How to Save the Most Money at the Dentist

I promised a follow up in my last blog about the best way to get affordable dental care and here it is!  It’s going to seem counterintuitive and you may not like it, but this is it!  The best way to avoid expensive dental care is to go to the dentist.  

    Let me explain.  Think of a new car.  As long as you get your oil changed and your brakes and tires fixed at the right intervals, then unless you have a lemon, all is good!  Your mouth is the same way.  Everyone starts with a clean slate.  Most people are born with a perfect set of teeth.  It’s what we do to those teeth that causes problems.  However, if you go to the dentist for regular check ups, two things happen.  

    The first is that we clean your teeth thoroughly which you can’t do at home without training.  This is important, but not as important as the second.  The most important thing we do is x-rays and an exam.  This is your money saver.  And here is why.  

    If you go to the dentist regularly and start to get a cavity, when a cavity is small, a filling can be done.  A filling costs between $250 and $500 depending on where you live.  While this is significant, it is nothing compared to what will be needed if you don’t catch the cavity fast.  

    Take that same tooth and wait a year or more and now that cavity can no longer be filled with a filling.  The cavity is too big and filling material is only made to support a certain amount of pressure on it.  Therefore, once you are missing more than 50% of tooth structure, you need a crown so that the tooth can still be used without breaking more.  A crown will cost around $1000-$2000 or more depending on where you live.  So, now your price has at least doubled.  

    Take that same tooth and wait another 6 months to a year.  The cavity will continue to grow and once it reaches the nerve there are only two options.  Option 1 is to save the tooth and do a root canal.  The root canal alone will cost anywhere from $1200-$2500 depending on where you live and then you still have to restore the tooth.  This requires a post and build up as well as a crown.  Now you are looking at a minimum of $2600 to over $5000 depending on where you live.  Again your cost has doubled.  Option 2 is to pull the tooth.  Which leads us to our next scenario for the same tooth.  

    If you wait longer on the same tooth, it will no longer be restorable.  Now you have to pull it.  This is usually your cheapest option which leads people to think, “why go to the dentist?”  But, pulling a tooth is by far your most expensive endeavor.  Yes, the actual extraction will probably only cost between $150-$500 depending on where you live.  However, you are getting rid of a vital piece of your body.  It begins a domino process of problems in your mouth and body.  

    Once a tooth is pulled, your body is genetically programmed to try to replace that space in your mouth.  The tooth’s purpose was to help you digest your food, so your body is trying to help you achieve that in the only way it can.  The tooth next to the space will start to lay over into the space, and the tooth opposite it will try and grow into the space.  This was a great solution back when we were cave people and didn’t have a long life expectancy because it is a good short term solution from the body.  Over time, however, this domino effect of the teeth will make you lose more teeth, as well as jawbone.  As you lose more and more teeth, you cannot digest your food properly which leads to a myriad of digestive problems as well as overall health problems because your body is unable to absorb the nutrients it needs.  Again this leads us to a different blog which I will cover next time.  So, I will finish today’s with this.  Losing a tooth leads to a domino effect that at a minimum will be the cost of an implant, and at a maximum will cost you the decline of your health over time.  

    So, don’t put off your trip to the dentist, or your dental work that’s needed.  It will only end up costing more money and pain the longer you wait.  Believe it or not, this is actually another dental secret I’m letting you in on!  Dentists don’t make any money on our “good” patients.  We love to see you, and you become like family.  My favorite patients are the ones I can count on like clockwork.  I love to catch up with them and keep up to date on their families and travel.  But, the patients that don’t come in for 5-10 years is what keeps dentists in business.  So, if you’re looking to help out your local dentist, don’t come in for years.  But, if you’re looking to get the most inexpensive dental treatment, become a regular. 

Dr. Ariana Clayton
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