Money Saving Tips

Dental Visits When Budgets Are Tight: What’s Worth It?

Published on

Lost your dental insurance? Here's how to make dental visits count for your family while you're in between jobs.

by Dr. Burhenne

Dental Visits When Budgets Are Tight: What's Worth It?

Dental Visits When Budgets Are Tight: What’s Worth It? Question: Long story short is I lost my job and now don’t have dental insurance for my family as well as less money to spend on dental care. I wanted to take the family in for a dental cleaning and an exam but I was told the cleaning and exam were pointless without getting expensive x-rays because the dentist could basically tell nothing about what was going on with our teeth without the x-rays.

It seemed to me that the cleaning and visual exam would be better than nothing, right? I was told no – by two different dentists. Not to knock the value of x-rays, but really? Why even bother paying for the cleaning and exam, then? Would it be useful to just have the x-rays taken without the cleaning and exam? The family has good oral hygiene and has had little to no plaque build-up at previous cleanings. Am I putting my children’s dental health at significant risk (ages 8 & 10) by pushing the appointments out another 6 months to a year while we save money for all this? Their last dental x-rays were done two years ago.

– Atana M.

Answer: Atana: You are between the proverbial molar and hard place. Many dentists do this to protect themselves from dental malpractice. They’ve been taught in dental school that if they miss finding a cavity via the clinical exam and do not view a x-ray that they may have committed malpractice. I would not disagree with that notion.

Tort reform in regards to medical/dental malpractice has long been a controversial issue, wedging its way in between the patient and doctor. However, what happens to the “in-between” patients like your children is difficult to stomach.

I would have viewed the x-rays from two years ago and based on a thorough clinical exam, made a “threat” assessment for potential decay.

What do your kids eat? How well do they brush their teeth? X-rays are very important in an making a complete assessment, but there is a controversy as to how many and how often one should take x-rays – especially on developing children.

I would have taken x-rays (because two years is a long time for 8 and 10 year olds) and not done the cleaning. This combo essentially would have cost the same as the cleaning/exam combo.

I’d rather know what’s brewing inside the teeth, as a root canal is non-reversible. In dental school we used to stop brushing our teeth to induce gingivitis to study it and see how quickly we could reverse it. My point is that not getting a cleaning once is not as bad as missing a deep cavity that will irreversibly damage the tooth.

Gingivitis is reversible – deep cavities are not. I’d get on the phone and call around and see if you can find a dentist that can work out a payment plan, or thinks out of the box and really cares about your children’s health.

Mark Burhenne DDS

tired of cavities?

In 3 super easy steps, I'll show you how to hardly ever get another cavity without drastically changing your diet.

Dr. Mark Burhenne DDS

Send this to a friend

Facebook icon Twitter icon Instagram icon Pinterest icon Google+ icon YouTube icon LinkedIn icon Contact icon