In the last couple of columns I discussed the state of dental insurance in 2022. If you missed them you can read them at www.thetowncommon.com or my blog. The basic gist was that the dental insurance industry has not changed significantly in 40 years.
It’s great if you get dental insurance from your employer for regular dental hygiene visits and have relatively small amounts of dental work to do. However, there are only a few reasons to purchase dental insurance on your own, even if you need a significant amount of dentistry. In this column, I will discuss the best strategies to get the dental care you need.
One thing is certain; most dental problems do not go away, and almost always get worse over time. Although pain is a good indicator that there is a problem, pain is also not a good indicator that there is not a problem. Many, if not most, dental problems do not cause pain. Cavities, gum disease, wear or erosion of the teeth, often do not cause pain until there is a significant problem, which then requires extensive and expensive treatment to solve. Therefore, the first and most important strategy is regular dental visits.
All too often I see people who have not been seeing a dentist on a regular basis and then have a problem that brings them to the dental office. The most reported reasons for having not been to a dentist are lack of insurance or lack of concern because “everything has felt fine up until now”.
As in most things in life, we have to make choices about what to do with our time and our money. Dentistry is no different. It is a mindset and a budgeting issue. If you value your health and overall self-care, regular maintenance visits to your dentist are the best thing you can do for yourself. If you have any type of dental insurance, at least you have some coverage for this. If you do not have dental insurance, budgeting the average $30 per month it costs over a year to have your teeth cleaned, x-rayed and examined is a smart move, and doable for most.
After you have made the decision to budget for maintenance, regardless of how much other dentistry you need, or think you need, the second key is to be in a dental office that you are comfortable with. It is vital for there to be a mutual level of trust and respect. It is imperative for the dental office to understand you, the patient; where you are in your life, and how to get the most important thing out of your decision to seek care – to keep your teeth healthy for your lifetime.
There is no disputing that dentistry costs money, regardless of whether you have any coverage or not. Dental insurance is not intended to cover 100% of dental needs. There are so many options out there for people who require more extensive care. However, the key is – what is suitable for you? Patients need to be guided into care and not sold a commodity. There are many reasons that individuals choose a specific provider, but the most important factor is if you feel good about where you are.
When you go to buy a house, does the real estate agent show everyone the same house? No. They show them what fits into their life at that particular time. Dentistry should be approached the same way. It may not be the right time in your life to have the four bedroom house and the three car garage. But, having a good solid roof over your head that is comfortable is important to everyone. This is regular dental maintenance. You can always upgrade.
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 snoring, 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