Giving your teeth and gums the proper professional attention isn't just an attractive option -- if you want to keep your teeth, it's a must. Many people, however, put off much-needed care because they assume that it will be out of their price range. Here are four things you can do to make your dental care more affordable.
1. Look for Dental Schools and Low-Income Dental Providers
If you're experiencing a financial crisis as well as a dental crisis, don't fret -- and more importantly, don't give up on scheduling that dental procedure. The longer you leave diseased gums or a decayed tooth, the bigger the problem will get, requiring even more complex and expensive treatment while possibly putting your health in serious danger.
You can sometimes pay significantly less money by scheduling your dental procedure at a local dental school. These schools provide a high level of care because the students work under the watchful eye of a seasoned professional. The downside is that even a relatively simple evaluation or procedure can require a much longer time in the chair than you'd experience at a regular clinic, because the students are directed to proceed slowly and follow every step as precisely as possible.
Low-income individuals and families can also take advantage of community health programs and clinics that offer essential dental care to people who simply can't afford to go to a dentist. Check with your state's health department to locate such services in your area.
2. Consider Implants Instead of Bridges
Dental bridges are a time-tested solution for turning a gap into a "tooth," and the initial price is significantly lower than what you'll likely pay for a dental implant. Over time, however, implanted teeth can actually provide more cost-effective service than dental bridges.
A dental implant may cost at least $3,500 for the surgery and the crown, and if you need a bone graft before the surgery can commence, you may pay many hundreds of dollars more. But implants are intended to last a lifetime, and permanent bridges aren't quite as permanent as you might think. It's not uncommon to have a bridge completely replaced every 10 years, so after just 20 years you've paid three times your initial investment, while the implant will hopefully keep going strong without an extra penny's investment. (A few implants can even support an entire row of dentures!)
3. Go for the Strongest Possible Restorations
If you need to have a tooth fitted with a dental crown, think carefully about the material you choose for this type of restoration. Many patients automatically choose tooth-colored composite or all-porcelain crowns because they look so natural -- and composite crowns are the cheapest option, at least up front. Unfortunately, they're also known for breaking or wearing down, increasing the chance that you'll need to pay for a replacement crown at some point. Paying a little more now for a more durable crown material, such as gold or porcelain bonded to metal, will save you money in the long run.
If you want tooth restorations for primarily cosmetic purposes, consider veneers instead of crowns. These products can be much more affordable because they only cover the front surface of the tooth with a thin layer of porcelain -- a quick, simple procedure, at least compared to a crown fitting.
4. Practice Proper Preventative Care
The most cost-effective dental strategy of all is preventative care. Taking care of your teeth and gums will save you a great deal of time in the dentist's chair -- and a great many dental bills as well. Follow your dentist's instructions for regular brushing and flossing. Eat non-acidic foods, avoid refined sugars and tobacco use, and go easy on the alcoholic beverages (which can promote tooth decay).
The other essential step in preventing expensive problems is to keep your twice-yearly dental appointments. Routine checkups and cleanings can keep your teeth in optimal condition and alert you to any issues that can be nipped in the bud, before the difficulty and cost factors increase. Click here for more info on the subject.