Since I have the luxury of dealing with many people as a dentist I have found that most of us parents all have the same issues when it comes to dealing with our teen age kids. For some reason they don’t always think that our past life experiences have any bearing on their current situations. It’s not that they don’t want to accept our advice; they don’t want to hear it. Oh, the joys of being a parent.
I have seen a lot in my almost thirty years of providing dental care to the Westside of Los Angeles. It is safe to say I have seen some trends over the years, some of them good and some of them not so good. But, it still came as a surprise to me when a recent study by Oral Health America found that more than one third of Americans who regularly go to the dentist have cut back this year. That’s right 35% of Americans have postponed their visits to the dentist’s office.
So, the first part of my public service announcement is that you should not postpone seeing your dentist. There are several reasons for this. First, I feel very strongly that preventive dentistry is the most cost efficient way of taking care of your dental health in addition to it helping to insure your overall health as well (due to all the strong links between dental disease and other body issues like heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s to name a few). And secondly, dental problems usually do not get better on their own. It is always better to tackle dental disease in its earliest state to minimize all the time, discomfort and costs associated with correcting the issue. If left untreated, the costs really never go down. I actually have heard of a dentist that tells his patients that if they don’t want to do the crown now, he will be happy to do the root canal and crown in the future.
Here is the second part of my public service announcement. The vast majority of dental insurances have a calendar year for their benefit program. That means if you have benefits and don’t use them before the end of the year they are lost, they do not carry over. The insurance companies actually prefer that this happen. They keep the premiums that you paid for (either directly or through less salary to accommodate for the benefits) and profit by not paying out what they are contracted to do. This is what is called the ‘Use it or Lose It’ aspect of dental insurance.
Now, it would be great if you went to the dentist regularly and did not need to use all of your benefits…this would be the best scenario in the world for you. That is what I sincerely hope is your story. But, once again, drawing on my 30 years of experience this is not always the case.
So if you are overdue, have uncompleted dental treatment, give the dentist a call. And if you have friends, family members or co-workers don’t let them waste their benefits either. It’s for everyone’s health. If they already have a dentist, tell them to make an appointment with them. If they don’t, feel free to refer them to your dentist, I am sure they are taking new patients all the time. And don’t wait until December 15th to make that call, call today so you can help insure you get all your needs handled within the calendar year of benefits.
I can imagine that at this time you might be thinking that this public service announcement is self serving, after all, I am a dentist. And to a degree you are correct, the dental field does generate it’s income from all aspects of dentistry ranging from preventative to the complex restorative cases. But ultimately, IT IS YOU THAT BENEFITS from your regular visits to the dentist. You can keep your health up, your smile sparkling and your long term costs down with regular maintenance at the dental office.
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Photos by: Ken Rusk