Today's topic is not pretty, but unless you have $8,000 earmarked for dental care, it could prevent a lot of pain — both dental and financial.
Periodontal disease is an infection that destroys the attachment fibers and supporting bones that hold the teeth in the jawbone and the jawbone itself.
Bacteria get caught between the teeth and under the gum, forming a sticky substance called plaque that hardens to form tartar.
This leads to infection known as gingivitis. As it spreads deeper into the bone, it begins to decay, and pus forms, which causes swelling, redness and bleeding. If not treated, the teeth will become loose and fall out.
Do I have your attention? Great, because there are relatively inexpensive measures you can take to prevent this ugly situation and all of the very expensive treatments required to treat and (hopefully) reverse it. Here's how to do that:
FLOSS. It's the cheapest thing you can do to improve and maintain your dental health. Floss between the teeth and the gum line. This is the only way to effectively remove plaque from between the teeth. If you have difficulty flossing, purchase a floss handle.
WATER FLOSS. Or use a water flosser. If you hate to floss for any reason at all, you really need to think about investing in a Waterpik device. It is cool and fun to use, and it costs a fraction of a single professional cleaning.
POWER BRUSH. Use a power brush like an Oral-B Professional or a Phillips Sonicare to effectively scrub and vibrate the soft plaque away. These devices are so amazing, it's almost like getting a professional cleaning every time you brush. A power brush is well-worth the investment.
MASSAGE. Use a rubber tip stimulator to massage the gum between the teeth. This toughens the gum and makes it more impervious to bacterial infection. Follow up by using a quality tongue cleaner for extra fresh breath.
MOUTHWASH. Finish up your daily routine with a good fluoride mouthwash.
PROFESSIONAL CLEANING. Have a good professional cleaning at least annually. You do need to keep this appointment. And get ready. If you are routinely performing the steps above, the hygienist will be doing the happy dance while reaching for the gold stars. You'll deserve one for doing such a great job.
COST. So what will all of this prevention cost? Dental floss is cheap. You can get yards and yards of it at any drug or grocery store for a buck or two. Pre-rinse and gum stimulators are inexpensive as well. Most rechargeable battery-powered toothbrushes sell for $60 to $100. A Waterpik comes in under $40. A professional cleaning and exam varies across the country but runs from $50 to $140.
If you absolutely cannot afford a powered brush, the best alternative is to brush with a soft-bristle nylon toothbrush. A systematic routine of flossing and brushing is the only way to prevent periodontal disease.
In terms of the cost of failing to prevent gum disease, allow me to scare you to death.
GINGIVITIS. If you have gum disease with no bone damage (called gingivitis), the cost of scaling and root planing with follow-up appointments may cost up to $1,800 or more.
PERIODONTITIS. If there is bone damage (called periodontitis) that needs surgical intervention, the surgical fee could tack on another $4,000 to $5,000 — up to $10,000 depending on the severity of the disease. If bone needs to be re-grown by various bone regenerating methods, the cost may be an additional $300 to $400 per tooth. Should you be fortunate to have all 32 of your pearly whites, well, you do the math.
EXTRACTION. If you are unfortunate to have untreatable periodontal disease, extraction of hopelessly diseased teeth could cost $100 or more per tooth. And a really cheap full set of removable dentures will run $8,000 up to $18,000 depending on the kind you will prefer to wear.
Here's a plan: Invest a little time and money now to prevent gum disease so you can spend your money on something else more enjoyable!
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.