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How Much Money is Your Dentist Saving You?

Written by Consumer Guide to Dentistry   Last modified on November 22, 2017

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that some of the most popular articles on Consumer Guide to Dentistry relate to the cost of dental care. And we’ve noticed that many of the questions we receive directly from consumers also focus on cost. For many people, “how much is it going to cost me?” is the bottom line. Considering that high-end reconstructive procedure like dental implants can cost upwards of $4,500 each, it’s understandable to see why cost tends to be front of mind for many patients.

With that in mind, we wanted to address the cost question from a different angle… “How much money will dental care save me?” As the old adage goes, you’ve got to spend money to make money. Well, when it comes to dentistry, you’ve got to invest money to save money.

As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog, visiting the dentist isn’t exactly high on everyone’s priority list. But if you consider that these trips could be saving you thousands of dollars, you may find that your perspective shifts. The ADA recommends twice-yearly visits for routine cleaning and maintenance. Adhering to this schedule is easy, and the cost minimal (perhaps a small copay for the office visit if you have dental insurance). Cleaning and x-rays are typically covered by most policies, and the routine nature of your visits lets your dentist stay ahead of any developing concerns. And the earlier you can identify a potential dental concern, the more options you have to proactively deal with it, or potentially avoid issues all together.

Let’s crunch some numbers…

Say you’ve got a dental insurance plan with an out-of-pocket premium expense of $350. And let’s say you adhere to the ADA’s recommendation and visit your dentist twice in the year, with a $20 copay for each visit. During these visits, your dentist can help prevent the onset of things like gum disease and tooth decay through deep, prophylactic cleaning of the teeth and gum line. By investing less than $400 for the year (a little over $1 a day), you’ve protected the health and functionality of your smile.

Alternatively, let’s say you don’t stick with the ADA recommendation and allow 18 months to lapse between dental visits, only scheduling an appointment after feeling some tooth sensitivity or pain. At the visit, your dentist finds tooth decay that requires a filling. If you opt for a traditional amalgam filling, it will cost you upwards of $200. If you opt for a more aesthetic, natural-looking amalgam alternative, it may cost you upwards of $240. If you’d been in for your checkups, the decay may never have had a chance to develop and you’d have saved yourself the cost of a filling. And keep in mind that fillings aren’t permanent. In five to ten years, you may need to get it replaced with additional cost.

You may have saved $60 in copays over that 18-month period, but you’ve cost yourself $200+ as a result.

But what if the pain in the previous scenario signals something more serious? Perhaps an infection in the pulp tissue inside the tooth requiring a root canal. This is a far more involved (and painful) treatment with a higher price tag. Depending on various factors, the cost of a root canal could be $1,000 or more. Considering that this bill could have been avoided by investing a little bit of time and a little bit of money on regularly schedule oral health maintenance, it’s clear to see why so many dentists press the importance of preventive dentistry on their patients.

Taking care of your teeth and oral health requires an investment of time and money. But if you look at the big picture, this investment could end up saving you a ton of money over the life and health of your smile.