Would you rather spend a small amount of money today to fix a small problem, or wait and spend a larger amount of money later to fix a bigger one? When it comes to taking care of their teeth and gums, many people put off getting care until small issues, such as cavities and gingivitis, spiral into larger concerns that they just can't ignore. Affordable dental care often seems out of the reach of many people.
The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry (UICCD) reports that there are three times as many people without dental insurance in the U.S. than there are people without medical insurance. One result of that is a high rate of emergency room visits for dental pain. The American Dental Association calculates that every year, 2 million people in the U.S. visit the ER because of a dental issue.
The good news is that preventive measures can reduce your dental costs in the long run and can help you protect your teeth and mouth for years to come. UICCD notes that every dollar you spend on protecting your smile and on preventive dental care can save you up to $50 that would otherwise be spent on emergency treatments or dental restorations.
What can you do to keep your dental care costs down? Here are a few affordable dental care tips.
Watch Your Diet
What you eat and drink can have a real impact on the health of your teeth and gums. Some foods are better than others for your smile. For example, cheese and dairy products that contain calcium can help strengthen the enamel on your teeth, reducing your risk for tooth decay and enamel erosion. Crunchy vegetables and fruits, such as carrots and apples, can help to scrub your teeth, removing stuck-on bits of food.
Some treats are just bad news for your teeth and should be avoided or consumed in moderation. For example, sugary drinks, sticky candies and starchy snacks can all increase your risk of tooth decay.
Take Care of Your Teeth and Gums at Home
Adjusting your diet is just one way to improve the health of your teeth and gums. You also want to make sure you're taking the steps needed each day to keep your teeth clean. Brushing your teeth twice a day can help to remove plaque, food bits and bacteria from the surface of the teeth.
When you're brushing, don't forget to floss. Flossing helps remove any bits of food wedged between the gums and that aren't easily removed by brushing. You can also use a mouthwash with fluoride to freshen your breath and strengthen teeth against cavities and decay.
See Your Dentist Regularly
While taking care of your teeth at home may help reduce your risk of cavities and gum disease, a twice-daily brushing and flossing routine shouldn't replace a twice-yearly visit to the dentist. Your dentist can check your teeth and gums for cavities or early signs of gum disease, take X-rays and make recommendations for additional care and treatment.
If the cost of a dental visit seems high, there are usually affordable options. For example, some dental schools offer routine exams and checkups to patients at a reduced price, because dental students perform the exams (under supervision). Affordable dental insurance plans are also available, which often cover the cost of preventive care.
The good news is that the majority of people in the U.S. do see a dentist regularly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that more than 64 percent of adults aged 18 to 64 had seen a dentist in the past year in 2015. For dental care that doesn't break the bank, make regular checkups with your dentist a part of your routine.