An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth Money in the Bank

By Mary Hunt

November 19, 2019 5 min read

Today's topic isn't pretty, but unless you have $8,000 earmarked to treat periodontal disease, an ounce of good dental care 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 can destroy the bone itself. Bacteria gets caught between the teeth and also under the gums, forming a sticky substance called plaque, which hardens to form tartar.

This leads to an 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 come loose and fall out.

Removing soft plaque from the gum margin around your teeth will toughen your gums and prevent disease. Here's how:


Yes, before you brush. You need to do this with a good dental rinse designed for pre-rinsing.


Floss between the teeth and under the gums. This is the only way to effectively remove plaque from between the teeth. If you have difficulty flossing, purchase a floss handle 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. They're cool, fun to use and cost a fraction of the price of a single professional cleaning.


Use a power brush such as the Oral-B Professional or Phillips Sonicare to effectively scrub and vibrate the soft plaque away.


Use a rubber-tip stimulator to massage the gum between the teeth. This toughens the gums and makes them more impervious to bacterial infection. Follow up with a quality tongue cleaner for extra-fresh breath.


Finish up your daily routine with a good fluoride mouthwash.


Your routine dental care should include a good professional cleaning at least once a year. This is an appointment you need to keep!


So what will all of this preventive dental care 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, in the $5 range.

Most rechargeable, battery-powered toothbrushes run in the $100 neighborhood.

There are a number of Waterpik choices in the $75 to $150 range.

Professional dental cleanings cost $75 to $200, depending mostly on your location and the individual dentist.

If you absolutely cannot afford an electric toothbrush, the best alternative is a soft-bristle polyester brush. You should press the bristles between the gum and the tooth surface at a 45-degree angle, just as you would angle a scrub brush to clean between a floor and a wall. Brush horizontally, back and forth.

A systematic routine of flossing and brushing is the only way to prevent periodontal disease.

Now, in terms of the cost of failing to prevent dental disease, let me scare you to death:


If you have gum disease with no bone damage — called gingivitis — scaling and root planing with follow-up appointments may cost upward of $1,800.


If there is bone damage — called periodontitis — that needs to be treated surgically, the surgical fee could tack on another $4,000 to $5,000 — up to $10,000, depending on the disease's severity. If bone needs to be regrown (by various bone regenerating methods), it may cost you an additional $300 to $400 per tooth. Should you be fortunate enough to have all 32 of your pearly whites, well, you do the math.


If you unfortunately have untreatable periodontal disease, getting hopelessly diseased teeth extracted could cost $200 or more per tooth.


A really cheap full set of removable dentures will run at least $8,000 — up to $18,000 for the kind you'll prefer to wear.


Invest a little time and money in routine dental care to prevent gingivitis, periodontal and bone disease, teeth extractions and dentures so you can spend your money on something more enjoyable!

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, "Ask Mary a Question." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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