Delaying routine dental checkups can cost you

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Preventative medicine, on average, is far less expensive and has better outcomes for patients over treating a disease that could have been avoided. This same principle is true for your oral health. So why don’t more people see the dentist, as it is recommended by the American Dental Association, at least once a year?

The ADA cited the top reasons American adults forgo preventative dental care, like cleanings and yearly checkups, is because of the costs and a low perceived need.

In a recent study conducted by the ADA, the percentages of American adults utilizing dental care has declined and, in 2012, only 35.4 percent of U.S. adults saw a dentist. Other stats showed that 40 percent of adults say they will forgo dental care due to cost, 32 percent because they do not need dental care, and 14 percent say they don’t have the time.

All of these reasons, although relatively valid, do carry some false presumptions and heavy consequences.

Poor oral health can lead to much more extensive and irreversible problems then you might realize. The risks of skipping routine dental care can result in losing teeth, gum disease, stained teeth and infection — not to mention the high costs and pain of emergency dental treatments.

Poor oral health has been found to worsen or contribute to other poor health outcomes such as heart disease, endocarditis, stroke, inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, worsening lung conditions and preterm labor.

So to debunk our first presumption, the “I don’t need dental care” people, think again. Think of what prevention means. It means you are trying to avoid something that may happen in the future. Everyone needs preventative care, just like everybody carries a spare tire in their car. It’s not because you know you are going to get a flat that day, but because you might.

For those people who are just too busy and don’t have the time, think about it like this. By taking an hour at least once a year, you can avoid hours in the dental chair fixing a major problem or days in the hospital with something very serious. Which makes more sense?

The same holds true for the cost of visiting a dentist. It is unfortunate in our American insurance system that more health plans do not include basic dental care and services and I understand that the financial costs do add up. However, consider the cost analysis. For people without dental insurance coverage, paying out of pocket, the average costs for the most common dental procedures are as follows (costs are average ranges and depend on many factors): cavity filling — $200 per cavity; tooth removal — $250-800 per tooth; root canal — $900-1,500 per tooth; and dental crown — $1,000-2,000.

Do you know how much a yearly dental cleaning on average costs? No more than $100. That number is significant and should make anybody deciding to avoid their yearly checkups and cleanings, pause and reconsider. So many oral health problems are caught during your routine cleanings and checkups and that’s what makes them so critical and important to saving you time, money and your teeth.

At a typical checkup and dental cleaning, your hygienist and dentist are looking for gum disease/gingivitis, oral cancers, loose teeth, cavities and infection — all which can be caught and treated early to avoid major oral problems later.

Prioritize your dental health and make it a habit to schedule your yearly dental cleanings and checkups around your annuals and wellness checks with your doctor to help you remember when you are due. Don’t delay in this important preventative measure that can keep your whole body healthier.

The ADA recommends that adults see a dentist at least once yearly. It is also recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that children begin seeing the dentist between 6-12 months old to establish care and begin a fluoride regimen. Children should be visiting the dentist every 6 months.

For a list and contact information for local dentists or more information, call Riley Black at 406-283-2447. You can also learn more at www.ada.org.

Riley Black is Lincoln County Public Health nurse.

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