Regular dental check-ups save you future pain and money
This post is by guest blogger Ben Hyatt. Ben is not a dentist but is a patient that has recently gone through some procedures.
When I was a kid growing up, an annual trip to the dentist was a regular thing. I liked my sugar and sugary drinks. Brushed regularly but certainly wasn't big on regular flossing. I had some cavities but because of my regular checkups they were typically treated early on and never got to the point of needing a root canal.
As an adult, no longer under my parent's insurance, I stopped getting annual check-ups. I brushed regularly and started to floss more often. I didn't really notice any new issues throughout my 20s so it was easy to cut out the expense of 6 month check-ups. I didn't totally go without but admit that I got into the habit of waiting years between visits. The decisions we make in our 20s and 30s don't seem to impact us as much as they do later in life. Now in my 40s, I am starting to see some of the downside.
A couple of years ago, I bit down on a hamburger and noticed something rock hard in it. So hard that I cracked a big chunk off a molar. This freaked me out. I went to the dentist right away and told him how this hard chunk in a hamburger caused my tooth to crack. Turns out, that probably wasn't the full story. My dentist (Dr. Smith) informed me that it was unlikely that a healthy tooth would crack as a result of chomping down on something hard. He guessed that the tooth was weakened by decay and as a result, was susceptible to cracking. An examination showed that to be the case.
The molar was not able to be saved. I ended up having to go through a bone graft to build up my bone in the area to make me an implant candidate and will soon get an implant to replace the tooth.
Around the same time I had a toothache in a molar on the other side. I learned that a toothache starts with a cavity that has been ignored for too long. In my experience, cavities don't hurt - that is until they grow big enough to reach your nerves and roots. Cavities can be filled relatively easily. When it gets to the point that you have a toothache, it means the cavity has reached a nerve and it's time for a root canal. It can also mean you need to treat an infection. You really don't want an infection to grow that close to your brain!
I think you can make the case that had I been to the dentist more regularly the cavity would have been caught early and dealt with. Before a root canal and before a dangerous infection. Small cavity - a small cost mostly covered by my insurance. A root canal? This requires the additional services of an endodontist and is an additional expense that pushed me over my annual dental insurance limit. All told my root canal cost me a couple thousand dollars out of pocket. I also required a crown because the cavity had destroyed so much of my healthy tooth.
I understand now what I wish I understood a long time ago. Prevention is all about regular maintenance. A little prevention now goes a long way in the future. I could have avoided a root canal and needing a dental implant. Spending a couple hours a year on regular checkups would have saved me a bunch of pain and money. I also know that I am lucky that I didn't have additional health issues as a result of my root becoming infected. Regular check-ups are now a thing for me and my whole family. I've learned my lesson and I know this is going to save me money, time, pain and help keep me healthy! Lesson learned - the hard way.