No matter whether you have the best dental insurance plan in the world, or no coverage at all – dental care is expensive. But you can save a lot of money simply by following the tips below.
1: Go to The Dentist
It may seem strange, but seeing your dentist regularly will actually reduce the cost of your dental care over the long run. Why? Because with regular cleanings and checkups your dentist can find and fix small issues before they become big, expensive problems. For example, getting a filling for a small cavity costs about $100. But if you don’t get that filling, bacteria will be able to enter the inner structure of the tooth and infect the tooth, gums, and surrounding bones. Left untreated, that small cavity can cost you more than a thousand dollars to repair as you’ll likely need a root canal and a dental crown to clear the infection and help you retain your tooth. Keep ignoring it, and you’ll be facing a bill of many thousands of dollars to get a bridge or dentures. All of that could be avoided by investing a couple of hundred dollars a year – and often much less – in regular checkups and cleanings.
2: Brush Your Teeth Correctly
Don’t use a side-to-side motion when brushing as this can weaken the enamel on your teeth. Instead, brush in small circles and try to keep your toothbrush’s bristles at a 45-degree angle to the surface of the teeth. Work your way slowly around your mouth, thoroughly but gently brushing just a few teeth at a time. Do brush close to your gums – that’s where food debris and plaque tends to hide – but be especially gentle in this area as it can easily be irritated.
It’s also worth checking out electronic toothbrushes, which can remove debris and plaque with water or ultrasound – with no danger of overbrushing. Whatever type of toothbrush you use, the whole process of brushing should take about three minutes – time yourself to make sure you’re spending the time necessary to do a really good job.
3: You Really Do Need to Floss
Some people just can’t stand flossing. Rather than trying to convince your dentist or dental hygienist that you floss regularly (they’ll know if you do or don’t), talk to them about other options. You may be able to use a different device or a different type of floss to remove debris and plaque, or you may just need to learn a different technique.
4: Don’t Use Your Teeth as Tools
Teeth have one job – chewing food. Don’t use them to gnaw on your fingernails, your pen/pencil, ice cubes, etc. And if you grind your teeth, it’s important to break that habit as soon as possible. Tooth grinding – the official medical term is bruxism – can seriously damage your teeth and also leave you with sore jaws, headaches, and a swollen face. If tooth grinding is an ongoing issue for you talk to your dentist before the damage becomes severe. You may be prescribed a device called “a night bite plate” or a “bite splint,” to keep your jaw more relaxed while you’re sleeping.
5: Stay Hydrated
A dry mouth is a mouth that’s in danger of dental problems. Salvia is the mouth’s major defense against tooth decay, helping to wash away food debris and control the bacteria that lives in your mouth. If your mouth is dry you may experience tooth decay, gum disease, oral sores and pain, and bad breath.
Just increasing the amount of water that you drink can alleviate dry mouth. So can chewing on sugar free gum or using an oral rinse designed to keep your mouth moist. For severe cases of dry mouth, your dentist may prescribe medication to increase saliva production.
Avoid Acidic Foods and Drinks
The enamel on your teeth is an amazingly strong substance, but it can be softened by acidic beverages, such as soda, citrus juices, energy and sports drinks and wine. You should also limit acidic foods such as citrus fruits, sour candies, and vinegary pickles. Rinsing your mouth with water after drinking acidy liquids or foods limits the damage. Definitely do not brush your teeth for an hour or so after drinking or eating acidic foods so that your softened enamel can toughen up again.
Skip Sticky, Sweet Snacks
Sugar – whether naturally occurring or added to foods – fuel the bacteria that lives in your mouth. These bacteria convert the carbohydrates from sugar into acids that eat away at your tooth enamel, typically resulting in tooth decay and gum disease. If you do opt to have a sweet treat, choose something that isn’t sticky or chewy. Seemingly healthy foods like dried fruit cling to your teeth, causing more damage that a candy bar.
Have A Plan
Follow the tips above, and you’re likely to need only preventive dental care to keep your smile strong and healthy. But if you do experience a dental disaster, such as a knocked out or badly chipped tooth, you can reduce the cost of restorative care with a dental savings plan. These plans are an affordable option to standard dental insurance. Plan members get 10%-60% off their dental care at a nationwide network of participating dentists. And unlike dental insurance, there is no limit on how often or when you can use a dental savings plan so that you can make decisions based on your dental care needs, not your budget.