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Stretching your dollars for family dental care

Dr. Gene Sherman, senior vice president at AlwaysCare Benefits (a Starmount Life Insurance Company), joined the dental benefits industry 15 years ago after working more than 17 years in private dental practice.

Save money at the dentist

Families across the country are keeping close watch of every household dollar. Parents may make sacrifices, but they know that dental care is just as important in a down economy as it is in a robust one. Fortunately, you can take several preventive measures to stretch your dollars for oral care, including many choices at home that will save both money and time spent at the dentist’s office.

 

It pays to practice preventive care

 

Consistent attention to preventive care is the most effective way to keep your family dental costs down.

Stay away from sugar. In addition to brushing and flossing daily, everyone should watch their diet. Stay away from sticky foods made with sucrose (table sugar), which continually contributes to the decay of teeth. Chewing gum made with the natural sweetener xylitol, in contrast, may actually help reduce the risk of cavities.

Don't suck on acidic foods. Bad habits can contribute to poor oral health. Sucking on foods high in citric acid for prolonged periods of time can wear away the enamel on your teeth, so stay away from prolonged exposure to these foods. Limit soda consumption as much as possible. While sugar-free soft drinks are a better choice, they still have a high acid content.

Your teeth aren't tools. Avoid subjecting your teeth to any tasks that they weren't designed to do, like tearing open difficult packages or chewing ice, pencils or any other non-food items.

Kick the tobacco habit. Finally, stay away from chewing tobacco and cigarettes—or if you already use them, quit. These products increase the risk of cavities, discolor teeth and are a leading cause of oral cancer.

Mind your Children's Oral Health

Care for baby teeth. Teaching children proper oral health early can help you save money in the long run as well. It is a common misconception that baby teeth do not require preventive care, as these are replaced within a few years. The truth is that neglecting baby teeth can cause premature tooth loss or infections, and can affect the development or alignment of the child's permanent teeth. If baby teeth are in poor shape and fall out early, space maintenance could become an issue as permanent teeth emerge.

Stop the thumb sucking. Thumb sucking past the eruption of the first couple of teeth can lead to serious alignment issues for young children. It can cause teeth to become crooked and create problems that will need correction. Parents who invest in interceptive orthodontics can save money on more extensive orthodontia later.

Flouridate. Children should drink fluoridated water regularly. You can check with your state or municipality to find out if the tap water in your area is fluoridated. If not, you can get a prescription for fluoride tablets from your dentist or pediatrician. Topical fluoride treatments, provided by your dentist, are crucial for a child's cavity prevention.

Regularly visit your Dentist

It is important to note that a dentist appointment should be sought before the first sign of any serious problem. Lack of prevention or putting off corrective visits will only compound dental issues and make them more difficult—and costly—to fix.

If your dentist advises, have sealants put on teeth that may be decay-prone, such as teeth that have weaker enamel or deep pits and crevices. The eventual benefits of sealants will outweigh the expense. In some cases, a one-surface sealant can cost only half or even a quarter as much as a filling. As a rule, the more surgical or restorative interventions (fillings, crowns, etc.) a patient undergoes, the greater the likelihood that these will require additional maintenance later. It is best to address oral care issues early and avoid more costly fixes later.

Pick the right Dental insurance

Saving money at the dentist is much easier when you have the right dental insurance for your family. Make sure to choose an insurance provider with a PPO network, if given the option; the PPO network will help you stretch your treatment dollars. That's because you often see a cost reduction when using a dentist within your insurer's PPO network, because the doctor has usually agreed to lower compensation for procedures. Your maximum allotment can go farther this way, saving you money. Also, try to pick a plan that offers rollover benefits. When you have a year with few or no serious issues or procedures, a portion of your unused benefits will roll over to the next year and can be used if something more pressing (or expensive) comes up.

Good Choices Mean More Savings

 

The right choices for your oral health will save you money and time today on dental care and may pay even greater dividends over time, by lowering your family's overall health costs and improving your family's health and wellbeing.

More ways to save money on dental and health care

 

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