One of the biggest complaints that patients usually have about going to the dentist is the cost. While financials, especially in a tough economy following the Great Recession, are always a concern — one of the most expensive mistakes any one person can make is to assume that it is simply cheaper to not go to the dentist and only see us when there is a serious problem. The concept that dentists are expensive is flat wrong. For the most part, if you have regular cleanings and maintain decent oral hygiene habits, you are likely to spend no more than a few hundred dollars a year. On average, a routine cleaning will run you anywhere between $55-$150, depending on your location and the skill level of the dentist. Also, there are many options for those whose budget may lead them to believe they cannot afford to see a dentist.
Many dental schools offer low-cost or free cleanings and basic dental work for people with low incomes or who do not have insurance and might not otherwise be able to afford to see a dentist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, both USC and UCLA offer dental care to the public at reduced rates. Other areas likely have similar offerings. While it may seem a bit disconcerting to many to see a dental student, all of the dental school residents are supervised by a highly knowledgeable staff and will provide treatment that is on par with most private practice dentists. Of course, there is a drawback in seeing a dentist at a university dental care facility, as your treatment may take longer and you are in a teaching environment. However, this is a great option for people whose finances may be strained to a breaking point by seeing a private dentist.
If you have insurance or are fortunate enough to be able to afford treatment out of pocket, then there is no excuse to NOT see a dentist. A small cavity can turn into a root canal after months and years of neglect, which is far more expensive to repair than a simple cleaning and filling. Many people are embarrassed to have cavities, often due to early experiences with the dentist and possible interactions with their parents or caretaker. However, the tooth is the only part of the human body that cannot repair itself and even with impeccable cleaning and maintenance, you can still get a cavity. If you suspect you have a cavity or your tooth is overly sensitive and bothering you, call your dentist, have them check it out. You’ll be glad you did. Pain and sensitivity can be signs of a larger problem, and the best policy is to do whatever you can to repair and save your tooth. Fillings, veneers, and crowns are not cheap, but they are nowhere nearly as expensive as dental implants and other prostheses.
To put it in perspective, a full mouth reconstruction, which can be required if people have many years of neglect — it can cost upwards of $30,000-$45,000!!! That’s a new car (often fully loaded or luxury!) or a down payment on a house or condo! (depending where you live.) This is why it’s critical to take good care of your teeth, mouth, and gums.
A filling is only about $100-$300, depending on the size and the tooth. There are other options such as onlays and inlays, but those are for more severe cases.
Dental costs are a practical matter for most people, and financials are a huge consideration. Still, when you consider over the course of your lifetime, you may lose out on a new car or home because of poor dental health, it should put seeing a dentist into perspective. Of course, there are many things that can happen over the course of your life that are beyond your control — and teeth will get damaged, lost, or need to be replaced; however, you and your dentist can go a long way towards making sure you have healthy teeth and gums throughout your life, which can save you thousands of dollars in the long-run.