Dental Care for Those Without Insurance
My Personal Experience
My husband and I were without health and dental insurance for two years (2010-2012) before either of us finally obtained full-time employment that offered benefits.
While we were without insurance, I worried that my teeth would suffer the consequences of not having regular six-month dental cleanings and checkups. My dental health was—and is—very important to me, so I wanted to ensure that my teeth remained cavity-free and strong even though I couldn't see a medical professional.
During this time, my husband and I did everything we could to make sure our teeth didn't suffer from lack of professional care. We practiced regular, proper flossing and brushing techniques, as we also avoided foods and drinks that could cause erosion or harm.
In this article I have outlined how you can care for your teeth, too.
Pay Your Dental Dues
Our teeth are some of the most important tools we have. Without them we would be cursed with a life of only eating baby food from jars, or unhinging our jaws and swallowing our food whole, like snakes. Why not embrace your enameled friends and take care of them properly?
This is especially important for people without dental insurance. Not that having insurance is an excuse to slack on your oral hygiene—I just mean that by not having dental insurance it’s pretty difficult to see a dentist when you’re supposed to (which is at least twice a year for a vigorous cleaning by an overly perky hygienist). If you think paying for a dental cleaning without insurance is difficult, imagine what it might be like to have to pay for a filling, bridge, crown, or root canal. Not having insurance puts even more pressure on individuals to take proper care of their teeth.
Proper oral hygiene techniques are something that should be learned at a young age, but this isn’t necessarily how it turns out. We see the toothpaste commercials on TV telling us the importance of brushing and we have been chastised by our dentists for not flossing, but we tend to shrug it off because it always seems to work out in the end. If we develop a cavity we just go in and have it drilled and filled all on our insurance’s dime. Funny how you don’t realize the true importance of flossing or proper brushing until you no longer have the insurance safety net to catch you and make up for your slacking.
I’m not trying to preach here or make myself out to be some sort of dental goddess, my oral hygiene habits could always be better, but I do know that the habits I have now are way better than the ones I had as a kid (especially when I had my braces). I have since learned the true benefits of flossing (it’s not JUST for that pesky popcorn kernel that gets stuck on movie night) and that the type of toothpaste you use really can make a difference for your dental health. I’ve even learned that proper care takes time and patience and that brushing before bed is essential for happier teeth and gums.
The Rules and Why We Break Them
Everyone knows that in a perfect world you should brush your teeth three times a day. We know that flossing and brushing after meals is the recommended method for having teeth in tip top shape, but let’s be realistic; not everyone has the time (or the energy) to brush after every meal. To follow this rule we would all have to carry around floss, tooth brushes, toothpaste, and mouth wash in our purses, back packs, man bags (murses?), and briefcases. Then we have to find the time and place to actually do the deed. If we are lucky we get to brush our teeth twice a day (after breakfast and before bed) but that’s only if we aren’t running late in the morning and aren’t falling down exhausted at the end of the day. It’s easy to make excuses for why we didn’t brush our teeth, but when all is said and done, what good are those excuses when our gums and teeth start decaying and revolting against us due to lack of proper care?
One of the most important rules that many people ignore is flossing before you brush. Who wants to take the time to wiggle a piece of waxed string between our teeth only to then have to go through the whole brushing procedure afterward? There are video games to play, TV shows to watch and a bed and pillow that are calling our names. Trust me, I know the allure of skipping flossing and jumping right into brushing, but it’s a very important step toward a healthy smile. The bacteria in our mouths attack the unattended food trapped between our teeth and produce an acid that erodes tooth enamel and leads to cavities and other unwanted problems. If flossing is ignored for an extended period of time the plaque that has developed between your teeth hardens into tartar which can only be removed at the dentist office (which, if you don’t have insurance, is either a hefty bill or a completely unattainable trip). This tartar build up is often the cause of nasty gum infections (gingivitis, anyone?) A clear indicator of whether or not your gums are angry at you is the appearance of blood during and after brushing. If you see blood when you brush, you know you’re not taking great care of your teeth and gums! Get to flossing!
Another rule is rinsing with a mouth wash or fluoride rinse after brushing (though it’s not a hard and fast rule, but a powerful shove in the right direction). I know what you’re thinking… another step?! I’ve already flossed and brushed and now you want me to swish with something, too? Yes. You’ll thank me later when you finally get dental insurance and your dentist compliments you on taking such good care of your teeth during your absence from his/her office. Using a mouth wash or fluoride rinse is the last step toward fighting the never-ending battle with harmful mouth bacteria. Depending on the rinse or wash you buy you can be strengthening the enamel of your teeth, fighting 99.99% bacteria (that .01% is an elusive bugger), preventing cavities, and freshening your breath all in one bottle. Why skimp on a step that does all that in approximately one minute? Which brings me to a couple other points: time and technique.
Just haphazardly running your toothbrush over your teeth for a couple of seconds isn’t really going to cut it. My brand of toothpaste (Sensodyne Pronamel) recommends brushing your teeth for at least one full minute, but I’ve also heard that anything under two minutes isn’t enough. Give your teeth some time and proper attention (you know, good old fashioned TLC). It probably won’t kill you to stand at the sink for an extra couple of minutes. Remember to give equal attention to the front and back (and all around) of your teeth. How much toothpaste is required for a good brushing? My toothpaste says that it should be approximately an inch long on your brush. Other people have suggested that it only takes an amount the size of a pea to get the job done. I find that I’m not happy unless I look like a rabid dog leaning over the sink. Nothing helps my teeth feel cleaner than a good frothy toothpaste. Incisors, canines, molars—they’re all important, so take good care of them while you can.
What Can Erode Tooth Enamel?
Here is a list of foods and drinks that can erode tooth enamel:
- Citrus fruits
- Orange juice
- Sour foods and candies
The acid in these foods and beverages break down the minerals in our teeth and can cause our pearly whites to be less pearly and become sensitive to hot and cold temperatures.
Other things that can damage your teeth
- Acid reflux
- Grinding/clenching your teeth
- Chewing ice and popcorn kernels
Let’s Review, Shall We?
Step 1: Floss between each of your teeth (stop whining and just do it).
Step 2: Brush your teeth with a good amount of tooth paste for at least 2 minutes. Remembering to give them all equal attention.
Step 3: Swish with a bacteria killing, breath freshening, cavity preventing mouth wash/fluoride rinse for at least 1 minute.
Step 4: Smile because even though you don’t have dental insurance you’re taking care of your teeth and gums anyway!
Proper dental hygiene is an important part of our everyday lives and we shouldn’t take our teeth for granted. Make brushing a fun activity by buying cool new toothbrushes (replacement recommended every 3 months due to normal wear and tear) and using the colored plaque revealing rinses (it’s kind of gross but also kind of awesome to see how well you’re doing). Sure, flossing and brushing can be a tedious task, but it sure beats sitting in the dentist’s chair with a numb mouth listening to that drill scream as it grinds into your tooth and your wallet.
As a coffee enthusiast it became very apparent that I had to give my teeth special attention. Not only was I staining them, but I was also damaging their enamel. My dentist introduced me to a few products that have saved my teeth and helped me control my sensitivity issues.
I highly recommend:
- Sensodyne ProNamel Toothpaste (it’s the only kind that works for my teeth).
- ACT Mouth Rinse (A wonderful blessing when it came to tackling my sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures! But I only recommend the mint or cinnamon flavors as the cool splash spearmint blue was too strong of a flavor)
- REACH Dentotape not just floss. Dental tape is thicker and gives you a better tool to clean between and behind your teeth. REACH is my preferred brand because it's strong and won't snag or break mid flossing.
- Orajel Plaque Revealing Rinse (Just for fun I used my nephew’s bottle of this rinse over the Christmas holiday and found it to be both gross [it turns your teeth blue] and awesome [it shows you just how well you’re actually doing]).
To read more about things that erode tooth enamel and damage teeth, go to WebMD.com and read their article: Tooth Enamel Erosion (article reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS on 10/27/16).
- If that doesn't work you can copy and paste the following link into your search bar: http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/tooth-enamel-protection#1
For information about food and drinks that can discolor your teeth go to WebMD.com and check out their Slideshow: Foods that Stain Your Teeth (reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS on 11/21/16).
- If that doesn't work you can copy and paste the following link into your search bar: http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/ss/slideshow-foods-stain-teeth