Who owns your teeth? Or, how I learned to hate dental insurance.
Posted: October 10, 2012
Last Modified: December 14, 2018
This column will address a daily pet peeve of ours: the role of dental insurance. And while the answer to the question “Who owns your teeth?” may seem self-evident (literally), we regularly see behaviour that would suggest otherwise. Let’s do a thought experiment to illustrate the deleterious effects of dental insurance on mouths. Yep, we said it.
Think back to all the things that you paid for in the past week. Perhaps it’s groceries. Maybe some clothing. Gas for the car? Likely. If your credit card bill came, perhaps you paid off the previous months’ charges.
Now, let’s reexamine this list and ask yourself: how many of these things were paid for with insurance money? Our guess is none. Insurance doesn’t pay for broccoli, it doesn’t pay for that blasted monthly cell phone bill, and it certainly doesn’t pay for regular unleaded. Last we checked, it also doesn’t pay for dinners out or wine for your house party. You paid for it. Out of your own money.
In fact, because of dental benefits, dental treatment is one of the few things that people sometimes don’t have to pay full fare for. So the question becomes: what price do you place on your teeth? If you value your teeth, do everything you can to keep them healthy! If you have benefits, some of it is even subsidized!
Unfortunately, we routinely hear the words “I can’t afford it because my insurance doesn’t cover it.” What people are not realizing are a few things: dental insurance benefits may cover a portion of treatment, making it drastically more affordable. Secondly, not proceeding with treatment may end up costing them more down the road, in the form of money and teeth. Investing a little in your teeth early on (even if not an insured benefit) can often pay off in problems avoided later on.
True story: we had a patient leave the office because a certain portion of treatment wasn’t covered by his insurance benefits (story is more complicated). He repeatedly claimed that because he was retired, he had to “make do with what he had”, and treatment not completely paid for by dental insurance would not be acceptable. Because of a less-than-$100 balance that he had to pay on his own, he left our office. However, on previous occasions, he also regaled us with stories about his month-long vacation in Spain. Apparently the food is quite good and the wine is cheap.
Who owned his teeth? From his actions, it would seem that he relinquished all decision-making responsibilities and “stuck to his insurance plan”. Effectively, he didn’t own his teeth anymore, his insurance company did.
This is the danger of dental insurance – it can skew a viewpoint and make people lose sight of what the objective of dental care is – healthier mouths.
You own your teeth. Your teeth can’t advocate for themselves, so you need to advocate for them. The advice that we provide you is based on need alone, and is geared to providing you the best tooth/gums/jaw longevity that science has to offer.
We’ve talked about fillings, root canals, crowns, implants and more esoteric items in this website, and it’s all in an effort to facilitate people’s understanding of dentistry. Better understanding leads to better decision-making, because once one understands dentistry, one will not fall back on the easier-to-understand, but ultimately less beneficial reliance on “what insurance covers”.
Our recommendations are customized for your mouth and jaws and nobody else’s. For a complete evaluation, please contact us, and take back your teeth! They will thank you (well, no they won’t but they will last longer).