Spending greenbacks on your pearly whites

February 12, 2016
Posted By: Dr. Russell Schafer
Illustrated Tooth on top of stack of money | NOLA Dentures and General Dentistry

If the biggest fear of coming to the dentist is pain, second place is the cost of dentistry. As a practicing dentist, I have seen financial concerns time and time again when deciding what treatment is appropriate for my patients. I firmly believe that all of my patients want to have great teeth and a healthy mouth, but budgeting appropriately for dentistry is difficult.  Outside of regular cleanings, most of what I do is not perfectly predictable. Few people come in knowing how many cavities they have or where they will have them.  Teeth chip when we least expect it. For people who know that they have cavities but don't get them fixed, it's hard to tell when the cavities will start causing problems.  I heard these concerns on a regular basis from my patients and this was the main reasons that I partnered with Compassionate Dental Finance. Compassionate Dental Finance helps my patients get a monthly payment option so that the dentistry is affordable, and it approves more of my patients than other finance options like CareCredit. 

Even though I do believe that my patients want the best for their mouths, I understand when people question me about the cost of dentistry. The concept of this blog entry started from a conversation I had back in 2013 with a family friend. She had broken a tooth, and it could no longer be fixed. She was quoted 5000 dollars by her dentist to replace a back molar with an implant (artificial titanium tooth). This woman is a hard working woman who has taken good care of her teeth over the years. However, she asked me the question "Is my back tooth really worth 5000 dollars?". At the time, I didn't have a good answer for her. Today though my answer would be "I don't know. Is that tooth worth 5000 dollars to you?"

Now I'm unsure whether or not she had the tooth replaced, but I think it makes for an interesting discussion. For the sake of discussion, let's take the back tooth to be a first molar or six-year-old molar. It is often the first adult tooth in the mouth to get a cavity because it's the first adult tooth in the mouth that is difficult to clean. Because it often gets a cavity so quickly, it's also the most likely to be extracted. As a dentist, I'd pay 5000 dollars for a back tooth because I would worry that someone would notice that I'm missing a tooth. I don't think that too many people would trust a dentist who has a tooth-sized gap in his smile. On the other hand, I've had plenty of patients who have been missing their six-year-old molars for years and it has certainly not affected their lives in the least. Obviously, for some of these patients, the cost was an issue, but for others, it just didn't bother them.  Losing this tooth does not and will not affect the quality of life of many people.

Because I'm a dentist though, I think spending money on your teeth is a pretty good use of your money. 

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