An Ounce of Dental Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure: Part 1

By Vatsal Suthar

“I don't need any treatment since it doesn't hurt."

It's easy to ignore things that are not visible: termites in the walls of your home, worn timing belt on your car, or high cholesterol in the walls of your heart's arteries. We all know the inconvenience, time waste, and high costs to deal with these things when disaster strikes.

Is it better to buy an annual termite bond to protect your walls for a few hundred dollars or rebuild and reframe an entire room/building?

Is it better to replace a $20 timing belt or wait for it to snap and buy a whole new engine after getting it towed?

Is it better to get cholesterol medicine from Discount Drug for a few bucks or go bankrupt paying ambulance, hospital, physician, surgery, emergency medicine bills after a heart attack?

Everything we enjoy needs regular upkeep: hairstyles on our head or face, swimming pools, or air conditioning. If you want to continue to enjoy eating at Countryside BBQ or smile with your friends talking about your football team winning over the weekend, you will have to avoid the “I don't need any treatment since it doesn't hurt" mindset.

“I cannot see a dentist since I don't have any insurance."

There is a misconception in America that you need a form of insurance to see any healthcare provider: dentist, chiropractor, physical therapist, optometrist, etc. While most people have medical insurance from an employer or individual plan, half of America still opts not to have dental insurance to save costs.

• Most doctors ( except physicians who practice under a major hospital group) work independently and manage small businesses. Their fees are set according to their location, expertise, and costs of operation.

• Dental insurance premiums are often the same cost (if not higher) than the cost of paying out of pocket for the same services.

• According to the latest research, Americans spend over a $1000 on their dogs and cats and over $3000 eating out every year. But they invest less than $200 a year to take care of their dental health.

Most dental insurance plans we see are deducting at least $25-35 a month. While dental costs seem high, Swansea Dental Care offers a membership plan for uninsured folks to help bring down that expense. Getting regular checkups and cleanings from your local dentist doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

“I didn't get cavities until I got pregnant. My baby took all my calcium"

My 20 month old twins and now 1-month-old have taught me how hard being a parent is every day. Going to the store, meeting with a friend, or taking a potty break takes considerable effort in planning. Obviously, we use the “because of my kids" card all the time.

One thing my wife cannot use that excuse for is the health of her teeth. If it was true that a baby took a mother's calcium and stripped her of her strong teeth, then every mother on earth would have crumbling, hurting teeth. There are obviously many changes in a woman's body during pregnancy involving the heart, bladder, skin, hair and overall psychologic condition. But it is a complete myth that a fetus takes anything from its mother's teeth.

There are dozens of reasons for cavities to start, but women out there using the “my baby took my calcium" are only fooling themselves. I'll give you all the tricks, tips, and hacks to prevent cavities for free. You can use the “because of my kids" to explain an untidy house but don't say it to justify all those holes in your teeth.

“I don't even eat candy. How can I have cavities?"

During Halloween large amounts of candy are consumed. Maybe people think that dentists never enjoy sweets and only give out toothbrushes to trick or treaters. I am not a wet blanket and eat peanut M&Ms myself daily. Of course you know candy isn't good for your teeth but total abstinence is not the answer either.

Cavities start when the natural bacteria in your mouth use sugars leftover after your meal that isn't brushed and flossed out to make acid. That acid goes onto dissolve your teeth. Over months, with continuous sugar overload and bad habits, that soft spot becomes a large hole and eventually turns into a toothache when it reaches the nerve inside your tooth.

Everything we eat has sugar: milk, bread, crackers, spaghetti sauce, protein bars, juice, yogurt, soups, tea, cereal, barbeque sauce and on and on. All the patients I see that snack all day and never floss have cavities. Sugar addiction is real. It's a stronger addiction than alcohol, cocaine and even heroin. A couple fun size Snickers won't cause instant cavities but your daily overload of sugar and not brushing or flossing definitely will.

“A thousand bucks? That's a lot of money for one tooth! Who do you think I am, Bill Gates?"

The most common treatment for a broken, damaged, or infected tooth is a crown. A crown enhances the health, strength, and beauty of a tooth God gave but that you destroyed. Crowns are a predictable treatment and with good patient habits, they will last at least 10 years.

Why even spend money on one tooth when you could put a down payment on a car? Or get the latest iPhone? Or a snazzy new sports sneakers? These are all things you do not use 24/7 like your mouth. If you lose a tooth, you've lost a body part that helps you chew your favorite food every day. You've lost a body part that makes up your smile others see every day. When a crown lasts 10 years, you've invested about one quarter per day to keep your life pain- and trouble-free.

Even better, I've seen plenty of crowns last longer; I met a lady that had a crown placed 48 years ago! What do you own that you use every day that has lasted over 10 years? Phone? Carpeting? Shoes? The best crown available in the world will cost you pennies a day and last over a decade from your local dental office. I urge you to look beyond the initial price and consider the overall longevity and benefit of dental treatment.

“The heat isn't turning on. Can you call someone to check it out?"

When temperatures went below 40 degrees, the heater was turned on at my office. After 30 minutes, there was still no heat. I then remembered that I had neglected to have the HVAC unit inspected at all in the last year. I was certain that some major repair would be needed and I was an example of not following my own advice: keep up with maintenance.

My HVAC service replied promptly to our request and came to the office within the hour. After inspection, Ed found the issue and I was relieved he could address it as a minor service. He informed me that he offers a maintenance plan that takes care of routine HVAC services so that a major breakdown does not occur. With the yearly fee, his team comes and ensures that emergency situations are avoided.

Ben Franklin was a very smart guy and remarked, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Ed reminded me of that powerful lesson with my HVAC. I encourage you to seek a dental office to keep your teeth and mouth healthy to avoid emergencies. Dental treatment is not expensive, dental neglect is!