I received a rather shocking recommendation from my dentist the last time I went in for a routine visit. She told me that instead of coming twice a year for a check-up, she wanted to see me every four months. When I told her that my insurance only covered two visits a year, she told me that if I really cared about my dental health, I would just shell over 60-something dollars myself for the third trip. WHAT?
I thought it was a scam, but after seeing a scary report that skipping regular dental check-ups could end up costing 10 times as much money, I just might fall for it.
Say, for example, that you have a toothache. Now, a routine issue like that can often be caught through a preventative dental check-up, which typically costs somewhere between $50 and $100. But if you skip your check-up, the toothache goes untreated, and you could wind up in a lot of pain in the emergency room, which is going to cost around $1,000. Yet, that's what more and more Americans are resorting to these days; according to the report, the number of ER visits for dental problems increased 16 percent nationwide over the last three years.
Why -- especially if it costs more money? The reasons for this are two-fold. First, there is a shortage of dentists willing to treat Medicaid patients. Moreover, because of the recession and high rates of unemployment, many families have lost their dental insurance and/or cannot afford preventative dental care. In other words, people have no choice but to wait until their pain is unbearable to get help for their dental problems. What's even more worrisome is that getting treated in the ER -- instead of from a real dentist -- can be ineffective and inefficient; often these problems will return.
There have been many times in my life when I wasn't so lucky as to have dental insurance, so I not only feel sad for people in this position, I empathize with them, too. Still, it is a good reminder about the importance of doing everything you can to make it to your check-ups. If you can afford it, please be sure to go.
How often do you go to the dentist?
Image via Conor Lawless/Flickr