Academy of General Dentistry spokesman: Dental insurance viewed as ‘luxury’
Did you have a traumatic experience in the dentist’s chair as a child? Has that memory carried into adulthood, prompting you to avoid regular teeth cleanings and checkups?
You still may harbor a fear of going to the dentist. But there’s perhaps a related fear as well: the cost of dental care. About 45 million Americans don’t have dental insurance, according to a 2008 survey by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Academy of General Dentistry educates patients about dental health and serves as a resource for individuals and families through its KnowYourTeeth.com website. One of the site’s features is a “dental diary” that can be downloaded for free to help people track their dental care.
Dr. Eric Shapira, a dentist for more than 30 years in California who is an official spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry, chatted with InsuranceQuotes.com about oral health and issues facing dentists and patients.
What is the state of dental health in America?
The state of dental health in America is good. We’ve been working on making people aware for many years now about going to the dentist more than once a year to get their teeth cleaned and trying to incorporate preventative dentistry into the habits of Americans. I tell people, “Practice makes permanence.” They basically have a pain-free experience that allows them to come in willingly and to enjoy the experience rather than have a traumatic experience because of pain. The more traumas they had in their youth, the more they reject or are in denial about their treatment or care.
What worries you most about the state of dental health today?
There is somewhat of a shortage of dentists in less populated areas, or more remote areas, of the country. Dentists have a huge overhead, and it’s very costly to open your own office, let alone run a practice. The technology is growing so fast that it’s increasing the cost of doing business in dentistry. Dentists are having to charge more. Supplies are escalating in cost, materials are escalating in costs; the drug companies have a shortage of drugs, anesthetics, painkillers. When supply is limited, demand goes up, and the cost goes up. Most dentists are working where there are more patients and more income rather than going to an area with less population.
Why do so many people not have dental coverage?
Dental insurance is kind of a luxury. It’s either not offered because it is expensive for employers, or it’s too expensive to buy dental insurance independently of a job. The employee may not be willing to let some salary go toward dental insurance benefits. We’re in the midst of a financial crisis in this country, and people need every dime they can get. The ones that do have dental insurance think it’s a panacea and should cover everything. They don’t want to pay a co-pay.
What advice do you have for people without dental insurance?
There are community clinics for people who don’t have insurance. The drawback to that is they may have to wait a bit. The treatment may be limited to preventative care and general dentistry, rather than specialist dentistry. I don’t think there’s a problem with people getting dental care. They just have to look for it. I don’t know any dentist personally that would turn away somebody who was having an emergency (and couldn’t pay).
What’s one step a patient should take when looking for a dentist?
I advise everybody to interview the dentist and their staff. Take a tour of the office. You are choosing a personalized person of care. We work in an intimate zone (the mouth) … . There has to be trust between the patient and practitioner.
What are some quick tips for people who want to take care of their teeth?
Floss the teeth you want to keep. People who brush daily and floss daily keep their teeth longer and live longer. You want to brush your teeth at least two times a day. Brush your tongue. Rinse your mouth out. Remember the FBI – flossing, brushing, irrigating.