No dental insurance? Don’t wait for something to go wrong | The well-being


The national health insurance debate has largely ignored dental coverage. But many of the health care industry’s problems – lack of access, high costs, and poor health outcomes – also affect dental coverage.

With far fewer Americans having dental than medical insurance, and poor dental health linked to adverse and potentially life-threatening consequences, those who forgo dental treatment could end up with huge bills.

About 40 percent of Americans did not have dental insurance at the end of 2012, according to the National Association of Dental Plans. That’s compared to 12.9% without health insurance, according to the latest figures from Gallup. Those who are not covered are much less likely to see a dentist, both for regular preventive check-ups and for treatment of acute pain and other problems.

Many Americans don’t see the dentist unless something is wrong, and 56% of those without dental insurance skip preventative treatment altogether. Their reasons for delaying or abandoning care: high costs and lack of price transparency, according to the 2013 U.S. Dental Affordability and Accessibility Survey. But like forgoing health care, neglecting oral health could be an expensive exercise in denial.

You could be the most dedicated brush and flosser and still have dental problems if you go years without seeing a professional. These problems can build up over time and leave you with a costly dental emergency in the long run, experts say.

“I have seen patients with excellent home dental care develop severe gum disease because their tartar has built up over years, causing gingivitis and gum disease,” says Dr. Marshall Young, dentist. in Newport Beach, California. “Plus, patients who don’t show up for regular checkups and cleanings can have decayed teeth that were both small, fixable problems. “

the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention estimate that more than 27 percent of American adults between the ages of 20 and 44 have untreated cavities. Minor cavities can turn into major problems, and what would have required a filling may eventually require root canal treatment or extraction. Young says regular checkups can reveal small problems before they increase in size and cost.

Dr. Don C. Atkins, a dentist in Long Beach, Calif., Also sees patients with serious illnesses that could have been prevented with regular check-ups.

“When a patient comes in to report pain, since they just noticed it, they think it’s early and probably not serious,” says Atkins. “But when a dentist hears a patient complaining about feeling something, we already start to wonder if it is a root canal or an extraction problem. “

According to OkCopay data, the median cost of a filling is about $ 170 for a front tooth or $ 183 for a molar. Cavities identified early can be easily repaired with a filling. When decay is not detected, it is less likely that one filling will suffice.

the median cost of root canal treatment is much steeper: between $ 700 and $ 900. Likewise, a deep cleaning required in periodontal disease, where tartar builds up below the gum line, can cost several times more than regular dental cleaning and incur costs of local anesthesia and antibiotics. .

In addition to the financial costs, there is the pain and often the discomfort that comes with dental problems. Few pain is as brutal as a toothache, and few blemishes make you more embarrassed than missing teeth.

Links between poor dental care and adverse health effects

However, not taking care of your teeth has more of an impact than your oral health. Studies have linked poor dental care to a variety of health problems and even death.

“There are clear links between gum disease and other systemic issues, such as heart disease, diabetes and respiratory disease, to name a few,” Young said, adding that a dental exam can also identify digestive and bone health problems.

In addition, oral cancer, including cancers of the tongue, tonsils and gums, is often first identified in the dentist’s chair.

“The American Cancer Society estimates that 39,500 people in the United States will have cancer of the mouth or oropharynx in 2015, and approximately 7,500 will die from these cancers,” Atkins said. “Early detection and treatment are essential for survival. “

Preventive care can be expensive, but it costs much less than treatment after a problem.

Nationally, the median cost of a dental exam – including basic cleaning, x-rays, and a dental exam – is $ 261, according to OkCopay. But you could pay a lot less, or more, depending on where you live. Dentists who charge in the 10th percentile in Salt Lake City, for example, offer exams for around $ 68, while those who charge near the 90th percentile in the most expensive metropolitan area, New York, charge around $ 500.

By providing this data, OkCopay has eliminated clinics offering free exams, a practice increasingly popular as dentists attempt to capture clients who pay in cash and otherwise avoid preventive care.

Solutions for the uninsured

A growing number of dental offices are offering exams at reduced or no cost to uninsured clients who pay in cash. The rationale for reduced preventive services is that new clients will compensate for the discounts by paying for additional treatments. However, uninsured people can take the opportunity to check their dental health.

Once the initial examination has been performed and other treatments are recommended, patients can purchase the best value for money and discuss payment plans, cash rebates, and packages with dentists.

AT save more on dental visits, consider going to an accredited dental school, where students practice under the watchful eye of professionals; use a health savings account to pay with pre-tax dollars; and don’t be afraid to head to the next town, as fares can vary widely from location to location.


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