Health insurance is an important part of life, helping to even out the high costs of medical treatment. Without it, many of us would find it extremely difficult to financially weather physical illness or injury.
But many also view health insurance as frustratingly complicated, including policies that cover dental care. Regarding the latter, people often view it as medical insurance's identical twin—which it's not. While insurance for clinical services and hospitalization manages cost in a comprehensive manner, the majority of dental plans function more like a discount coupon.
The great majority of dental policies today are paid for by employers as a salary benefit to their employees. There can still be differences in policies and it's important to know what kind of plan your workplace has provided you. Here's a rundown of the three basic types of dental insurance plans.
Fee-for-Service. This is the most common dental plan in which the employee is able to choose their dentist and the insurance company pays the dentist for services rendered. Each individual policy outlines the treatments covered, as well as the percentage of payment.
Direct reimbursement. With this approach, the employer pays employees' dental bills directly out of company funds. Even so, an insurance company is often still involved, but as a paid administrator for the employer, reimbursing the dental provider on behalf of the company.
Managed care. An insurance company may also create a network of dental providers that all agree to a set schedule of fees for services rendered. These dental health maintenance organizations (DHMOs) or preferred provider organizations (PPOs) can reduce patients' out-of-pocket expenses. But covered patients can only use dentists within the DHMO or PPO network to receive benefits.
You can, of course, purchase dental insurance as an individual rather than receive it as an employee benefit. If so, you'll need to weigh what you pay out for the policy and what you receive in benefits with what you would pay out-of-pocket without it to see if you're truly realizing any savings.
Either way, understanding a dental insurance plan can be a challenge for the average person. Fortunately, most dental offices are well experienced with these plans. Your dentist's staff can be a valuable resource for helping you get the most out of your insurance benefits.
If you would like more information on the financial side of dental care, please contact our office. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Insurance 101.”
How long does it take to get a dental implant? That depends….
Really, it does! There are a number of factors that determine whether you can get a new implant tooth "in one day" or whether you'll need to wait several weeks or months after implant surgery. By far, the top factor will be the health of your implant's supporting bone.
The bone plays an essential role in both the durability and appearance of an implant. Bone cells begin to accumulate on the titanium metal post after its installment to form a solid hold that could last for decades. Positioning the implant just right within the bone also ensures the resulting tooth looks natural and attractive.
If the bone is healthy, you might qualify for the "tooth in one day" procedure in which the dentist places (or loads) a life-like crown onto the implant at the same time that they install the implant. Because the bone and implant still need to fully integrate, this is a temporary crown designed to apply less force while biting. After a few weeks, the dentist will then install the full-sized permanent crown.
Not everyone, though, has enough healthy bone to support the tooth-in-one-day procedure, or even to install an implant in the first place. A patient must have enough bone present to both support the implant and to ensure proper placement. Bone loss, a common malady for people who've lost teeth, could derail the implant process.
It's often possible, however, to reverse this situation. By grafting bone-like material into the site, a person may be able to eventually regain some of the bone they've lost, enough to support an implant. Even so, this adds time to the beginning of the process and the patient may still need to undergo full bone-implant integration before receiving any type of crown.
As you can see, how long the implant process takes can depend a great deal on the condition of the bone your dentist has to work. But regardless of the duration, the end result will be an attractive and durable implant tooth.
If you would like more information on dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Implant Timelines for Replacing Missing Teeth.”
During election season, you'll often hear celebrities encouraging you to vote. But this year, Kaia Gerber, an up-and-coming model following the career path of her mother Cindy Crawford, made a unique election appeal—while getting her wisdom teeth removed.
With ice packs secured to her jaw, Gerber posted a selfie to social media right after her surgery. The caption read, “We don't need wisdom teeth to vote wisely.”
That's great advice—electing our leaders is one of the most important choices we make as a society. But Gerber's post also highlights another decision that bears careful consideration, whether or not to have your wisdom teeth removed.
Found in the very back of the mouth, wisdom teeth (or “third molars”) are usually the last of the permanent teeth to erupt between ages 17 and 25. But although their name may be a salute to coming of age, in reality wisdom teeth can be a pain. Because they're usually last to the party, they're often erupting in a jaw already crowded with teeth. Such a situation can be a recipe for numerous dental problems.
Crowded wisdom teeth may not erupt properly and remain totally or partially hidden within the gums (impaction). As such, they can impinge on and damage the roots of neighboring teeth, and can make overall hygiene more difficult, increasing the risk of dental disease. They can also help pressure other teeth out of position, resulting in an abnormal bite.
Because of this potential for problems, it's been a common practice in dentistry to remove wisdom teeth preemptively before any problems arise. As a result, wisdom teeth extractions are the top oral surgical procedure performed, with around 10 million of them removed every year.
But that practice is beginning to wane, as many dentists are now adopting more of a “wait and see” approach. If the wisdom teeth show signs of problems—impaction, tooth decay, gum disease or bite influence—removal is usually recommended. If not, though, the wisdom teeth are closely monitored during adolescence and early adulthood. If no problems develop, they may be left intact.
This approach works best if you maintain regular dental cleanings and checkups. During these visits, we'll be able to consistently evaluate the overall health of your mouth, particularly in relation to your wisdom teeth.
Just as getting information on candidates helps you decide your vote, this approach of watchful waiting can help us recommend the best course for your wisdom teeth. Whether you vote your wisdom teeth “in” or “out,” you'll be able to do it wisely.
Most of us care for our teeth without much assistance, save from our dentist. But that can change as we get older. A senior adult sometimes needs the help of a family member or a close friend, even with the basics of personal oral care.
At the same time, an older adult's other pressing health needs can be so overwhelming for their caregiver that their oral health needs move to the back burner. But the condition of a person's teeth and gums is directly related to overall health and well-being, especially later in life—it deserves to be a high priority.
First and foremost, caregivers should focus on daily oral hygiene to prevent tooth decay or gum disease, the two most prevalent diseases capable of severely damaging teeth and gums. Dental plaque, a thin bacterial film accumulating on tooth surfaces, is the top cause for these diseases. Removing it daily helps lower the risk for either type of infection.
Older adults may begin to find it difficult to brush and floss on a daily basis. Caregivers can help by adapting the tools of the job to their situation. Adults with diminished hand dexterity might be better served with a power or large-handled toothbrush, or switching to a water flosser for flossing. If they're cognitively challenged, it might also be necessary to perform these tasks for them.
Because of medications or other oral issues, older adults have a higher propensity for chronic dry mouth. Saliva neutralizes acid and supplies antibodies to fight infection, so not having enough can make the mouth environment more conducive to harmful bacteria. Caregivers should interact with their loved one's doctor to help reduce dry mouth through alternative medications or products to improve saliva flow.
An older person may also have dental work like crowns, bridges or dentures that protect their oral health and improve dental function. Be sure they're seeing a dentist to regularly check their dental work and make adjustments or repairs as necessary.
Good oral health is important in every stage of life, but particularly in our later years. Watching out for an older adult's teeth and gums can make a big difference in their overall quality of life.
If you would like more information on dental care for senior adults, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Aging & Dental Health.”
It's common for people to sip freshly brewed coffee or take a bite of a just-from-the-oven casserole and immediately regret it—the searing heat can leave the tongue and mouth scalded and tingling with pain.
Imagine, though, having the same scalding sensation, but for no apparent reason. It's not necessarily your mind playing tricks with you, but an actual medical condition called burning mouth syndrome (BMS). Besides scalding, you might also feel mouth sensations like extreme dryness, tingling or numbness.
If encountering something hot isn't the cause of BMS, what is then? That's often hard to nail down, although the condition has been linked to diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, acid reflux or even psychological issues. Because it's most common in women around menopause, changes in hormones may also play a role.
If you're experiencing symptoms related to BMS, it might require a process of elimination to identify a probable cause. To help with this, see your dentist for a full examination, who may then be able to help you narrow down the possibilities. They may also refer you to an oral pathologist, a dentist who specializes in mouth diseases, to delve further into your case.
In the meantime, there are things you can do to help ease your discomfort.
Avoid items that cause dry mouth. These include smoking, drinking alcohol or coffee, or eating spicy foods. It might also be helpful to keep a food diary to help you determine the effect of certain foods.
Drink more water. Keeping your mouth moist can also help ease dryness. You might also try using a product that stimulates saliva production.
Switch toothpastes. Many toothpastes contain a foaming agent called sodium lauryl sulfate that can irritate the skin inside the mouth. Changing to a toothpaste without this ingredient might offer relief.
Reduce stress. Chronic stress can irritate many conditions including BMS. Seek avenues and support that promote relaxation and ease stress levels.
Solving the mystery of BMS could be a long road. But between your dentist and physician, as well as making a few lifestyle changes, you may be able to find significant relief from this uncomfortable condition.
If you would like more information on burning mouth syndrome, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Burning Mouth Syndrome: A Painful Puzzle.”
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