Posts for: October, 2014
Most of us think of insurance as a means to protect us and our families from unforeseen loss. While that’s the general definition, some insurance plans — like dental — don’t quite work that way.
The typical dental plan actually works more like a discount coupon for dental services. Most are part of an employer-based benefit package and usually “fee-for-service”: the insurance company pays for part or sometimes the entire bill after your dental visit based on a fee schedule laid out in the policy.
A plan’s benefits depend on what the insurer offers to cover and what level of coverage your employer (or you) are willing to pay for. Typically, the more items covered under the policy, the higher the premium. Any deductibles (the amount you must pay out of pocket before receiving any plan benefits) can also affect the premium — the lower the deductible, the higher the premium.
The benefits may also be limited due to what a patient’s dentist charges for services. Most insurers pay benefits based on what they determine to be the “usual, customary and reasonable” (UCR) fee for a particular service. The dentist’s fees are most often higher, however, resulting in the patient paying a higher percentage of the bill.
Still, a dental plan can work to your financial advantage, especially if it’s employer-based with premiums paid by your employer. It may not be advantageous, however, if you’re paying the premiums. For example, a person without insurance might spend on average $200 a year for basic dental care (mostly preventative — checkups and cleanings), while a person with insurance may have those expenses covered, but are paying yearly premiums of $500 or more for the plan.
You should also consider one other factor: our first priority as dentists is to pursue the best course of treatment for your particular dental needs, which may not always align with what your policy covers. At the same time, we understand the limitations you may be under with your plan — we work in this world every day. We’ll certainly assist you in navigating the insurance waters to achieve the best care for what you can afford.
If you would like more information on dental insurance and other financial arrangements, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Insurance 101.”
Did you ever brush your teeth and find that your gums were bleeding slightly? This unwelcome discovery is more common than you might think — and it might have something to tell you about your oral health. Here are five things you should know about bleeding gums.
- As much as 90% of the population occasionally experiences bleeding gums. It happens most often while brushing — and it’s often a sign of trouble, indicating that your gums are inflamed and/or you aren’t brushing or flossing optimally.
- Bleeding gums can be an early warning sign of gum disease. In its earliest stages, this malady is called gingivitis, and it’s quite common. About 10 to 15 percent of people with gingivitis go on to develop a more serious form of gum disease, called periodontitis. If left untreated, it can lead to gum recession, bone loss, and eventually tooth loss.
- A professional exam is the best way to tell if you have gum disease. Your dentist or hygienist may use a small hand-held instrument called a periodontal probe to check the spaces between your teeth and gums. When gum tissue becomes detached from the teeth, and when it bleeds while being probed, gum disease is suspected.
- Other symptoms can confirm the presence of gum disease. These include the presence of pus and the formation of deep “pockets” under the gums, where gum tissues have separated from teeth. The pockets may harbor harmful bacteria, and need to be treated before they cause more damage.
- Several factors may influence the health of your gums. How effectively you brush and floss has a major impact on the health of your gums. But other factors are important too: For instance, women who are pregnant or taking birth control pills sometimes have bleeding gums due to higher hormone levels. Diabetics and people with compromised immune systems often tend to have worse problems with periodontal disease. Certain drugs, like aspirin and Coumadin, may cause increased bleeding; smoking, by contrast, can mask the presence of gum disease by restricting blood flow.
It’s never “normal” to have bleeding gums — so if you notice this problem, be sure to have an examination as soon as you can. If you have questions about bleeding gums or periodontal disease, contact us or schedule a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Assessing Risk For Gum Disease.”
Braces are certainly the most recognized means for moving misaligned teeth. But depending on your or your family member’s particular malocclusion (bad bite), your orthodontist may also include other “anchorage” appliances to achieve the best results.
We can move teeth because of a mechanism that already exists in the mouth. The periodontal ligament, which holds teeth in place by attaching the tooth surface to the jawbone, allows teeth to move if needed in response to biting forces or normal tooth wear. Using braces or similar appliances, orthodontists can apply gentle but constant pressure to move teeth to new and better positions.
This applied pressure, however, soon encounters an “equal and opposite reaction,” in accordance with Newton’s third law of motion. In a way, we’re playing tug-of-war with the periodontal ligament — and as in the playground game, the key to “winning” is having the stronger point of resistance, something we call anchorage.
We often use the teeth themselves to establish this anchorage with the help of elastics (rubber bands) attached at various locations in the braces. Sometimes, though, the situation requires a different form of anchorage. In a younger patient, for example, we may want to influence the facial structure’s growth and development along with tooth movement. In this case we might use the patient’s skull for additional anchorage by having a strap running around the back of the head that attaches to brackets affixed to the teeth.
Another method involves a temporary anchorage device (TAD) directly implanted into the jawbone. We use TADs to isolate teeth we want under pressure from teeth we don’t (as with moving front teeth back without causing the back teeth to move forward). Usually made of stainless steel that won’t fuse with bone, TADs are relatively simple to remove once treatment is complete. Another form of anchorage is a titanium micro-implant, a miniature version of a dental implant that’s also inserted into the bone; like its larger relative, micro-implants fuse with the bone to add greater stability. Their diminutive size, however, eases any difficulty in their eventual removal.
Though some of these appliances aren’t visually appealing, they are temporary in nature and only applied for as long as needed. The end result, though, is permanent — beautifully aligned teeth that perform well and look great.