There are five major reasons that people do not get the necessary dental care they need; six if you count the recent pandemic. The other five are money, time, lack of concern, fear and trust. Let’s take a quick look at each one and see if any of them fit you, and what dentists often try to do to overcome these obstacles for patients.
Although you may think that money would be the number one reason people avoid ideal dental treatment, it is not. Even in tougher economic times, money, although a significant barrier for many, is still not the number one issue for most. Dental health, and good health in general, always requires some kind of investment.
Lack of dental insurance is a poor excuse for not getting regular dental maintenance. As I have said numerous times, dental insurance is not insurance; it is a benefit. If it were “insurance”, it would cover treatment that patients need. While not bad to have, the advantage is limited, based on insurance company’s unwillingness to raise the bar and change a system that hasn’t changed since the 1970’s.
Unfortunately, as of now, we have to face these facts, and it does not mean avoiding the dentist. Many dentists offer in-office payment plans, as well as plans through third party carriers, so patients can finance needed treatment. Two dental hygiene appointments a year costs way less than many other things people spend money on. If you drive your car for 20,000 miles without maintenance, something is bound to happen. The better you take care of your car, the less problems you’ll have.
Time is another excuse. We all use time as an excuse for many of the things in our lives we want to avoid or procrastinate on. The reality is, however, if we place something high enough in our value system, there is always time for it. In order to move something higher up in our value system, we must be enlightened enough to realize that this particular thing is of benefit to us. This brings me to the most common reason people avoid ideal dental care.
Lack of concern about dental health is prevalent with a large percentage of the population. Absence of pain is the biggest reason for this lack of concern. Other than a severe toothache and need for a root canal or extraction, there are few things that cause enough pain to bring someone to the dental office. Take gum disease; about 75% of the population has some form of this disease, but only 50% of the population goes to the dentist. Why? No pain. Absence of pain is a poor indicator of health.
Some people have fear about going to the dentist….and for good reason, due to bad past experiences or bad information. However, dentistry today should be a comfortable experience most of the time. For those that are still fearful, there are different medications dentists can use to ease the experience.
The last barrier to ideal treatment is trust. For a patient to move forward with treatment, it is essential the patient both likes and trusts the dentist. Although I am sure that the skills of your dentist are important to you, I am willing to bet that you would not stay with a dentist who you did not like or trust. Find someone you can connect with and build a strong doctor-patient relationship.
I believe that one of the best things a patient can do for their dental health is to find an office they like and trust……and stay there. Continuity of care is in the patient’s best interest. Find your dental home.
Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. He has a special interest in treating sleep apnea and TMJ problems. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at firstname.lastname@example.org