Regular dental hygiene visits…Where’s the value?
by Stephanie Tomik, RDH – Treatment Coordinator
As a registered dental hygienist, I know all too well about the importance and necessity of regular professional dental cleanings. We often see patients who after postponing regular, preventative care return to us with cavities, gum disease and pain. Recently we saw a young man who after 5 years of no preventative care thought it was time for a cleaning. He ended up having 9 areas of decay plus severe gingivitis. He now requires some teeth extracted, spent about 3 hours in the chair having filings placed and now visits us every 3 months for dental hygiene recare to combat the gum disease.
Sure spending a few hundred dollars on a dental cleaning every 3-6 months could seem like a lot, especially for those with no dental insurance, but these costs are much lower than more invasive treatments once disease has progressed. During preventative care appointments any areas of potential disease are identified and interventions like cleaning and advice for at-home techniques will occur. This can prevent serious conditions that may require expensive treatments later on. One great example is gum disease – gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is gum disease which can easily be reversed with proper interventions. But, say your gingivitis was not diagnosed; it could lead to periodontitis, which is irreversible and could lead to tooth loss, decreased nutritional intake and serious disease in your body (heart disease, diabetes and cancers). Your hygienist can also provide you with treatments such as sealants and fluoride varnish which are an inexpensive alternative to developing tooth decay and needing restorative work.
Let’s break down the costs
Continuing dental hygiene care appointments are relatively less expensive than most treatments offered at the dental office, ranging from $100 to $200 per visit. Comparatively, some restorative and specialized treatments can run into the thousands, or even tens of thousands. Also keep in mind that many restorative procedures may require more than one appointment. This might mean taking time off work, maybe without pay. Often money needs to be borrowed or financed to complete these treatments which means accumulating interest and added costs. As well, dental insurance is designed to encourage routine care, with relatively small yearly maximum reimbursement allowances to help cover the costs of preventative dental hygiene visits. Most dental insurance companies, in fact, will reimburse 3-4 visits per year with your dental hygienist, so be aware of the best way to maximize those benefits. Professional dental hygiene care is the most cost effective dental treatment a patient can receive.
Good health needs to be looked at as a commodity – it is a monetary investment that will benefit you. Regular dental care is no different than having your car serviced regularly; if you never had your oil changed there wouldn’t be much surprise when eventually the engine seized up. The same thing goes for oral health. For the value of your time and money, and to keep your mouth and overall self as healthy as possible, make sure to keep regular appointments with your dental hygienist.