The key to reducing dental costs is prevention. There is a lot that you can do to avoid serious dental problems.
Regular dental checkups are an essential part of any prevention program. If you see your dentist regularly, any dental problems you have can be treated in their early stages. If you see a dentist only in an emergency, when you already have a serious problem, treatment may be much more costly. In the long run, nothing is more economical than the regular dental checkup.
Periodically, your dentist may ask you to have an X-ray examination. X-rays help your dentist find hidden conditions that can threaten your oral or general health. Treating these conditions at an early stage often prevents more serious damage and the need for more expensive treatment later.
The ADA recommends that dentists take X-rays only after consideration of their patients’ individual needs. Your dentist should request that you have an X-ray examination only when it will benefit you.
You may have heard or read statements that question the safety of dental X-ray examinations. There is little reason for you to be concerned about safety when modern techniques and equipment are used. X-ray examinations are a necessary part of complete, comprehensive dental care.
Preventive techniques, such as topical fluoride applications and pit and fissure sealants have reduced many dental problems. But these techniques cannot save your teeth and reduce your dental costs unless you and your family share the responsibility for your own oral health. Brushing and flossing the teeth thoroughly at least once a day is necessary to remove plaque. Plaque is the thin film of bacteria that forms on everyone’s teeth and causes dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontal (gum) disease. Using a fluoride mouthrinse and dentifrice (toothpaste or gel) accepted by the ADA’s Council on Dental Therapeutics helps make teeth stronger and more resistant to decay. Eating nutritious meals and limiting the number of snacks you eat is also important for maintaining your oral health.
The Use of Fluoride Millions of people now drink water than contains the right amount of fluoride for good dental health. Fluoridation of a community’s water supply can give residents of that community better dental health for a very small annual cost.
Because fluoride is incorporated into the enamel as the tooth is being formed, it is of special benefit to children. Children who drink fluoridated water from birth have from 50 to 65% fewer cavities. When they are teenagers, 20% of them will still be caries-free. Even as adults, they will continue to have improved dental health, for the benefits of fluoride are lifelong.
Besides drinking fluoridated water, your family can get the protection of fluoride in other ways: Fluoride toothpastes and mouthrinses can be used at home. (Those with the seal of the ADA’s Council on Dental Therapeutics have been proved effective.) Fluoride mouthrinses can also be used as part of a school mouthrinse program. Fluoride solutions or gels may be applied to your teeth by your dentist or dental hygienist. Fluoride may be added to the school water supply if the local water supply is not fluoridated or if there is no central water supply. Chewable fluoride tablets may be prescribed for your children if the water supply in your community is not fluoridated.
Fluoride is inexpensive, safe, and effective. Every major American health organization supports the use of fluoride. Ask your dentist how your family can best obtain the benefits of fluoride.