***UPDATED: March 17, 2015*** New evidence suggests that visiting your dentist regularly to treat your gum disease may lower healthcare costs in the long run, especially for individuals who also suffer from heart disease. A study, first appearing in the November 2014 Harvard Heart Letter, and later discussed in a Dental Tribune article, found that people who had at least one periodontal disease treatment had lower medical costs and fewer hospitalizations for their existing heart disease than those who left their oral disease untreated. On average, healthcare costs were reduced between 10 and 40%. According to Dr. Alpdogan Kantarci, a periodontist with the Forsyth Institute, a not-for-profit research organization focusing on oral health, treating gum disease reduces the rate of inflammation and infection, which helps individuals respond better to treatments for other health conditions, like heart disease. “As we’re always telling our physician colleagues, ‘Make sure your patients are getting regular dental care,’ because we may be able to help improve their overall health,” stated Kantarci.
Many adults (and kids for that matter) don’t visit the dentist for professional cleanings as often as they should. Whether fear, finances, or “forgetfulness” keeps them away, they simply don’t schedule the recommended two appointments a year to maintain good oral health. There are several reasons why visiting the dentist regularly is a good, no great, idea. Some of the best include:
Preventative dentistry. Did you know that many oral health conditions are completely avoidable with regular professional cleanings and exams? The most common is likely gum disease, when plaque, the sticky, bacteria-filled film that adheres to your teeth, causes an uncomfortable infection. As plaque builds and hardens, it becomes tartar, which can be very difficult to remove. If left untreated, the bacteria can cause inflammation and ultimate destruction of the gum tissues and tooth supporting bone, leading to a much more serious form of the disease. Plaque is kept in check with regular brushing, flossing, and of course, professional cleanings.
Keeping the teeth you have. The leading cause of tooth loss in adults is advanced gum disease. Once plaque moves down to the tooth root and destroys the supporting bone, the affected tooth may become loose and eventually fall out. Losing a tooth not only negatively affects the surrounding teeth, but it can also lead to feelings of embarrassment and even depression. Again, maintaining a good oral hygiene routine (including regular visits to the dentist) is critical in keeping your teeth.
Improving the brightness of your smile. Your smile has been scientifically shown to be the very first thing people notice when they meet you and one of the very last that they forget. It’s kind-of a big deal. Several everyday habits, such as drinking coffee, red wine, or tea, can cause tooth staining. Regular professional cleanings can often remove these topical stains, plus your hygienist will likely polish your pearly whites to a full shine. Of course there are also professional whitening treatments if you’d like to make a drastic change, but a regular visit alone will help keep your smile bright and white.
Help with halitosis. Chronic bad breath isn’t good for anyone. Persistent odor is often caused by poor oral hygiene, periodontal disease, a coating on the tongue, food stuck between teeth, unclean dentures, and so on. Yet again, your professional teeth cleaning can help with all of these causes. Your dentist can also help you develop a good hygiene routine to maintain at home in order to avoid this embarrassing problem in the future.
Maintaining your overall health. There is a mounting heap of evidence suggesting that your oral health is closely related to other more serious health conditions, like heart disease, dementia, diabetes, cancer, and stroke. While scientists are still unsure of the exact relationship, a good cleaning bi-annually could potentially reduce your risk of developing some of these conditions. Additionally, if you see your dentist regularly, they may be the first to identify the early stages of these diseases, and in most cases, early detection goes a long way in terms of treatment and survival.
Using the dental benefits that you’ve already paid for. Most dental insurance plans have low copayments for routine preventative care, such as cleanings and exams every six months. If you are currently paying for coverage, why not use it? It seems pretty silly to pay for something that you’re not going to use. Plus, if you take advantage of your low-cost preventative care, you will likely save yourself a whole lot of money (and potential pain) down the road. It just makes sense.
If you haven’t been to the dentist for awhile, there’s truly no time like the present. The benefits far outweigh the risks. There’s a good chance that any excuse you could come up with about why you can’t make the appointment, most dental professionals have heard before and probably have a valid response to. Don’t put it off any longer. Call and schedule your appointment today!
Written by Mark Paulsort
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