According to the American Dental Association, the main barriers to dental care are not related to the availability of dental care resources. They are financial. That is, the majority of people who are not getting the dental care they need simply cannot afford it. Fortunately, free dental care and low-cost dental care options are often available for those who are unable to cover the costs of the general dentistry work they need.
However, because free dental care services are free, they are often hard to find. They rarely have budgets to advertise. So, you need to know where to look. If you’re putting off the dental care you need because you lack the money to pay for it, here are a few possible alternatives as well as tips about how to find them.
Of course, if you are in need of emergency help, don’t wait. Call your dentist or go to your nearest emergency room immediately.
Free Dental Care: Special Introductory Deals
Sometimes, people skip dental checkups because their teeth feel fine and they need the money for other things. Unfortunately, even when teeth feel great, they still require ongoing professional cleaning and observation. That’s the only sure way to prevent problems from developing.
When they open a new office or practice, dentists’ sometimes offer free dental care such as free or discounted dental exams and dental cleanings. It’s a great way for them to begin building their list of patients. While these types of offers rarely include additional free work, they are a good way to keep your teeth healthy and get to know a local dentist who you may want to see again in the future.
To discover these types of free dental care offers, you can search online for dentists in your area. Also, watch your mailbox for these types of offers, or try calling a new dental office that you notice along your daily commute.
Dental Clinics for Low-Income Families
Many people have access to community dental clinics that serve low-income families in their areas. These types of clinics typically provide services for free or at a reduced rate. While they may not offer free dental care, the payments may be purely voluntary (pay what you can), or the fees may be tied to a sliding fee scale based on your income.
These types of clinics often provide a wide range of health-related services in addition to dental care. Depending on the clinic, they may serve only children, only adults, both children and adults, pregnant women, or low-income adults who are 19 or older and Medicaid eligible.
To find a clinic that will meet your needs, try searching for the phrase “dental clinics for low income families near me” or near your zip code. Be sure to call ahead to learn if they will be able to help you with your specific needs, and, if so, when.
State and Local Resources for Free Dental Care
State and local health departments often know of programs that offer free dental care or care at reduced prices. They will almost certainly be able to help you find a low-income clinic. They may also be able to direct you to financial assistance programs that can help with these types of services.
To learn about the free or low-cost dental resources in your area, search for “oral health resources near me.” You can also call your local, state or regional health department.
Public Schools as Free Dental Care Resources
In many communities, school-aged children receive free dental cleanings and exams. These resources may be limited to only low-income children or only available at a certain time of the year, such as at the beginning of the school year. They may or may not include more in-depth services.
It’s generally easy to find out whether these types of resources are available in your area. Check with your school or keep an eye on your local newspaper or community website announcements area.
Dental Schools and Free Dental Care
Universities with dental schools often make free dental care available to people in their communities. They often provide these opportunities as a way for students to practice the dentistry skills they have learned or as part of a student training exercise or exam.
Highly trained instructors, who are experts in their fields, supervise all the work provided by dental students. This helps ensure the student dentists and dental assistants complete their work to the highest standards. It also means that work takes a bit longer than in a clinic, but free is free after all.
With nearly 70 dental schools in the US – and hardly a state without one – chances are you’re within a day’s drive of free help. Contact your nearest dental school to see whether they have this type of opportunity. Just be prepared to put your name on a waiting list, as these opportunities are typically only available at specific times during the academic year.
Dental Care Accessibility Organizations
In addition to state and local resources and schools, a number of other groups either provide or can help you locate free or low-cost dental care resources in your area. These include the following:
- The United Way
- Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
- Dentistry from the Heart
- Mission of Mercy
- Remote Area Medical (RAM) Clinics
Check out their websites to learn more about their missions and the ways they can help you.
When your circumstances change, we’ll still be here to help
At DentalInsurance.com, we understand that not everyone can afford the costs of dental care. We hope these resources and ideas will help you to get the help you need anyway.
The ideas in this blog should help you find the help you need, whether you’re just skipping checkups to save for other expenses, or you’ve been putting off badly needed dental work due to the lack of funds.
So please, use these ideas to find the help you need. And some day, when you’re in a better financial position to be more proactive, come back and see us. We’ll be happy to help you find a dental insurance plan or dental discount plan that will keep a winning smile on your face for years to come.
Could a school dental care checklist help your kids do better this year? With summer vacations nearly at an end, thoughts are turning to the new school year ahead.
Parents are stocking up on back to school supplies and kids are trying on new shoes and clothes. The focus is on helping young learners put their best foot forward in the new school year.
What else can you do to ensure your child’s hungry mind can soak up all the learning that lies ahead? How about sending your kids off to school this year with bright smiles and the tools they need to build and benefit from strong oral health habits?
As the new school year begins, here are our top items to include on your back to school dental care checklist.
What to Include on Your Back to School Dental Care Checklist
There are a number of things you can include on your own school dental care checklist. Here are some you won’t want to miss:
1. The top item: a regular dental exam
Having a clean bill of oral health will help your child do their best in school. To keep teeth their healthiest, most dentists and health professionals agree you should take kids to the dentist twice a year for a regular exam.
Plan ahead to ensure your child gets in to see the dentist every 6 months. Like their report cards, your kids’ teeth are always subject to change. To ensure kids’ teeth stay their healthiest, nothing can replace routine teeth cleanings and exams done by a professional dental hygienist. Think of it as a crucial part of your family’s dental health regimen.
2. A strong daily dental care routine
Are you stocked up on toothpaste, floss, mouthwash? Research has proven that a regular daily routine can help prevent cavities and periodontal disease. Like pencils, paper, and crayons, these tools are essential for your child’s healthy growth.
Ask your dentist what toothpaste and rinse she recommends for her patients and the type of brush and floss you should be using. Then, plan ahead. Keep extra supplies on hand and make a note on your calendar to replace older toothbrushes or brush heads as the seasons change.
Then, brush up on your child’s oral health habits. After all, basic dental care begins with brushing. Using a proper brushing technique is the best protection against plaque, the bacteria that forms on teeth and gums after eating. Also, review the proper way to floss with your child. Flossing teeth is the best way to remove stubborn bacteria from between the teeth and gum line.
Need a full review? Check out our basic oral hygiene overview.
3. Lunch and snack foods that promote good health
It’s a well documented fact that oral health is directly related to overall health. As a result, the foods we eat can be as vital to oral health as regular brushing, flossing, and dental exams.
So, be sure your child eats healthy foods and snacks during the school day. With some organization and planning, you can ensure your child has delicious foods and snacks that support good oral health. A well-balanced diet is always the wisest choice, but vitamins A, C and D are generally known as key essential nutrients for oral health.
In addition, teeth rely on minerals for optimal health, and calcium is among the most important minerals for oral health. Like bones, which provide structural support for the body, calcium gives external structure to the teeth. Check out this article for more about choosing foods for dental nutrition.
4. A properly fitted mouth guard
Regular dental exams, a strong daily routine, and the right foods to support oral health are powerful ways to safeguard your child’s oral health. However, now and then they could use some extra help. That’s why you should ensure your child wears a properly fitted mouth guard when needed.
Mouth guards help keep teeth safe while playing highly physical or contact sports. When a properly fitted mouth guard is used, it helps displace the force of a blow, which can significantly reduce the odds of injury to your child’s mouth and teeth. Mouth guards protect teeth by causing the energy from a blow to spread out so injuries such as chipped or broken teeth, nerve damage, or tooth loss can be reduced.
What other dental care items are you including on your back to school list?
Did you know going to the dentist every six months could help you achieve your goals in life? Here are 5 reasons why people who go to the dentist routinely are more successful:
1. They’re More Confident
Numerous studies have confirmed the link between confidence and good oral health. Americans reportedly believe people with straight teeth are 45% more likely to get a job and 58% more likely to have a high income.
A good smile does wonders for your self-esteem, making you feel like you were made for success. It’s much easier to visualize yourself in a job you like when you also like the smile you see in the mirror.
You’ve probably come across at least a few people who seem to have attained fame and wealth solely because of their smiles! It’s only natural to react positively to a perfect smile, which is why this attribute is so crucial in many industries, such as real estate, human resources or food service.
2. They’re More Disciplined
As any gym rat will tell you, the discipline you devote to your health reflects in your career. After all, it’s difficult to imagine people who are careful about their teeth being careless about their work.
People who have seen the results of a healthy routine carry this discipline into every other facet of life. They take care of their teeth every day no matter what, and same concept applies to getting their work done.
3. They’re Healthier
As the ancients said: healthy body, healthy mind. Healthy people feel better throughout the day and therefore have a higher productivity rate. Even if you don’t go to the gym every week, your chances for serious oral health conditions decrease significantly when you see your dentist every six months.
Some of these conditions include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, kidney disease, and pneumonia. Regular dental visits give you more time on Earth by eliminating oral bacteria and plaque that would otherwise spread throughout your body, wreaking havoc on everything from your heart to your brain.
4. They’re Less Likely to Smoke or Drink
Maintaining good oral health means staying away from habits that damage your teeth. This might be a hard pill to swallow but in addition to cigarettes, alcoholic beverages have been linked to several oral health problems.
Both can have adverse effects on your career, and not just because they may lead to a laundry list of potentially fatal diseases. Having to step outside for a cigarette multiple times throughout the day limits productivity, as does showing up to work hung over.
5. They Have Better Love Lives
Nothing improves confidence like a healthy love life, which is very difficult to achieve without a brilliant smile. In fact, a 2013 survey of approximately 5,000 single adults found that straight, white teeth was the first thing they look for when assessing a potential romantic partner.
This suggests that people with good oral health are more likely to find a spouse. Further research has proven that married people work harder and make more money.
Success Never Looked So Good!
In regards to career opportunities, visiting the dentist every six months can be viewed as “leveling the playing field,” or keeping yourself in the running for the jobs you want. The moment you start neglecting your oral health, your prospects for success begin to dwindle.
This is why it’s important to remember that even if you aren’t a salesman or Hollywood actor, your teeth helped you get to where you are today and will take you even higher as long as you continue to prioritize oral health.
Patients who are wary of the dentist may be able to relax at last. More and more dental practices around the US now offer the type of treatment you’d see in a spa.
Oscar Suarez, 29, admits he used to “always get nervous” before he saw a dentist. “You think, it’s going to be long, it’s going to be painful, I’m going to have to wait,” he told Greenwich Time.
Those days are gone now that Suarez is a patient of a dental spa called Tri-City Dental Care, one of several Washington state dental practices that offer “spa-like” treatments.
Before the dentist gets to work, patients like Suarez can dip their hands into warm wax that softens their skin. The calming scent of lavender fills the room. Headphones play music or a TV plays as they sit in a dental chair that massages them.
The Dental Spa Concept: Turn Dread to Excitement
“When I opened the practice, I wanted to bring a good experience to every person coming in,” said Dr. Antonio Lopez-Ibarra, who owns the dental spa. “We wanted to do something where people felt comfortable in the chair.”
We wanted to do something where people felt comfortable in the chair…
The dental spa perks at Tri-City Dental Care include aromatherapy, calm music, and loads of movies to watch.
“It’s nice that when you come to a place like this, you’re not looking toward that chair, you’re looking forward to what you’re going to experience. It throws off the edge,” Suarez added.
Not Your Usual Forms to Fill Out
Among the first practices to experiment with a spa-like experience is Double Take Dental in Orem, Utah. Along with the types of things above, Double Take Dental supplies bottled water, a warm towel, a stress ball and a cool eye mask.
According to the Daily Herald, patients who come in to have their teeth cleaned or have other work done fill out an “amenities card” to tailor their visit.
“Every time someone new comes in, they look at the card, and say, ‘I’ve never seen this before.’ For many, we almost have to encourage them to pick amenities,” said Double Take Dental office manager Jordan Davis.
Patients are More Willing to Make the Trip
The idea for the spa-like style emerged when the practice decided it had to set itself apart from competitors. Proof of success? How about patients who travel far beyond their hometown solely for this type of service?
Larry Blocker, for example, flies to Orem from Southern California to treat an ongoing oral condition twice a year.
“I flew in last night, and I fly back out tomorrow. I came just to have this done,” he told the Daily Herald. “Flying here and flying back tells you how much I like it.”
Patty Cox drives nearly 120 miles to Double Take, a trip the 66-year-old says she’ll make “until I die.”
More Talking, Less Rushing
Double Take’s patient-first style makes the staff more relaxed as well. This is due in part to the decreased significance of time limits in appointments.
Dr. Cameron Blake has worked in a number of practices and says they all felt rushed. That kept him from getting to know his patients and answering their questions.
How to Choose a Dentist – With something as important as choosing a dentist, it’s vital you make a well-informed choice.
“Here I can take the time to explain things to my patients without the rush to get to the next patient. I can take time to focus on their needs and concerns. I want them to have knowledge about all options available, so they can make an educated decision, and feel good about their decision and its result,” Dr. Black said.
With more and more practices popping up, you can only expect patient experience to become an even bigger priority for dentists looking to cement loyalty and brand awareness.
Know someone who would love to try a dental spa? Go ahead — share!
The effect of marijuana on oral health is unclear due in large part to its status as a controlled substance. That alone has stalled much research on the plant’s uses for years.
Science has shown that cigarettes cause a slew of potentially fatal diseases. But they have yet to show a direct link between regular pot use and any single health condition.
A recent study at Columbia University (CU), though, suggests that people who smoke pot often may be at an increased risk for gum disease.
Who the Team Looked At
CU researchers led by Dr. Jaffer Shariff enlisted 1,419 Americans who had not used cannabis one or more times per month throughout the last 12 months. The study also had 519 people who had used pot at least once per month in the same period.
The team took variables such as income level, alcohol use and tobacco use into account. Each participant had a dental exam to look for symptoms of gum disease. These include plaque, inflammation, bleeding, and gum recession.
Interpreting the Results
The team found that frequent pot smokers were more likely to display signs of moderate to severe gum disease than those who had abstained or those who had used pot less often in the last 12 months.
“Even controlling for other factors linked to gum disease, such as cigarette smoking, frequent recreational cannabis smokers are twice as likely as non-frequent users to have signs of periodontal disease,” said Dr. Shariff.
5 Positive Oral Health Benefits – Learn why keeping your dental appointments can help boost your chances for a bright future.
The researchers aren’t sure what it is about pot use that could reduce oral health. Some ideas include the fact that smoking pot can dry out the mouth, and gums need saliva in order to stay healthy. Pot users may also be less likely to seek health services of any kind.
Dr. Shariff plans to do more studies that might shed some light on pot and its link with oral health.
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The benefits of seeing your dentist every six months stretch far beyond simply having healthier, better-looking teeth. Oral health is directly connected to your overall wellbeing. Every time you make a dentist appointment, your chances of enjoying the future increase.
The truth is, some of life’s best rewards will most likely go to people with good oral health. Here are just five rewards, all of which are much harder to get if you don’t take care of your teeth:
1. A Longer Life
When you see your dentist often, you lower your risk for a large range of ills. If left untreated, oral bacteria causes gum disease and tooth decay. It can even enter the blood and spread plaque through the body.
Depending on your family history, this could put you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, pneumonia, and cancer. It can even lead to diseases like stroke, Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Here’s the thing, though. Oral bacteria are incredibly easy to eliminate. Your dentist can help you to stave off these diseases through regular cleanings. That is, as long as you manage plaque build up by keeping your regular dentist appointments.
2. Higher Income
Research has shown that people with great teeth and smiles are more likely to earn higher salaries and get more job opportunities than people who seem to view their smile as less of a priority. One study used fake job interviews and found that those who had the best smiles were viewed as more confident and skilled.
This isn’t much of a surprise, though. It’s only natural for someone with good oral health to be seen as serious, disciplined, and concerned about his or her effect on others. So, if you want to make your dream job a reality, it can help to keep up with regular dental visits.
3. More Money in the Bank
People with good oral health tend to have lower bills as they get older. The cost of regular dental visits to prevent problems is a fraction of the cost for the type of reactive care patients who have advanced gum disease may need.
Infographic: Prevent vs. Repair – See why it pays to invest in prevention when it comes to protecting your teeth.
4. Less Stress
When you work to address oral health problems head on, there is less need to worry about the state of your teeth. People who never skip the dentist also have to worry less about certain foods or beverages causing pain or long-term damage.
With some types of oral health issues, cold or hot foods or drinks can be a problem. When you see your dentist often, she can help you to manage the effects of sugar, alcohol and caffeine, which may be the cause. Lastly, if you have a lot of stress, your dentist will know, and be able to tell you, what you can do to help.
5. Better Love Life
Not only will people who take care of their teeth stay attractive to their partners, but they will also have less difficulty finding romantic partners. In fact, a 2013 survey of nearly 5,500 single adults ages 21 and older revealed straight, white teeth to be the quality single men and women look for most when choosing a mate.
When you visit the dentist every 6 months, you won’t be as worried about your partner seeking greener pastures. And who knows? You may even be able to win over the object of your affections, regardless of your age.
How Much Brighter Could Your Future Be?
Sounds like a happy life, right? You can gain these rewards and a lot more if you simply go to the dentist and follow through with their advice and care.
Missing just one or two appointments might not seem like a big deal. But as you age, you may grow more conscious of how your teeth look and feel. So think of your long-term health and financial strength, and stick to your regular dental exams!
If you are like many people, a visit to the dentist is one of the most painful and stressful appointments that you endure, and you have to go twice a year. Whether it is being nervous about the possibility of a cavity or having fear of the drill, too many people skip their important dental visits out of anxiety. However, ignoring
these appointments can damage more than just your oral health; poor dental care can lead to infections, strokes and heart disease. You can avoid a painful dental visit and smile more with just a few careful methods.
1. Find a dental team you can trust.
Trusting your dental team will go a long way toward easing your fears and your pain. Because anxieties are related to all different fears, you need to find a professional who is able to read your cues, answer your questions and assuage your concerns. If you do not trust the hands that are in your mouth, you will not be able to get through the appointment painlessly.
2. Prepare a list of questions to ease your concerns.
If you have truly found a professional that you trust, take some time to prepare a list of questions that will help you feel more at ease. Think deeply about your fears and concerns about your visit, and ask for clarification on any procedures. A few common questions that might lessen your anxiety include:
• Can you please explain to me what you are doing with my teeth?
• What does that (tool) do?
• How could I improve my oral hygiene?
• Why is it necessary to do ____ (procedure)?
• What are my options for that tooth?
• If I get nervous, what signal can I give you to stop?
3. Consider some meditation before your appointment.
Although meditation, essential oils and deep breathing are not for everyone, these can be helpful calming techniques for many people before a dental visit. Try dabbing a little chamomile or lavender essential oil on your temples or at your pulse points for relaxation, or use a heated neck wrap or squeezable stress ball before and during your appointment. While you are in the office chair, take care to breath slowly and deeply through your diaphragm to help counteract the adrenaline that may be coursing through your body. Clear your mind and think happy thoughts; try to smile throughout the procedure to keep your spirits up.
4. Keep your regular appointments.
Going to the dentist regularly will prevent many problems with your teeth. For example, you will have fewer cavities and be less likely to require complex dental work, such as a root canal. If you do not keep your appointments, you are more at risk for larger problems and more extensive procedures that will be more nerve-wracking. Not only will frequently cancelling or rescheduling appointments result in poor oral health, but it will also add to your anxiety. The longer you put off your visit, the more worked up you will become about it when you finally keep your appointment. Schedule the visit, put it on your calendar and make it a point to attend on time.
5. Practice good oral health every day.
Many people are tempted to attack their teeth with extra vigor right before an appointment. However, aggressively brushing a tooth that seems discolored or flossing until your gums bleed is not a good idea. While you may be worried that your hygienist or the dentist will judge the state of your mouth poorly at your visit, last minute attacks on a tooth will be obvious to the oral professionals, and you will be doing more harm than good. Make sure that you are brushing at least twice a day, flossing and using a mouthwash rinse to keep your mouth happy and your smile beautiful.
A dental visit does not have to be painful. With the proper care and preparation, you can have a calm and comfortable appointment.
If you haven’t already heard about the rising number of ER visits for dental injuries or other emergencies across the U.S., do yourself a favor and look it up. No time for that? Here’s a quick summary:
According to an April 2015 report published by the American Dental Association, trips to the ER due to dental conditions nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010, and the number continues to rise. Overall, ER visits have gone down for those aged 19 to 25 and remained about the same for children. The increased number of visits is by people aged 25 and older.
However, as investigative reporters across the country have shown, few emergency rooms are equipped to deal fully with dental emergencies. In many, perhaps most cases, ER patients with dental concerns are treated with painkillers and antibiotics, and are then referred to a dentist.
What is behind the rising number of dental ER visits?
Many issues are likely to be fueling the continued rise in the number of people who go to the ER due to dental
conditions. For one, insurers have traditionally separated dental coverage from health coverage, an incongruity that carried over and now affects how health benefits are defined in the Affordable Care Act. Dental and vision coverage for children is defined as one of the 10 essential health benefits, but dental coverage for adults is not required.
Medicaid attempts to ensure older Americans have adequate access to dental care, but compared to adults with private health insurance, adults with Medicaid are nearly 5 times as likely to have poor oral health. (Source: National Center for Health Statistics, 2012.)
Another piece of the puzzle is the lack of access to dental professionals in some rural or remote parts of the U.S. In many parts of the nation, there is an uneven distribution of dentists, which is having serious consequences. Kaiser Health News reported in 2013 that 16% of Americans live in areas with an insufficient number of dentists.
Federal guidelines, according to Kaiser, call for one dentist to every 5,000 people. Those who live in under-represented areas cope with the lack of dentists as well as they can, often by putting off or doing without necessary dental care until a trip to the ER is unavoidable.
What is being done to address the problem?
The increase in dental emergency room visits is straining the limits of emergency departments and costing far more than routine care and prevention would have cost. For example, it is estimated that for every dollar spent on children’s preventive care, between $8 and $50 could be saved on emergency treatment. (Source: Insuring Bright Futures: Improving Access to Dental Care and Providing a Healthy Start for Children.)
Dental schools, dentists, community health centers with dental clinics, dental associations, and non-profit organizations are doing all they can to provide help for people who have no dental coverage or who have poor access to dental professionals. Hardly a month goes by without at least one major free dental event being held somewhere across the U.S., and many smaller events are being held frequently, as well.
In addition, support continues to build for dental therapists. Proponents of creating this new type of “mid-level” dental practitioner say dental therapists can help to increase access to oral health care and free up dentists to do other, more critical work.
What can you do? Prevention is Key
At a policy level, the rise in ER visits for dental complaints indicates a need for more spending on adult oral health education and programs that support preventive dentistry for at-risk populations. On an individual level, understanding this situation should encourage more individuals to focus on preventing oral health problems long before they get out of control.
People with dental insurance are twice as likely to see a dentist as are those without a dental plan. (Source: National Institute of Health, 2010.) The generally low cost of dental insurance makes it highly affordable compared to emergency care.
In addition, many people who purchase dental insurance can benefit immediately. That is because dental insurance encourages, and generally pays for, regular check-ups.
Here are some of the key reasons why dental coverage is important to have, and – arguably – among the health benefits that should be considered “essential.”
- To Help You Pay for Costly Care: Dental care can be simple – such as a twice-yearly visit for a professional cleaning and x-rays – or it may involve costly care, such as oral surgery, getting a full set of dentures, or needing a crown. Depending on the type of dental insurance you get, dental plans generally pay either all or a percentage of the charges.
- To Help You Maintain a Healthy Mouth: Studies have shown regular dental exams and dental cleanings help people keep their teeth and gums healthy. In fact, most insurance plans pay 100% for check-ups every 6 months because the insurers know prevention is the key to cost-control.
- To Help You Protect Your Overall Health: The artificial barrier between oral health and health, period, is an illusion. Studies show our mouths can exhibit the symptoms related to more than 120 different non-dental diseases. So, even if there’s nothing wrong with your teeth and gums, regular visits to the dentist can help ensure early detection of serious diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. And that alone can make dental insurance well worth the investment.
And if you are a woman, you have even more reason to take charge of your oral health. That’s because, year after year, the percentage of U.S. women in the 18 to 64 age group who miss needed dental care due to cost is consistently higher than it is for men. (Source: National Center for Health Statistics, 2013.)
Many types of dental plans can help you take charge or your oral health, including dental health maintenance organization plans (DHMOs), discount dental plans or cards, and preferred provider organization plans (PPOs). To receive instant online quotes for plans available in your area, enter your zip in the box on our home page.
Why Dental Insurance is Important: Learn more about the top three reasons why dental insurance makes sense.
Common Causes of a Broken Tooth: Learn what to do in case of a dental emergency as well as the situations that need attention right away.
Knocked-Out Tooth: Learn what you can do to help make sure a tooth survives if it is knocked out.
One of the great benefits of having a good dental insurance plan is that regular appointments for teeth cleaning and oral exams are covered. One big reason for this is that insurance companies know a focus on prevention can actually help an individual lower their future costs for dental repairs.
But there’s another reason why your dentist and oral hygienist want to see you twice a year: to help keep you healthy from head to toe.
During a routine visit to the dentist, several serious diseases (such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease) can be detected. If you’re like many people, there’s a good chance you see your dental hygienist more frequently than you see your general practitioner.
So how great is it that dental hygienists are trained to screen their patients for signs and symptoms that may indicate problems in other parts of the body?
In fact, during a dental health screening, a trained oral health practitioner can spot over 120 signs and symptoms of non-dental diseases.
…a trained oral health practitioner can spot over 120 signs and symptoms of non-dental diseases.
If that sounds like it would be time consuming, well, it is. Trying to fit an oral hygiene exam, scaling and polishing, and a doctor exam into a one hour appointment can be a major challenge.
Early detection and prompt referrals
The good news is: the more frequently you have your teeth professionally cleaned, the less time your hygienist will need to spend scaling and polishing your teeth, and the more time will be available for your oral care team to devote to overall health screening, early detection of any concerns, and prompt referral to a primary care provider.
If all you want is a brighter smile, then that may sound like it’s a waste of time.
But if you ask them, your dentist and oral hygienist will very likely tell you they have a bigger goal in mind for you: keeping you healthy all over, so you’ll have every reason to smile.
Learn more about your oral health.
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Unfortunately, not every kid with dental phobia can be put at ease by a dentist who dresses up as the tooth fairy. And not every father has the comic skill and parental panache to turn Hermie’s horrifying dentistry in the 1964 animated TV special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” into a lesson on the importance of proper dental hygiene.
(Who can ever forget the “misfit” elf brandishing those gruesome pliers after extracting the Abominable Snow Monster’s teeth?)
Dental phobia or fear is, of course, no laughing matter. But there is a great deal that parents, caregivers and dentists can do – and are doing – to help kids get through the experience of a trip to the dentist with a smile.
Let’s take a look at some of the most effective interventions for dealing with dental fear in children.
What’s the most effective treatment of dental phobia in children?
As in so many things in life, when it comes to kids and fear of the dentist, good communication is key.
Parents, caregivers and dentists all have a role to play in setting the stage for not only a good first visit to the dentist’s office, but a lifelong commitment to regular, professional dental care without fear and anxiety. How we frame those initial experiences with words can be very important.
Before the first trip to the dentist
To help ensure things go well during the first visit, your dentist may provide you with some “dos” and “don’ts” in advance. Things like, when talking to kids about the dentist and what goes on during a visit to the dentist’s office, avoid using words like “hurt,” “pain,” “shot,” and other words that have a negative or fearful connotation.
Rule of thumb: only say things that are positive.
Also, experts recommend parents answer children’s questions about the dentist, but, they suggest, don’t go into a lot of unnecessary detail. Be brief. If you don’t know the answer, or if the answer is a little on the complex side, suggest that you and your child save the question for, who else? The dentist. After all, they’re the ones who have years of training and a lot of practice talking to kids about what they do in non-threatening, kid-friendly ways.
…answer children’s questions about the dentist, but don’t go into a lot of unnecessary detail.
Above all, never tell kids about the time you had a terrible (or even unpleasant) time at the dentist. Instead, be sure they understand how important it is to take good care of their teeth. Let them know the dentist and dental office staff members are nice, friendly folks who enjoy helping people, both big and small, be as healthy and happy as they can be.
At the dentist’s office
Even if you’ve done your best to prepare your child for their new experience, it’s not uncommon, and it’s completely natural, for kids to be afraid sometimes. Some kids detest spiders. Others won’t go near a clown. Whether a child cries or throws a temper tantrum, any dentist who regularly works with children will have an array of techniques at her fingertips to put kids more at ease.
Again, in many cases it comes down to good communication. Many dentists who work with kids are quite adept at regulating their tone of voice, so that they are able to go from warm and comforting to gently commanding as the circumstances dictate.
Some dentists use a technique called “show, tell, and do.” It’s a way to explain, step by step, what tools the dentist is using, how they’re used, and what the dentist is going to do next. Pediatric dentists are also trained to use language that’s appropriate for the kids they work with, and there’s a good chance yours will use kid-friendly props – such as a giant tooth or doll – to show your kids what they’re about to do.
Distraction is another communication skill that dentists use to put kids at ease.
Distraction is another communication skill that dentists use to put kids at ease. Telling stories or having a conversation can help dentists focus kids’ attention somewhere other than on the procedure itself. And when needed, most dentists know that when it comes to kids’ behaviors, simple body language can go a long way toward accentuating the positive and discouraging, if not eliminating, the negative.
What can you do if nothing seems to help?
In some instances, it may take more than clever communication to help your child get through their time in the chair. In such cases, a dentist may recommend that a child use safe and effective medications such as nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) during their visit or take an oral sedative beforehand.
Finally, if you or your dentist feel your child’s fear of going to the dentist is extreme or out of control, therapy may be the answer. Therapeutic techniques, including psychotherapy (exploring the source of the fear), cognitive behavioral therapy (practicing practical strategies for dealing with it), and hypnotherapy, may help a child overcome their fears so they can receive and maintain the professional dental care they deserve.
Everyone is afraid of something. Learning how to face our fears is part of growing up.
Everyone is afraid of something. Learning how to face our fears is part of growing up. And you may be surprised. One day, a young adult who was frightened by a routine dental exam, teeth cleaning, or other dental procedure as a child just may decide that they, like Rudolph’s nerdy buddy Hermie, want to be a dentist.
Have you helped a child get past their fear of the dentist? What worked for you? Post your tips or a comment in the Reply section below!
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