ways to cut expenses, they often overlook the simple habit of brushing and flossing daily. Good dental hygiene and regular dental check-ups are an "investment" not an expense. Here are some important facts about teeth and dental diseases:

  1. Bacterial plaque is the cause of both dental decay and gum disease. It forms on teeth every day.

  2. Only conscientious, daily brushing and flossing will remove dental plaque and reduce dental decay and gum disease.

  3. A small cavity on a tooth is cheaper to restore than a large cavity! Catching a cavity when smallest is best accomplished with a dental exam, which includes bite wing x-rays.

  4. Once decay has broken through tooth enamel, the tooth must have the decay removed and a silver or white restoration placed. If this is not done in a timely manner, the cavity will grow more quickly and could reach the nerve of the tooth, causing an abscess and the need for a root canal or tooth removal. A root canal costs approximately 10 times more than a filling.

  5. A tooth that has had a root canal will become brittle and needs to be crowned to avoid breakage. A crown can cost approximately 10 times more than a filling.

  6. A missing tooth should be replaced with a bridge, partial denture or implant. Missing teeth allow other teeth to begin moving around, which can be a cause for difficulty in cleaning the teeth and contribute to gum disease. Bridges cost 3 times that of a crown and implants can double the cost of a bridge. Keep the tooth by preventing disease!

  7. Gum disease starts in the skin part of the tissue and spreads to the bone. Some teeth with gum disease can be saved with gum surgery or very frequent cleanings. Other teeth with gum disease have to be removed.

  8. The myth that only people with insurance can afford to get check-ups should be revisited. A check-up and cleaning can save families thousands upon thousands of dollars.

  9. The myth that flossing isn't necessary because insurance pays for most of the dental work anyway falsely gives patients the idea that it is ok to allow decay to begin in the mouth. Once a tooth is weakened by decay, it is more likely to break. An average restoration in a tooth will have to be replaced several times during a patient's lifetime due to normal wear and breakdown. Often the tooth will someday need a crown. Brushing and flossing teeth daily prevents decay between teeth, avoiding a filling in the first place.

  10. Acidic drinks dissolve tooth enamel, allowing bacteria to cause decay at a very high rate! Soda pop, sports drinks, and juice are very acidic. Sipping a drink stretches the time of an "acid bath" in the mouth. For bonus savings, don't buy these drinks and pocket the savings.

  11. Sweet drinks and high carbohydrate snacks cause an acid to form in the mouth, causing decay. Spend money on healthy food for the mouth and body.

  12. Fluoride rinses strengthen teeth. Xylitol gum and mints reduce bacteria in the mouth. Dentists can prescribe toothpaste and a rinse that can help remineralize teeth and strengthen gums.

  13. Continuing research is proving that brushing and flossing reduce cardiovascular disease, lengthen life, and can even delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. The mouth is part of the body, so we have every reason to keep it healthy too!

The bottom line with good dental hygiene is that each family should carefully monitor the care of their teeth. Dental floss, toothbrushes and toothpaste for a whole family can be purchased at a dollar store for less than $10. Those supplies will last for several months. Cleaning the mouth should be as much of a routine as bathing, showering and shaving. Children need assistance brushing and flossing until around the age of 8, and still should be checked by parents through adolescence.

Dental check-ups should be budgeted into yearly expenses in order to save the thousands of dollars that neglect can cause. If a family has insurance, their check-ups are most likely free to them. Even families who only pay 20% of their dental work should look at the math. 20% of zero (no cavities) is zero. Isn't that better than 20% of $100 (maybe one cavity) or 20% of $1000 (a crown) dollars? Actually most companies only pay 50% of crowns. I have better places to spend my 20% so I brush and floss daily, don't drink soda and haven't had a cavity in 35 years. It's not just heredity. Instead, it's my choice!

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