Harris, Reed & Seiferth
Although many cavities need immediate attention to avoid serious complications, there are situations, when a cavity is small or just beginning, that treatment with a filling or drilling can wait or may even be prevented. It is up to your employees’ dentist to decide whether to treat a cavity now or later, but here’s some information to help inform the decision.
How Cavities Develop
Tooth decay doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, as the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research notes, it is a disease process that happens over time. Thankfully, sometimes it can be stopped, reversed or entirely prevented. Bacteria in the mouth continually form a sticky plaque film on the teeth, and then use the sugars from foods (and drinks) to create acidic toxins that can eventually dissolve tooth enamel or other parts of the tooth.
The more often that teeth are exposed to these harmful acids, the greater the chance of experiencing tooth decay. After eating, the teeth are bathed in acids for approximately 20 minutes, according to the Wisconsin Dental Association. So the teeth of employees who graze on sugary snacks all day are under constant attack. This attack involves the acids dissolving minerals from the teeth, causing the teeth to decalcify and eventually decay, as the decalcified areas get larger and/or deeper into the teeth. Tooth decay can also start in oher areas of the teeth, like on the root surfaces that may be exposed due to gum recession as we age, or recession caused by gum disease. These root surfaces are not covered with enamel and can decay much more easily and quickly than the areas of the teeth that are covered by enamel.
Can Cavity Treatment Wait?
Soft white spots on a tooth, sometimes called incipient lesions, are the first visible signs that tooth enamel has lost some of its minerals and is beginning to decalcify, according to the American Association of Dental Consultants. At this point, the demineralization process can be stopped by reducing the frequency of sugary things that are consumed, along with emphasizing good oral hygiene practices. Over time, lesions can repair themselves with the minerals found in saliva and fluoride from toothpaste, among other sources.
As noted by the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), gum with xylitol can help remineralize tooth enamel after meals. The calcium in cheese and other dairy products can also help keep teeth healthy, the University of Rochester reports. When a dentist sees signs of early decay during an examination, he or she may tell the patient that while these areas may not need treatment involving a filling now, the dentist will keep an eye on those areas at each appointment—so that if a tooth needs a filling, it will be more likely to be a small one.
When to Seek Treatment
If early tooth decay is left untreated, it can break down more enamel and, in time, reach the softer dentin portion of the tooth. Not only will pain or tooth sensitivity become a real possibility as the cavity gets bigger, but the tooth won’t be able to repair itself—the decay will need to be removed and the tooth restored with a filling. If too much tooth enamel is destroyed, the dentist may have to place a crown to fix the tooth.
Since tooth decay moves quickly through the dentin layer of the tooth, it may reach the inner pulp portion of the tooth (which is made up of blood vessels and nerves) if treatment is delayed. When decay infects the pulp, an abscess may form and spread an infection to the surrounding bone, explains the AGD. Not only can this situation be very painful, there are only two treatment choices. The dentist can either perform a root canal to remove all of the diseased pulp tissue or extract the entire tooth.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Prevention is always the best medicine, and when it comes to tooth decay, this adage is definitely appropriate. If your employees and their families adhere to the following basics recommended by the American Dental Association, they may never have to worry about the unpleasant consequences of tooth decay:
Do you only consider price when buying dental insurance? Do you only consider price when buying any other insurance product? You should never base your insurance purchases only on price. Instead, when purchasing Dental Insurance, as with any other purchase, you should assess your needs and then assess the product. This will help you to identify if the product meets your needs and most importantly, if it is within your household budget. No surprises. No coupons. Not just a discount, but real insurance for real assistance with the unexpected costs of dental care.
EVALUATE YOUR NEEDS
When evaluating your dental needs, you’ll first want to determine who needs coverage. Will it be just yourself? Your spouse too? Regular dental exams and cleanings are preventive services that everyone needs at any age. Do you have kids? If you choose to add them, your dental coverage would cover them from birth until their 26th birthday. Simply put, your goal should be to determine anticipated dental services.
For example, heading Toward Retirement? You are more likely to require complex dental services, such as dentures and bridges, as you approach your golden years. If you’re like many adults over 65, dental insurance isn’t a part of your health coverage, even for those with Medicare. Whether you have your natural teeth, implants or dentures, dental insurance can help you take control of your oral health. If you are a healthy twenty-something, you may be less likely to need complex dental services. No matter your age, we have a dental plan for you.
IDENTIFY THE PLAN THAT FITS
Once you have determined the dental services that you are most likely to need, you’ll be better suited to choose a plan most appropriately designed for the coverage you need. Covered dental services are sorted in various plans by levels, typically three or four. It is important to keep in mind that each one is different and must be examined closely to thoroughly understand what is covered. You will see things like deductibles and coinsurance, the coverage level or percentage with a list of covered services per category or classification, the plan’s annual maximum benefits amount, and required co-pays.
New college graduate? Expecting your first child? Retired and on a fixed income? Talk to us. We’ll help you find the best coverage for your situation. No group? No problem. If you are self-employed or if your employer doesn’t offer group dental coverage, an individual dental plan can help you keep your mouth healthy.
ASSESS THE TYPES OF PLANS
Would you prefer to submit your claims yourself and be reimbursed? Or would you prefer to pay the dentist and have them submit your claims? How you want your claims paid can also help in choosing a plan type. For example, PPO claims will be paid to the dentist, but some indemnity plans won’t. Something else to consider is how the plan reimburses not only in-network claims, which eliminate balance billing and significantly reduce your out-of-pocket cost, but also out-of-network claims - things always happen so you always want to prepared.
Here is where you’ll want to pay close attention to network access and which type of plan is best for you. Some plans even offer convenient Vision coverage as a ryder to the dental coverage. Other health care coverage such as critical illness, disability insurance, as well as others, can often be added as a bundle for discounted rates.
ANALYZE PROVIDER NETWORK ACCESS
Participating network providers charge a discounted rate for covered services, thus helping to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses for dental services. So start by finding out if your preferred dental provider participates in the plan’s dental network. If you don’t have a dentist, start by taking a look at the plan’s provider network directory in your area. If you go this route, a good idea would be to compare the provider directory to other plans and carriers to find the network access you prefer.
Also, some dental insurance plans don’t pay any benefits to out-of-network dentists at all, or pay less. But if your preferred dentist isn’t part of the network, that’ okay. We’ve got a plan for that, too. Thoroughly check your plan and ask questions before you buy. Finally, if you stay in-network, you often won’t have to deal with submitting claims yourself. The dental office and your insurance provider will handle that. If you are out-of-network, you may have to submit your own claims and wait to be reimbursed.
CALCULATE THE NUMBERS
Now it’s time to compare plan pricing. Is the monthly premium within your budget? Is there a similar plan for a lower cost? Also, consider what out-of-pocket costs you will incur after insurance benefits are paid. These are all important aspects to analyze before making your final decision. If you have any questions, you should call a carrier’s customer service department or licensed health insurance broker for answers. Or just ask us. Submit your dental insurance question here. Our dental plans start as low as $16/month! Click here or the icon below for an instant dental quote in under 30 seconds!
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