March 31, 2009
Contact PDA: (717) 234-5941
Pennsylvania Dental Association Cautions Patients: Don't Forgo Dental Visits Because of the Economy
Skipping checkups now is likely to necessitate expensive treatment later
As the economy remains unsteady and Pennsylvanians continue to cut back their expenses, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is stressing the need for people of all ages to keep up with their oral health care.
"PDA understands how difficult it is for families and individuals to make ends meet in economic hard times, especially those facing job losses," said Dr. Thomas W. Gamba, president of PDA. "Trying to save a little money by postponing regular dental checkups could result in serious oral health problems that could cost thousands of dollars in the long run. Maintaining good oral health is the most cost-effective approach."
PDA has no statistics on whether more Pennsylvanians are avoiding dental checkups because of the economy. However, Gallup-Healthways recently released the results of a 2008 poll of more than 355,000 Americans. It indicates that 34 percent, or more than one-third, of Americans did not visit a dentist last year. Pennsylvania was close to the national average, at 32 percent. Dentists are concerned that 2009's numbers, which will reflect the economy's impact, will result in even more patients avoiding dental visits.
"Some patients may feel that if they aren't in pain, then there's no need for a checkup. That is not correct," said Dr. Andrew J. Kwasny, president-elect of PDA. Patients need to come in for checkups to catch and prevent problems, which otherwise could quickly advance into painful tooth disease and costly treatments.
For example, a patient with a minor toothache may decide to treat it with numbing gel rather than visit a dentist. That toothache could be the symptom of tooth decay, and the longer it remains untreated, the more likely it will later require a root canal and crown.
The tough economic times could also be causing an increase in another dental problem called bruxism, more commonly known as teeth grinding. Frequently linked to stress, which increases during bad economic times, bruxism often remains unnoticed by most patients until their dentist brings it to their attention. Left untreated, a bruxing patient will rapidly wear down his or her tooth enamel, then the layer underneath, ultimately causing teeth breakage. Caught early by a dentist, however, bruxism is easily treatable.
"Avoiding the dentist is not a good way to save a few bucks," said Dr. David A. Tecosky, a member of PDA's Council on Communications and Public Relations. "Checkups aren't just about preventing cavities, dentists also check for more serious conditions like cancer and jaw diseases. Lack of treatment can also lead to health problems beyond oral health, or exacerbate existing ones like diabetes and heart disease. Poor oral health care can compromise one's ability to eat, to smile, or even to get a job.
Dentists advise patients to come in for a checkup every six months. In between visits, their most important general recommendations are that patients:
- Floss at least once a day.
- Brush teeth twice daily for at least two minutes each time.
- Remember to brush all tooth surfaces, as well as the tongue.
PDA also urges patients concerned about the cost of a checkup to contact their dental practice, as many offices are willing to work out a payment plan. The PDA website features a directory of free and low-cost dental clinics around the state.
the Pennsylvania Dental Association
Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately 6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association (ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA’s mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients. PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. Learn more about PDA.