I can’t afford coming to the dentist

I probably see at least one person a week that tells me they stopped going to the dentist for a period of time because they lost their insurance. Or that they haven’t seen the dentist in years because their job doesn’t provide dental insurance. This is always frustrating for me, because I know that these patients could actually be saving money if they had continued to come for preventative visits and could have better health and less dental problems too.

Assuming you’re new to an office, preventative care in your first year will probably cost around $500 if you had to pay for it all out of pocket. In the following year it would most likely drop to around $350. If you’re already an established patient in an office, that means that you can continue to see your dentist for routine preventative visits for just $350 a year. To put that in perspective, the average American spends about $600/year on basic cable (that figure doesn’t include internet or premium channels).

Even if you have one or two cavities a year in addition to your routine hygiene visits, if a person were to budget $500 a year for their dental care, they would be pretty well taken care of.

Now, for those patients who return to their regular routine care within 12-18 months, if they have good homecare, they will probably get back on track pretty quickly without much additional expense. But for those who go 2 years or more without preventative care, they generally return to the dentist with gum disease and other dental problems. The average patient I see who has neglected their care for 2 or more years ends up needing a MINIMUM of $1000 in treatment. If you have a typical dental plan, you will likely pay about half of that out of pocket.

The other scenario I see a lot is people who believe that coming routinely is more expensive than coming just when something hurts.

And boy are they wrong. We already know that the cost of preventative care is pretty affordable. Now let’s go over the cost of a toothache. Aside from the fact that you are allowing disease to progress in your body, you are also setting yourself up for a costly visit to your dentist. If you have an infected tooth requiring a root canal, this can cost anywhere from $700 – $2500! When faced with this problem, many people elect to extract the tooth instead. Unfortunately replacing that lost tooth costs even more; anywhere from $900-$4000 per tooth! This especially becomes a problem when a person elects to have one tooth pulled after another. Over the years, they end up with very limited chewing ability and end up with some pretty costly options.

If you’re reading this thinking about how many years it’s been since you’ve seen a dentist, I’ll tell you what I tell all my patients who have lapsed in their care: We can’t go back in time, so let’s just figure out what’s going on and we’ll find a way to make it fit into your schedule and your budget. If you’d like more information on making dental treatment affordable, call and talk to our financial coordinator, Heinz. He’ll go over your options with you. We believe that everyone should be able to afford a healthy smile.

Oral cancer detection

Anyone who has had an examination in our office can tell you that we do a really thorough oral cancer examination. But are you really at risk if you’re not a tobacco user? What if you quit smoking years ago? What if you’re really young? The reality is that 1 in 4 people with oral cancer have no history of tobacco use.

As far as age is concerned, non-smokers under the age of 50 are the fastest growing segment of the oral cancer population, according The Oral Cancer Foundation. The reason for this is attributed to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). That’s right, the same sexually transmitted virus that young girls are currently being vaccinated against for causing cervical cancer can also cause oral cancer. There are many (120+) varieties of HPV that have been identified. 1 is linked with oral cancer. A few others can also cause benign oral lesions, although the virus will still be transmitted through these benign lesions, so they do need to be identified and removed.

Unfortunately, by the time many oral cancers are detected, they are quite advanced and have a poor survival rate. Early detection and treatment is the key a good prognosis.

So how often should an oral cancer screening be done, and what’s involved? Everybody should be screened at least once a year. For our denture wearing patients who do not require 6 month hygiene visits, we schedule them annually to do this screening. For the rest of our patients we actually do a screening twice a year.

When performing an oral cancer screening we first check outside of your mouth. We feel for enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, abnormalities in the thyroid, discolorations or growths on the lips as well as a general overview of the skin on the head and neck. When looking inside of the mouth all tissues are inspected thoroughly including the tonsil area of the throat. We look for any changes in color or texture as well as any areas of swelling.

Once a year our office also provides a tissue fluorescence screening with the Velscope screening device. We believe so strongly in doing the most thorough oral cancer screening possible that we provide this service at no additional cost although many offices charge an additional $60-$75 fee for this type of examination. For more information on the Velscope visit www.velscope.com.

What happens if we find an abnormality during your examination? Usually a biopsy will be necessary with an oral surgeon to determine exactly what it is. If a lymph node is felt, we’ll usually refer you to your physician for evaluation – especially if we don’t see anything out of place inside your mouth.

Occasionally traumatic lesions are found during examinations. Maybe you burned your palate with a hot slice of pizza or bit your tongue. If we suspect trauma, we bring you back for a 2 week follow up: plenty of time to heal. If it is still present, then we refer to a specialist for a biopsy. Limiting your exposure to tobacco, alcohol and risky sexual behaviors can lower your risk of oral cancer significantly. But everyone still needs to have a proper oral cancer screening at least once a year. For more information about oral cancer visit www.oralcancerfoundation.org.

Dental problems in mid to later life

I will often see adult patients for an exam and have to tell them that several teeth require treatment. Many times it is a healthy adult with good hygiene and a healthy diet who comes to the dentist twice a year. So why are there cavities? Why am I recommending replacement fillings? And why now, when they’ve had no problems for years? There are a few things I see quite often that lead to this. But these are the top two.

1. Most Americans in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s begin taking medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a myriad of other conditions. Although necessary, many of these medications have several side effects, including dry mouth. With less salivary flow, your body’s natural defense against tooth decay is lowered. When you have a dry mouth, food and plaque sticks to the teeth easily. It also becomes more difficult to clean your teeth. If you combine this with receding gums which happens commonly around the same time in life, the problem can be even worse. If your gums have receded, there are larger spaces between the teeth that catch food, and there is exposure of root surfaces. Root surfaces are not as hard as tooth enamel and far more likely to have decay. If you experience dry mouth there are several things you can do. For one, you can ask your physician about an alternative medication which may not decrease your saliva as much. Make sure that you are drinking an adequate amount of water each day. There are also moisturizing mouthrinses like Biotene and Oasis that help keep the plaque from sticking. If you have exposed root surfaces, utilizing toothpastes and rinses with increased Fluoride to help harden these areas and make them more resistant to decay. A few products I like for this are Arm and Hammer Age Defying Toothpaste, Sensodyne ProNamel toothpaste, and ACT anticavity mouthrinse.

2. I often find myself explaining that nothing man made lasts forever. Amalgam “silver” fillings have been a great product for many years and really have held up through the test of time. That being said, I spend a good amount of time replacing silver fillings each day. I have nothing against silver fillings, I think it’s a great material. But I see a lot of adults in need of new restorations. Often these silver fillings were placed in teenage years all around the same time. So they all start to fail within a few years of each other. After years of service even the best filling will start to break down. When the edges of the filling no longer create a seal against the tooth structure, there is room for bacteria to seep in under the filling and begin the process of decay. Taking good care of your teeth will help your dental work last as long as possible. Daily flossing and brushing and regular professional cleanings help you get the longest lifetime from these restorations.

Welcome Everyone!

Hi everybody and welcome to my blog! I thought I would take the opportunity in this first post to introduce myself and let you know what you can expect from this site. I’m a general dentist getting ready to start my own practice in Holly Springs, NC. I started my dental career when I was 16 years old and took an internship position with an orthodontist in my hometown. That internship turned out to be a true turning point for me. What started as a one semester gig for minimum wage my junior year of high school, turned into the professional career I enjoy today. I worked at that office through college and even a few weeks here and there during dental school. It was a great place to work and that wonderful team of women is still my inspiration for what I want in my own office.

After graduating from the University of Detroit Mercy in 2005, I left all the cold weather of Michigan behind me (as well as my friends and family) and headed to Raleigh. For the last four years I’ve enjoyed living in North Carolina and serving the Raleigh community. I wasn’t aware before I moved here that there was such a growing Hispanic population here. I’ve really been able to improve my Spanish since moving here. My husband Ryan and I have lived in Holly Springs for the last three years, and we just love it. I’m really looking forward to being able to work so close to home and become more active in the community.

Becoming a part of the community is the main reason I wanted to start this blog. I’ve found that there are so many people out there that have been going to dentists regularly their whole lives and have never been given nutritional information or even shown the proper way to brush or floss! Although the website has some good basic information on it, I wanted to utilize the blog to discuss topics in depth. Just to give you an idea of what’s to come, here are some ideas I had for blog topics:
“Pregnancy and your teeth”
“No matter what I do I still get cavities. Why is this?”
“A few more reasons to quit smoking”
“What should I be doing for my children’s oral health?”

In addition, I’ll be letting you all know any pertinent news about the office or what’s going on in the profession of dentistry that can affect consumers. Always feel free to e-mail or call with any questions. I look forward to sharing some great topics with you and getting to know you all in person as you come to the office.