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Dental Insurance or Dental Assistance?

Dental Insurance is NOT really Insurance in the classic sense.

If you have dental needs beyond healthy cleanings. your care will require an investment beyond what your insurance covers. Your insurance will assist you very well in the maintenance of your dental health, but it was never designed to restore health when significant disease or breakdown is present in your mouth.

It’s not news that employers have reacted to the rising costs of health care benefits by shopping carefully for the benefits that they are able to offer their employees. Benefits are down, restrictions and exclusions are up. Our patients share their frustration with us every day. Adding to the frustration is the fact that dental benefits are often seen as comparable to other types of insurance. “Insurance”, by definition, is protection against unpredictable or catastrophic loss. Most dental insurance policies specifically exclude extraordinary and significant needs. The procedures best covered by most dental policies are not only predictable, but expected, such as routine exams, x-rays, healthy cleanings, etc. Further, policies that cover some less common services, such as crowns and treatment for gum disease, cover them at a much lower percentage, and with a low dollar limit per year.

We are glad you have the benefit of a dental policy. Your dental benefit plan is an excellent maintenance assistance program that will help you protect the investment you choose to make in your dental health, and we’re happy you will have that assistance!

Another common misrepresentation or misunderstanding is that dental insurance covers what you need. We believe this can be a danger to your health, because it implies that if it isn’t covered, you don’t need it. Insurance companies are in business to make a profit. This is no secret, and it’s not bad or wrong. Their responsibility to their shareholders is to provide the benefits to customers while still creating profit within the investment your employer has chosen to make in a dental policy. You cannot count on an insurance policy to determine what you need; that’s your responsibility. It’s our responsibility to advise you regarding your health. The fact is, unless you have excellent dental health, your needs will require that you make an investment.

We invest in what we value. Home improvement, education, vacations, are all examples of things we pay for, by choice, because we value them. We don’t presume to know where dental health fits in your value system. That’s for you to decide. It’s important for us that you know we think you’re worth the investment, and we’ll work with your benefit plan to see that you receive the maximum benefits in assisting you with the maintenance of your dental health.

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How Does Your Bite Affect Your Teeth?

The most recognized dental problems are tooth decay and gum disease, but one dental problem that can frequently be overlooked is occlusion. Occlusion is the relationship between the upper and lower teeth when biting together or chewing. When teeth bite together in a “normal” bite, all of the teeth should contact each other evenly at the same time. If the teeth or jaws do not align this is called malocclusion, and this can lead to a number of dental problems. Many times if your bite is off it can cause more pain and destruction than the more commonly recognized problems of tooth decay or gum disease.

If you are having problems with your bite, you may have experienced some of the following:

tooth sensitivity
worn/chipped/cracked teeth
crowding or shifting of teeth

  • jaw pain/popping/clicking

  • recession or bone loss around teeth (gum disease)
inability to chew effectively

Some of the treatments for different occlusal problems include:

  • protecting the teeth with a dental mouth guard
  • stabilizing the jaw and muscles with bite splint therapy
adjusting teeth
  • replacing missing teeth
orthodontic treatment to align the teeth
  • rebuilding teeth with fillings or crowns

For patients with a bite discrepancy, it is important to stabilize the jaw and bite before starting any definitive treatment on the teeth (fillings or crowns). The cause of the problem must be evaluated so that a proper treatment plan can be developed. In order to do that, we need to evaluate patients in a more comprehensive way. It is important to figure out the root of what is causing the problem in order to promote long-term dental health. For example: if you were to need a crown on your tooth because the previous filling or tooth was cracked and breaking down, and fix that first before stabilizing the bite, the same thing could happen to the tooth in a few years.  It is important to know why and what the cause of the cracked tooth is. Too often dental treatment is started before a comprehensive diagnosis is made, which could lead to disappointing results and consequences.

By studying the relationship between your teeth and jaw, correcting your bite and then fixing your teeth, the result will be a beautiful, long-lasting smile that works!

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April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Oral Cancer kills one American every hour of every day.
Early detection saves lives. Testing is painless.

Santavicca Dental Professionals is providing FREE Drop-In head and neck oral cancer exams on April 29th from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm in our Lebanon office. Our aim is to screen individuals and to educate the community about oral health and oral cancer awareness. While all our patients routinely receive visual head, neck, and oral cancer screenings during regular visits, April is recognized as Oral Cancer Awareness Month by the Oral Cancer Foundation. Santavicca Dental is promoting community awareness about the important aspects of early screening and detection for this type of cancer.

It is not necessary to be a current Santavicca Dental patient to receive these screenings. There is at no cost or obligation to you. Patients who are screened and need further evaluation will be referred to a specialist.

There are several important facts to recognize about oral cancer:

  • Oral cancer is the largest group of cancers which fall into the head and neck cancer category, and approximately 42,000 people in the US were newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2013, projected to increase to 43,250 by the end of 2014.
  • Oral cancer is now being diagnosed in younger age groups (20s and 30s), even if they don’t use tobacco products.
  • There are two distinct pathways by which most people come to oral cancer. One is through the use of tobacco and alcohol, a long term historic problem and cause, and the other is through exposure to the HPV-16 virus. A small percentage of people do get oral cancers from no currently identified cause.
  • When found at early stages of development, people with oral cancers have an 80 to 90% survival rate. Unfortunately at this time, the majority is found as late stage cancers, and this accounts for the very high death rate of about 45o/a at five years from diagnosis.

For more information about Oral Cancer Awareness visit OralCancerFoundation.org.
Santavicca Dental Professionals is a team of dental health professionals committed to the whole health and well-being of families and the community.

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Starting Out Right – Childrens Dental Health

What happens in childhood can last a lifetime. Oral health impacts a child’s overall health, self esteem, and ability to thrive. Starting out with the right dental habits as well as healthy nutritional habits are the key to success.

The statistics surrounding children’s dental health in the United States are not positive. Currently 44% of US children will have at least one cavity by kindergarten and over 19.5% of children 2-5 and 22.9% of children 6-19 have untreated cavities. While percentages have declined over the past decade the levels are still too high.

All tooth decay is preventable. Oral health is a smart investment from the very beginning. The average cost of applying a dental sealant to a child’s permanent teeth is less than one-third the cost of filling a cavity.

Developing good habits at an early age and scheduling regular dental visits help children get a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. A child’s complete preventive dental program should include fluoride, twice-daily brushing, wise food choices, and regular dental care.

As a dentist, parents often ask me for tips on helping to instill positive dental habits for their children. Here are a few:

Make it a habit. Most positive habits require 3 weeks of repetition to have a lasting effect so start out by making it a regular routine.
Drink water. Avoid juice, soda and sports drinks. They have little nutritional benefit and are loaded with sugar.
The right size. Use an appropriate sized toothbrush for the age of child.
Eat Healthy. Have healthy food choices available such as vegetables sticks, nuts, meat and cheese roll ups, apples with nut butter.
Flouride. Talk to your dentist about the right flouride treatments and sealants depending on your child’s age and history.
Brushing on their own. When a child is able to write they can manage brushing on their own. Supervision is still important to assure their teeth are clean.
Visits to the dentist. When your child is able to sit for a haircut they are ready to visit the dentist. It’s helpful for your child to become familiar and comfortable with the dentist office, the dentist and the staff at an early age.

Here are some additional suggestions based on age:

From Birth To 12 Months

  • After feedings, gently brush your baby’s gums using water on a baby toothbrush with soft bristles. Or wipe them with a clean washcloth.
  • Schedule your baby’s well-child visits. During these visits your child’s doctor will check your baby’s mouth.
  • And… Schedule your child’s first dental checkup. It’s helpful for children to get comfortable going to the dentist office and meeting the people there.

From 12 To 24 Months

  • Brush your child’s teeth twice a day using water on a baby toothbrush with soft bristles. The best times are after breakfast and before bed.
  • Limit juice. Make sure your child doesn’t drink more than 1 small cup of juice each day and only at mealtimes.
  • Consult with your child’s dentist or doctor about sucking habits. Sucking too strongly on a pacifier, a thumb, or fingers can affect the shape of the mouth and your child’s “bite.”
  • Schedule a dental checkup if your child has not had one.

At 24 Months

  • Brush. Help your child brush her teeth twice a day with a child-sized toothbrush that has soft bristles. Encourage her to brush her teeth on her own but make sure her teeth are clean. You may need to brush them again.
  • Flouride. You can start using fluoride toothpaste, which helps prevent cavities. Teach your child not to swallow it. Use a pea-sized amount or less and smear the paste into the bristles. Swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can make white or brown spots on your child’s adult teeth.
  • Floss. You can begin flossing your child’s teeth as soon as 2 teeth touch each other. Not all children need their teeth flossed at this age, so check with your dentist first.
  • Schedule your child’s annual dental checkup.
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Is Dental Insurance Worth It?

Dental insurance benefits these days often max out before even one tooth can be restored or replaced.

Dental Insurance has changed dramatically in the last 5 decades. Consumers, both employers and the beneficiaries of these plans, need to be aware that dental insurance is not necessary for dental health. Any catastrophic dental needs are usually covered by some other insurance such as auto insurance (in the case of an accident) or medical insurance (for accident or severe health issue affecting the teeth and jaws) or they simply are not covered, by any plan, including a dental insurance plan.

In our country our mindset needs to shift in order to be better health care consumers and most importantly to be healthier!

Dental disease is largely preventable and starts with effective self-care, habits you do or don’t engage in, and the foods and beverages you choose. Examples of habits are smoking, nail biting, tooth clenching and grinding, chewing tobacco, frequent snacking….. Nearly all insurance carriers say they cover preventive services, but they do not. They do not cover nutritional counseling, tobacco counseling or ongoing assistance with learning how to clean your teeth and mouth on a daily basis. They do not cover mouth guards or bite splints to keep your teeth from chipping, wearing down, gum recession and headaches and jaw issues. Your dental health professionals are your true partners in caring for your health.

Like any profession, dental health care providers that have practiced in the insurance arena have a practice model and structure that may also need to be re-examined. Waiting until teeth decay (so they can be filled), or break (so they can be root canaled and/or crowned) to intervene is not preventive in nature and will lead to preventable (unnecessary) loss of tooth structure or tooth loss.

Most employers and employees would benefit from a direct reimbursement program where your employer sets aside a certain sum of money to be used for health related costs such as dental care. You are the consumer. You should decide with the help and guidance of competent professionals what is best for your health and your family’s health.

As a dentist, I don’t want to see my patients deteriorate unnecessarily and then step in and fix a problem that could have been prevented, minimized, or slowed considerably. I’d rather prevent cavities, oral cancer, periodontal disease, headaches, jaw clicking and popping, tooth wear and fracture. It is what I am trained to do and it is what makes sense. I love restoring teeth that are decayed and broken, rehabilitating jaws that ache and pop; I am trained to do this as well. I love giving patients a whiter, straighter, more appealing smile. The self-esteem, confidence and pride that come with a healthy smile is priceless.

If you do have dental insurance, look at the services you would most like and benefit from. Are they covered??? Nope, or not very much. What is covered is some diagnositic services like exams and xrays, but when it comes to intervening and helping people, the covered services are the shortest term solution (fillings).

In my opinion the best, preventive services that should be basic to patients of all ages are:

Comprehensive Evaluation and Xrays
Dental Models and bite analysis
All services for gum health (it is what is connected to the rest of your body and the foundation for your general health) including prophylaxis, periodontal maintenance, debridement, nonsurgical and surgical gum care.
Mouth guards and bite splints
Consultation and evaluation appointments for self-care, nutrition, anxiety management, and counseling to eliminate harmful habits.
I also believe patients get the best results when they are investing their time and money in the process. They take better care of themselves and they make better choices because their money is on the line too.

Some ideas I think would work are:
All services covered at a fixed percent. Both consumers and third party payers contribute.
A rewards system where you earn points for health by seeing your dental health care providers for examinations, xrays, preventive services and consultation you are entitled to a discount on additional services you require or choose.

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Pregnancy and Your Mouth

Pregnancy is a very busy time for a woman’s body. There are a lot of changes happening and some of those changes can affect your mouth. One of the main changes is called “pregnancy gingivitis”. This is when normally healthy gums become swollen and irritated because of the increase of hormones, like progesterone. Gums can hurt and even bleed when brushing and flossing. Although the increase in hormones causes the gums to overreact to the bacteria under your gum line, it is presence of the bacteria that is the real cause of gingivitis. Routine visits to your hygienist and good home care can help reduce the amount of bacteria. Sometimes, it may even be recommended to have more frequent hygiene visits during your pregnancy as gum disease has been linked to preterm delivery.

Cravings and frequent snacking during pregnancy can also affect your oral health. Snacks high in sugar and acid can cause tooth decay and untreated tooth decay can lead to tooth loss. Choose healthy, well-balanced and nutritious snacks when cravings hit. Also, be sure to brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day to help reduce the occurrence of cavities while pregnant.

If planning ahead, schedule a check-up and cleaning with your dentist prior to becoming pregnant. If there are any concerns they can be treated early and safely. If you are already pregnant, it may be a good idea to see your dentist to as soon as possible avoid any needed emergency treatment. Usually, the second trimester is the safest time to receive dental treatment. Elective procedures can be put off until after you deliver your baby but it will be best to eliminate sources of infection in your mouth before baby comes.

Sources: Pregnancy & Oral Health. American Dental Association, 2005.

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