Top Ten Mistakes People Make About Dental Care
by Stephen H. Hook, DDS Westchester CA Dentist
As I drive around my neighborhood in Westchester CA near the Los Angeles International Airport I see countless numbers of dental offices and clinics all bidding for your patronage. I see billboards, newspaper advertisements and internet coupons offering information and bargains for dental work. Also 70% of the patients I see have third-party dental insurance which many times can be a source of confusion for you the average consumer. Hoping to help clear up the misconceptions I hereby offer my top ten delusions people have about dental care. Here are the top 10 mistakes people make about dental care.
#10 TEETH NEED TO BE WHITE TO BE ATTRACTIVE AND APPEAR HEALTHY
Normal teeth are various shades from ivory, light yellow or gray to a slight brown cast. Almost never are natural teeth even close to perfectly white. Tooth Whitening is quite popular and can be very expensive and is nearly always TEMPORARY. The teeth will return slowly to their natural shades unless bleached repeatedly. Overly white teeth are unnatural and draw attention away from the eyes which are the most important facial asset for attractiveness. So remember, teeth whitening is temporary.
#9 MOUTHWASH AND TOOTHPASTE ARE VERY IMPORTANT FOR HEALTH AND HYGIENE
All OTC (over the counter) toothpastes and mouthwashes are non-essential for good dental care and oral health. They help cleanse and make your mouth taste fresher, but have some disadvantages and cost money. I suggest that patients use whatever products please them and are least expensive but do not think that the rinses and pastes do any significant whitening or disinfecting of their teeth or mouth. The brush and dental floss used properly makes all the difference.
# 8 BELIEVING THE HORRIBLE STORIES YOUR HEAR SOCIALLY ABOUT DENTISTRY
Most people love to tell and hear a good story. How else do TMZ, the National Enquirer and most other social media survive? For the most part uneasiness about the dental experience at least at the beginning is universal. Relating a story about negative feelings, fear, tension and the like regarding dental care will have almost instant sympathy at a cocktail party. For every bad dental experience however, there may be ten wonderful, uplifting stories about good dental care but they go untold possibly because of confidentiality or more likely because the gory tale is more fun and better small talk. Suggestion: get honest feedback about a person’s dental insights one-on-one from someone you respect.
# 7 RELYING TOO HEAVILY ON SERVICES SUCH AS YELP AND 1 800 DENTIST
It’s important to evaluate a prospective dentist before committing to a visit, but be sure of the services you consult. YELP is a popular consumer service that allows consumers to enter reviews about businesses and services. It is hardly perfect, but it tries to take into account the reviews submitted by the public and although it does accept paid advertising from the businesses, these services state they do not allow that income to change the business’s grade. 1 800 dentist is a paid referral service which refers you exclusively to their paying member dentists. Unless I pay a hefty fee to these types of companies they will not refer patients to me. For a safer, neutral referral service, contact the local component of the California Dental Association which is Western Los Angeles Dental Society in the Westchester CA area. Call 310 349-2199. About 70% of the dentists in the area are members and you the public are protected because members adhere to a higher set of ethics and standards than the standards that are required by the Department of Consumer Affairs.
# 6 INSISTING ON DENTAL APPOINTMENTS OUTSIDE YOUR NORMAL WORK HOURS
Being unwilling to take time off from work for your dental treatment makes it difficult for everyone, most especially you. When we have to accommodate you very early, very late, at the lunch hour or exclusively on weekends it makes for a crowded, rushed appointment and usually a frazzled time for you. The traffic is at its worst, we are all tired, if we get started late which is very possible due to late arrival then we may need to reappoint. In short your needed treatment is delayed and done under stressful, uncomfortable conditions. If your employer is paying the premiums for your dental insurance you are also helping the insurance company make a bigger profit off of your employer’s underutilized insurance program.
#5 BELIEVING THE ADVERTISED PRICES AND SERVICES FOR CROWNS, DENTURES, IMPLANTS AND OTHER SERVICES
I think we are all smart enough to be skeptical of coupons for services and commodities, but for the most part we see them so much that we get used to the discount car wash, 2 for the price of 1 dinners, hotel or travel upgrades and limited time offers on any number of services or goods. When it comes to dental care I’m amazed how gullible some people can be. A discount on an exam and a cleaning is bad enough. All that might happen is a poor cleaning and a high-pressure sales pitch. Dentures, Crowns and Implants are custom-made restorations however, and have to not only be precisely fitted but also need to be made of excellent materials. Most all of these discount advertised services are set up in such a way that there will be add-ons and extras. Beware of discounts on brain surgery, parachutes and dental care.
# 4 INSISTING THAT ALL FILLINGS AND CROWNS BE COSMETIC (TOOTH COLORED) AND WHITE
Tooth colored fillings and crowns have significant disadvantages when compared to stronger, more resilient gold fillings and crowns or even silver ones. IF the teeth are visible when you smile and talk then cosmetics are a very important consideration. When major chewing teeth in the back of the mouth need strong, long-lasting crowns and fillings why would you insist on an inferior type of restoration just because it is tooth-colored especially if it can’t be seen? Even the insurance policies will refuse to pay for these more expensive restorations. Instead they will pay for the less expensive metallic ones when cosmetics are not a practical issue. Vanity in this instance is not only expensive but can be poor judgment.
# 3 DENTAL INSURANCE WILL NOT PAY 100% OF THE COST–SURPRISE!
Policies vary but I have never yet encountered one that paid 100% of the entire cost of your dental treatment. Dental insurance policies are deliberately structured so that the patient MUST share some of the cost of treatment. Since nearly all dental disease is entirely preventable, it is basic that you the patient bear part of the financial responsibility for the dental repair and treatment. Features in each policy vary but look out for terms like: co-pay, annual maximum, deductible and non-covered treatment.
# 2 GIVING THE INSURANCE POLICY TOO MUCH CONTROL OVER YOUR CARE
All policies have arbitrary limits and frequency guidelines and usually annual maximum benefits. When diagnosing and treatment planning your care, I consider many important criteria including insurance limitations, BUT insurance limitations and guidelines are far less important than health, dignity, comfort, function, practicality and of course your wishes. When I present what I think is the best (not necessarily the most expensive) treatment plan, my desire is for you the patient to be able to choose that plan if at all possible. When the patient rejects treatment and turns decision-making responsibility over to the insurance company it is very sad indeed. To accept only treatment that is paid for by the insurance policy may be a way to keep costs down, but it totally throws out the trust in the doctor’s judgment and it allows the disease process to continue. It is best to have proper treatment, so use the insurance as best you can and be creative with financial arrangements. Don’t abdicate your health options to an insurance company whose primary intent is to generate profit for their shareholders, not serve your best needs.
# 1 NOT GETTING REGULAR EXAMS AND CLEANINGS TWICE YEARLY
The biggest mistake people make by far is not coming in for regular checkups and cleanings! When we check your mouth we can detect many life threatening diseases such as cancer, diabetes, HIV and other immune diseases. We can also monitor your blood pressure, prevent chronic inflammation, bone loss, periodontal disease, the status of crowns and fillings that are wearing out and the possible need for nightguards or athletic mouthguards. Visits take about an hour and if you have dental insurance many policies pay the entire cost of the routine visits twice a year. There is no health practice that is easier, cheaper and more beneficial that twice yearly check-ups and cleanings. So there you have it ladies, gentlemen, young and old alike: ten fallacies about dental treatment in the opinion of this doctor that you should be aware of and avoid. I also would like to close with this crazy observation. David Letterman did pretty well with his top 10 and if you recall his smile was not picture perfect, but it was normal and healthy. Don’t obsess over the perfect white smile, instead smile with what you have right now and you’ll receive so many smiles in return you’ll never forget the priceless value of your teeth and your dental health.