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Surprising Science

We Love Preventative Medicine, but Forgot about Dental Health

It’s safe to say most of us hate going to the dentist. But you know what’s worse than going to the dentist? Having no teeth.

Being frugal is smart. Being reckless with your health is not. Assuming that dental care is something you can skip to save some extra cash… well, take a look at the headline above and guess.

Here’s some advice a lot of us — this writer included — should probably take to heart, from Elizabeth Renter in US News:

“The national debate over health insurance largely overlooked dental coverage. But many of the problems in the health care industry — lack of access, high costs, and poor health outcomes — afflict dental coverage, too.

With far fewer Americans having dental than medical insurance, and poor dental health being linked to adverse and potentially deadly consequences, those who forgo dental treatment could find themselves with considerable bills.”

Renter, who consistently does really good work on health and wellness, touches on the broader cultural issue at hand here: proactivity versus reactivity. Most Americans completely forgo preventative dental care, a trend she describes as “a costly exercise in denial,” and it’s not always prohibitive cost getting in their way. Often, it’s just inertia. It’s a sad truth that too many people never find a way to adapt to one of life’s simplest lessons: to do nothing about your problems now only leads to further complications down the road. Oral health is but one glaring example.

Let’s assume you elect not to visit the dentist for a couple years and a cavity develops. A filling will fix the issue if that cavity gets detected early on, though it’ll cost you around $175. You should have gone in for a cleaning!

Even if you have to get it filled, at least you will have nipped the problem in the bud. But what if your cavity doesn’t get detected early because, most likely, you elected to go even longer between dentist visits? You then run the risk of needing a root canal, and that’ll set you back between $700-$900. 

Not to mention the pain. Oh lord, the pain.

Preventative care isn’t cheap and unless your employer has a good benefits package, you’re probably going to feel like the money spent only gets sucked up that vacuum tube the hygienist rests against your gums. But don’t be pound-foolish. Don’t forget that money spent on regular cleanings is an investment in your future health, not to mention a way to prevent paying for it later on. 

Take a look at Renter’s full piece for a more comprehensive look at the costs and risks associated with dental laziness. Don’t wait for something bad to happen, she stresses. You’ll only feel worse later if you do.

Below, pharmaceutical executive Francois Nader talks about the exciting future of health care, built upon a foundation of radical innovation:

Photo credit: Rocksweeper / Shutterstock


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