Dental care can be expensive, especially for the uninsured. This is, however, no reason to ignore your oral health; if you’re operating on a budget, adhering to the cost-effective dental care practices below is sure to save you a great deal of money over the long-term (not to mention time and pain) while also keeping your teeth in peak condition:
Skip the junk food:
Not only do sugary treats and items like potato chips represent a waste of money, as they have no real nutritional value, they are notorious causes of tooth decay as they contribute to the formation of plaque. (Though potato chips do not contain added sugar, they contain starches which break down into sugars, and so they have a similar effect on teeth.) Additionally, sugar has a negative effect on the immune system, making it even harder for your body to fight the bacteria which feed off of plaque and cause tooth decay and gum disease.
Rather than spending money on nutritionally empty snack foods, invest in foods which are rich in vitamin C and calcium; calcium strengthens both bones and teeth, while Vitamin C boosts the immune system and improves gum health.
Less than 50 percent of people in America floss every day, even though 70 percent brush up to twice per day. This constitutes a grave oversight, as flossing is integral to removing hard-to-reach plaque and bacteria, particularly that which gets lodged between teeth. Flossing is also very important to improving and maintaining gum health.
Chew sugar-free gum:
Sugar-free gum is an inexpensive way to keep your teeth clean even while on the go, as it helps to both remove plaque and stimulate saliva production. Chew a stick of sugar-free gum after each meal if you do not have access to a toothbrush for best results, and do not chew more than three pieces per day to avoid the risk of wearing your teeth down over time.
Drink tap water:
Not only does readily-available tap water help to rinse bacteria from the mouth and keep saliva flowing properly, in most regions, it also contains the cavity-preventing agent fluoride.
Always choose tap water over bottled water—not only does bottled water not contain fluoride, it’s actually less strictly regulated than tap water in many places and may therefore contain more toxins, making it an all-round waste of money. Try carrying a reusable thermos with you instead and fill it up with tap water from your home, office, etc. as you go about your day. (This approach has the added benefit of being better for the environment as well.)
Visit your dentist at least twice per year for cleanings.
While this may not seem like cost-effective advice, in reality, the cost of cleanings and basic checkups is far less than what you will pay if you neglect your dental care and end up needing a major restorative procedure (such as a root canal and crown). If you visit the dentist regularly, he or she will spot problems early on—while they can still be fixed using inexpensive minor procedures.
Discuss how to finance care with your dentist.
Many dentists offer low-interest payment plans to make dental work affordable, and they may know of services available in your area which help low-income families to pay for dental care. Additionally, there are often steps you can take to lower the cost of the procedures you require, such as requesting that your dentist use amalgam (silver) fillings rather than resin composite or gold.