Saving Money at the Dentist

Dental hygiene may not be the most savory topic, but you only get one set of (adult) teeth, and they're awfully expensive to fix if you don't care for them properly. Unfortunately, I have a lot of firsthand knowledge on this subject, but with any luck, I can prevent you or your kids from sharing my fate.

My teeth have soft enamel, which basically means that by the time I was 20, I'd already had more than my share of fillings, plus a root canal and a crown, even though I don't think my dental habits were any worse than the average person's. However, I had braces as a child, and if you've ever had braces, you know how difficult it is to keep your teeth truly clean. (Of course, nowadays, there seem to be ways for kids to avoid braces altogether, like Invisalign and oral surgery.)

What I learned from my experience is that taking good preventative care of your teeth will save you a fortune. I brush my teeth a minimum of twice a day, more often if I've eaten a lot of sugar, and I never miss a night of flossing. Dental floss is incredibly cheap compared to the price of a filling.

If you have children, and particularly children with braces, teaching and enforcing excellent dental hygiene will save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars down the line and will save your child hours of agony in the dentist's chair. I only wish someone had been stricter with me when I had braces. Flossing with braces is a time-consuming ordeal, but I'm sure it would have been better than getting over 20 fillings in the span of a few years (on a single visit I once showed up with 11 new cavities!), enduring the excruciating pain of an abcess for a week, and having a root canal. I even broke a tooth once while on vacation because cavities had weakened my tooth so much. Imagine having to wait a week to see a dentist and in the meantime having to patch a gigantic hole in your tooth with a makeshift product from the drugstore. Yuck! Despite never missing a regular six month dentist visit for a thorough cleaning and checkup, my daily habits, or lack thereof, really destroyed my teeth.

If that's not enough to convince you to take care of your teeth, consider that a single cavity can cost $160 or more to fill and a root canal+crown can cost $800 or more. Dental floss costs as little as $2 a pack at Costco and lasts for weeks. Also, not flossing can often be the hidden culprit behind chronic bad breath. If you have a significant other, they'll probably be greatly appreciative of your flossing and more likely to get cozy with you.

Since I adopted my new dental hygiene habits, I've spent a lot less money and a lot less time in the dentist's chair. When I was a kid, it was difficult to get the floss between your teeth and it almost always made your gums bleed. These days, dental floss is comfortable and easy to use--Glide is my favorite brand. If you start flossing regularly, your gums might bleed at first, but don't be alarmed--it's normal, and it will go away quickly as your gums get healthier.

I'm going to go brush my teeth now!


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