By Janice Neumann
When I was in my 30s and a dentist told me I needed a few crowns, I decided to skip the expensive devices because of my meagre pay-check. Besides, my teeth weren’t hurting.
Years later, I am paying the price in pain and costlier dental work. One of the damaged teeth that needed a crown distorted my bite, making a minor jaw-joint problem even worse.
Unfortunately I’m far from alone. The price of dental care is steep for many people financially, physically and even socially.
The majority of emergency room dental visits were for infections that could be handled in a dentist’s office. Overall, emergency room dental visits cost $1.9 billion yearly, 40 percent of which is public money, according to his institute’s analysis of data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
When one puts off getting fillings because of the cost, the pain keeps mounting and teeth kept deteriorating. Eventually one must have multiple teeth extracted as they are beyond saving.
But that wouldn’t be the end of one’s pain either. Even years later, one would have difficulty chewing food and feel too embarrassed to smile because of the unsightly gaps between the remaining teeth.
Those who cannot afford to visit private dentists should then approach teaching hospitals and government funded public hospitals to seek dental treatment.
Dental school, where care is provided by students, charges a third or even less of the fees charged by private dentists. Dental Schools want their students to have as robust an education as they can provide, and lower fees help attract and facilitate acceptance of treatment plans.
More people are avoiding dental care because of the cost than other types of health care.
The study showed that adults ages 19 to 64 said they were more likely to forgo dental care because of cost than children or seniors (12.8 percent of non-elderly adults compared with 7.2 percent of seniors and 4.3 percent of children).
Nearly a quarter of adults with incomes below the poverty line said they did not receive dental care because of cost. Even people with dental insurance were avoiding getting their teeth fixed because of cost, according to the study.
People also said they didn’t get the dental care they needed because of fear, inconvenient locations or appointment times, and trouble finding a dentist who takes their insurance. Cost, however, was the main reason.
However it is a sad reality that public health programs don’t seem to take account of the connection between oral health and overall health. Often families will make sure their children get to the dentist, but tight budgets mean the parents won’t do the same.
Forgoing dental care in adulthood can mean even worse health problems in old age.