Stuck at a Crossroad: Which Dental Insurance is Right For Me? Maybe…None

Quite frequently I am asked which dental insurance is the best.  My answer?  Well, unless you get complimentary dental insurance through an employer, you may want to consider an alternative.  I call dental insurance a benefit, it does help cover some dental costs, though none of them cover everything.  But do you really understand what the money is being used for and what the hidden costs are to you?

Did you know that you have options besides dental insurance?  I have so many people think they cannot have any dental treatment done because they don’t have insurance, they just can’t afford it.  The truth is, you may be paying more to HAVE dental insurance than not.

 

imageWe are given the option, through the federal government, to pay for health-related expenses through a health savings account, or an HSA.  What is a health savings account?  It is a savings account you can set up through a bank, a financial institution, or an insurance company that is used for qualified medical expenses.  Dentistry is one of those expenses.

Now, there are limitations to qualify for an HSA, and that is that you have to have a high deductible health plan.  That means you have a medical insurance plan where the deductable is between $1350 per person or $2700 per family per year and $6650 per individual or $13,500 per family per year.

So check on your medical insurance, and if you qualify, then please listen!

There are four main benefits to having an HSA account:

  1.  Money put into the account is 100% tax deductible, so no taxes are taken out on it.  That includes any interest the account accumulates.   That will lower the amount of taxes you pay every year.
  2. Money does NOT have to be used by a certain date.  It can be used even through retirement and can continue building for years.  In retirement it can even be used for some living expenses.
  3. The money is yours.  It is easily transferred from bank to bank, so if you move or change jobs, it’s no big deal to move money around.  Trying to move 401K or IRA accounts if you’ve switched jobs can be very difficult or not possible at all without losing money.
  4. There are dozens of eligible expenses the money can be used for, not just medical expenses, many of which you might not be aware of.

I have been using an HSA for several years for my own family’s health related costs.  I just went to a local bank, got an HSA account, and was issued a debit card.  If I don’t have the card on me when I make a purchase, I just pay myself back.  It would be wise to keep track of your purchases for tax purposes.

So in my experience, if I were at a crossroads whether to find a dental insurance plan or do an HSA, I would recommend the HSA.  You manage your own money for dental and health related expenses instead of paying into the insurance bureaucracy, you have tax advantages, and you save money.

Check out the links below for more information on HSA’s.

Health Savings Accounts Tax Information

Health Savings Accounts Eligible expenses

Government Information about Health Savings Account

Shop HSA Accounts

Breathe Deeply

Do you realize how important it is to breathe well, especially at night, and all the health problems that can be related to a lack of good oxygen intake?  I want you to take a minute to answer these questions, for yourself and for each of your family members….

1.Do you wake up tired even though you had an adequate amount of time sleeping?boy-828850_1920

2. Are you tired and falling asleep throughout your day?

3. Does your jaw hurt when you wake up in the morning?

4. Do you breathe through your mouth when you sleep?sleeping-1311784_1920

5. Do you snore?

6. Do you have high blood pressure?

7. Do you have anxiety?

8. Do you have depression?

9. Are your teeth sensitive?

10. Have you noticed your teeth getting shorter?lama-3582739_1920

11. Does it feel like your bite is shifting?

12. Are you sick a lot?

13. Do you frequently get headaches?

14. Do you have trouble concentrating, staying focused, or have been diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder?man-3323546_1920

15. Do you wet the bed?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, for yourself or for any of your family members, I want you to read the articles linked below to find out about airway obstruction disorders, or sleep apnea.  I want you to know why this is such a big deal, why you should be checked by your dentist, and why it’s important to get treatment.

CNN Health

PubMed

Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome

The Chameleon Disease

Health Complications in Children

I highly encourage you to become more informed about sleep apnea.  Read these articles, ponder on you and your family’s sleeping and breathing habits.  Recognize that many health complications may be related to the quality and quantity of oxygen intake at night.  Have your dentist check your teeth, get a proper mouthguard, get a sleep test if needed, and make sure you are breathing deeply!

 

 

 

Why Everyone Should Consider having a 3-D X-Ray

Can anyone argue that seeing the whole picture is critical in knowing what you’re up against?

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When it comes to your health, every year it is recommended having x-rays so the dentist and hygienist can look for any cavities and gum disease.

While the yearly 2-D x-rays are very helpful, they miss a lot of other problems that may be “lurking” below the surface.

As new research continues to link bacteria, viruses, and fungi from the mouth to diseases in the rest of the body, it would be very wise to have a 3-D x-ray done.  These pathogens reside in the bone where a tooth has been extracted, at the end of an abcessed tooth, at the end of a dead or root canaled tooth, and in the sinuses.  A three dimensional look of the head and neck and provides valuable information that can’t be seen any other way.

What is a 3-D x-ray?  The 3-D x-ray, or Dental cone beam computed tomography (CT), is a special type of x-ray equipment used  to produce three dimensional (3-D) images of your teeth, nerve pathways, and bone in a single scan.

So what is the 3-D x-ray doing?  It is taking pictures in one millimeter slices of hard tissue of the head and neck. The computer software then uses the data to create a three dimensional view that can be explored very closely.

What are the images of 3-D x-rays used for?  They can be used to look for pockets of infection around teeth, bone, and in the sinuses, look for fractures in teeth and bone, observe if there’s plaque in the carotid arteries, pinpoint problems in the jaw joint (tmj), investigate the airways of the nose and throat for blockages, and then they are also invaluable in the planning and placing of dental implants.

It’s pretty sobering to see the difference between 2-D x-rays and 3-D x-rays.

Here is a 2-D x-ray taken that shows a dark spot right at the end of the middle tooth, which typically is a pocket of infection or an abcess:

abcess

Here is the same area of the mouth viewed with the help of a 3-D xray:

abcess 2

The dark spot at the end of the root can now be seen as being very large and possibly involves three teeth instead of just one.

I know for myself that 3-D x-rays are better for detecting disease and infections in the teeth and bones, I see this every day in the dental office.  The 2-D x-rays are great for seeing bone levels and cavities between teeth.  Research shows this to be true.

Is the 3-D x-ray safe?  Will it expose me to a lot of radiation?

A typical CT scan that a medical doctor will use is looking at tissue and bone and is more penetrating than a dental cone beam or 3-D CT scan, therefore exposing you to more radiation, up to ten times more.  The dental 3-D x-ray is not as penetrating, it only penetrates hard tissues and bone–you don’t see tissue.  Here is information on CT x-ray exposure.

Of course, you will need to decide for yourself if it is wise to have a 3-D x-ray taken.  Generally in my office we recommend anyone over thirty years, especially those who have had any extracted teeth (like wisdom teeth), anyone who has had any root canals done or has been told they need a root canal or have a “dead” tooth, anyone considering investing in a new crown on a tooth, and anyone who is taking or will be taking any bone altering medications (bisphosphonates especially).

The 3-D x-ray is still considered elective and is not covered by most dental benefit programs, it will cost anywhere from $200-$500, but that is still much less than medical CT’s or MRI’s.

Hopefully you can see the value of getting a 3-D x-ray so that you can have the peace of mind that all is well in the unexplored reaches of your mouth!

Laser Therapy

Periodontal disease is a growing epidemic in the adult population. A 2013 CDC report provided the following data related to prevalence of periodontitis in the U.S.: 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease. Periodontal Disease increases with age, 70.1% of adults 65 years and older have periodontal disease.

I have had advanced training in periodontal disease–it’s diagnosis, treatment, and prevention–and would have to say that with my trained eye it’s closer to 80% of adults who have this disease.

Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that causes the body to dissolve the bone around the teeth;  the body can’t get rid of the bacteria that have colonized on the tooth surface, so it’s only option is to get rid of the teeth, hence, dissolve the bone and push out the whole tooth.  These pesky bacteria causing the body to do this are resistant to anibacterials, antibiotics, and mechanical removal of them is difficult.  However, they do have weaknesesses, and that is that they don’t like oxygen and light.  In fact, they are very susceptible and absorb the 940nm infared laser light, which is the diode laser I use in the dental office.laser-160991_1280

The cells of the body, on the other hand, benefit from the infared light of a laser.  The laser gives a burst of light, which makes the cells energized.  The laser actually causes them to produce more ATP, which is like adding more wood to a fire, causing the cells to burn brighter and hotter than they did before.  This is really helpful when it comes to faster and better healing.

I have had the great opportunity to have a laser to supplement periodontal therapy and have found it to do exactly this–to accentuate what treatment I do and accelerate the healing.

I have had patients ask about laser treatment, what it is that I do, what it does to them, and if it hurts, so I have filmed videos demonstrating periodontal laser procedures.

This first video is showing laser bacterial reduction at the gumline.  Before doing any treatment below the gumline, it’s a good idea to kill the bacteria hanging around the gum surface so they aren’t pushed into the tissue.  The bacteria at and just below the gums are vaporized because of the heat and light of the laser.  I don’t even touch the tissue, just travel around the gumline of the whole mouth.  Patients will only feel a slight bit of warmth:

 

Laser bacterial reduction done at the gumline can benefit anyone and will prevent colonization of bacteria for 4-6 weeks.

This second video is laser bacterial reduction below the gumline.  It is usually done after mechanical removal of the bacterial colonies around the teeth.  I will walk the tiny laser filament around the teeth below the gums, especially focusing on the hard to reach areas between the teeth.  Patients will feel a slight bit of warmth and the tiny tip being moved from tooth to tooth but are not in any discomfort:

 

 

Laser curretage is a procedure that may also be done to trim off diseased tissue. If the diseased tissue is not trimmed it takes longer to heal, or may not completely heal, especially if there is deeper bone loss.  This procedure is not always used, only with advanced disease.  It is more comfortable using some form of anesthetic during this procedure as you are using a higher heat setting, but right afterwards there is little pain as the laser seals the lymph and blood vessels.

Not only is the laser helpful with gum disease and bacteria removal around the tissue, but the laser has many other uses as well and include:

Whitening teeth

Canker sore treatment

Cold sore treatment

Desensitize teeth

Muscle and joint pain reduction

I hope you can see the benefit of lasers and why they are so helpful in a hygienist’s hands.

Dental Emergencies

I just created this document for an emergency preparedness fair and thought I would share:

Dental Emergencies

Dental First Aid

Tooth Sensitivity

Signs/symptioms:

  • tooth is sensitive to cold

  • tooth may be sensitive to sweets

  • rubbing/scraping a fingernail on the side causes pain

Treatment:

  • put pea sized amount of sensitive toothpaste like Sensodyne on finger, rub vigorously on the side of the sensitive tooth for 20 seconds, repeat daily until sensitivity goes away.

  • If sensitivity doesn’t go away after one week, CALL THE DENTIST

Tooth Abcess

Signs/symptoms:

  • tooth is sensitive to hot

  • throbbing

  • pressure

  • swelling

  • fever/swollen glands

Treatment:

  • CALL THE DENTIST

  • rub tissue around sore tooth with clove oil

  • place a moist warm black tea bag in mouth around sore tooth and bite gently, leave in for 15-20 minutes

  • place cold compress on cheek for 15 minutes

  • take anti-inflammatory med, like Ibuprophen

  • take 1 T. oil (coconut, olive, grapeseed, etc.) and swish in mouth for 20 minutes

Teething

Sign/symptom:

  • drooling

  • fever

  • irritability

  • chewing on things

  • red swollen gums

Treatment:

  • give them cold things to gnaw on (teething ring that’s been in the freezer, otter pop, gogurt, etc.)

  • put 1 drop lavender or Roman Chamomile oil on finger and rub on sore gums; repeat as needed

  • give children’s Motrin or Tylenol, especially if a fever

Broken or chipped tooth

Treatment:

  • save the pieces that chipped and rinse them off.

  • rinse out mouth using warm water.

  • Stop any bleeding by applying or biting on gauze.

  • apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth near the chipped tooth if you’re experiencing any swelling.

  • Put super glue on the area that was chipped if getting extreme sensitivity.

  • CALL THE DENTIST

Orthodontic Wire

Treatment:

  • Put parafen wax or chewing gum on the end of the wire

  • bend the wire down with needle nose pliers so it doesn’t poke into the cheek

  • use a fingernail file to smooth off the end of the wire

  • DO NOT TRY TO CLIP WIRE, the chance of cutting the cheek or lip is very high

  • CALL THE DENTIST

Knocked Out Tooth

Treatment:

  • Hold the tooth by the crown (the part that’s exposed in the mouth) and not the root.

  • Do not scrub the tooth or remove any attached tissue fragments, rinse gently only if needed

  • If at all possible and without forcing it into place, try to put the tooth back into place, making sure it’s facing the right way.

  • If you can’t reinsert the tooth, place the knocked-out tooth in a cup of water with a pinch of salt or in a container of milk.

  • If tooth is not completely knocked-out, leave where it’s at and get professional help.

  • CALL THE DENTIST IMMEDIATELY

Lost Crown

  • Dab a Q-tip into clove oil and rub on area of lost filling or crown if sensitive

  • Put sugarless chewing gum in space of lost filling

  • for a lost crown, place a dab of toothpaste or vaseline inside the crown and put back into mouth. Make sure it’s on the right way, and gently bite down to secure.

  • CALL THE DENTIST

Toothache

Treatment:

  • floss between teeth to see if any food is caught

  • rinse with salt/water (8 oz. Glass warm water + 1 t. salt)

  • apply clove oil on gum next to tooth; rub oil on floss and floss between the teeth

  • take Ibuprophen as needed for pain, do not put aspirin in the mouth next to the tooth

  • If persists more than 48 hours, CALL THE DENTIST

Complications after tooth pulled

Treatment:

  • if bleeding persists, apply direct pressure with gauze until it stops

  • do not rinse or spit, especially don’t rinse with Listerine or any mouthwash

  • apply clove oil with Q-tip or put a drop directly on extraction site

  • bite on a warm, moist black tea bag on extraction site

  • Take Ibuprophen as needed for pain

  • If pain or bleeding persist more than 48 hours, CALL THE DENTIST

Mudrow Family Dental/Dr. Kevin Mudrow

333 S. Woodruff

Idaho Falls, Idaho 83401

(208) 524-2036

 

The Truth About Root Canals

I have a lot to explain about root canals and will put on information and research as I can find it.  My experience with root canals?  They are an option to get a tooth out of pain until something else can be figured out.  But in no way would I recommend that they be a permanent solution.  In fact, I would recommend having a tooth extracted before doing a root canal if that’s a possibility.  Why?

Your teeth are a living, vibrant part of your body.  They have a blood supply for energy, a nerve supply to connect them to the rest of the body, they have tubes for fluid to go in and out of them and are constantly in a state of flux, dealing with all that you throw at them with biting, chewing, and talking.  When a tooth becomes infected, whether it’s from a deep cavity, some sort of trauma, or from clenching or grinding, an abcess is your body’s way to get rid of a tooth gone bad.  Root canals are done by dentists to preserve and basically mummify the tooth in the mouth, removing the blood supply and the nerve so it doesn’t hurt anymore.  While the pain may be gone, it doesn’t mean the problem is gone.

Some of the concerns with root canals are explained by Dr. Mercola in the following video:

I see people every day who have root canals.  When a patient has a root canal, we recommend doing a CT or 3D x-ray to examine the tooth.  This is different than the normal x-rays you usually have in the dental office to look for cavities; the CT gives a 3-dimensional look at the teeth and all the way around the root–it’s the only way to truly see everything.  In almost every CT scan of a root canal tooth, there is infection in the bone–sometimes HUGE infection.  Seriously.  That is like having an open pussy sore on your hand all the time that never goes away.  Just because it’s something you can’t see doesn’t mean it’s not there.   When these root canal teeth are extracted, they often have a big sac of infection at the root tip, which is prime breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria, fungus, and viruses.  You can imagine what that does to your body, your immune system is constantly at war.

While I do not have a lot here to show you and go on yet, just trust me.  I see this every day.  You can’t explain why you’re getting sick all the time?  You have an inflammatory condition whose origin is unexplainable?  You better take a look in your mouth.

 

Are your gums flab or fab?

When meeting someone new, what is the first thing you notice about them?  Is it their clothes, their hair, the way they stand, their cellphone?  I think it goes without saying that the two things people notice when meeting someone for the first time are usually their eyes and their mouth, namely, their teeth.   ‘

beautiful-1274361_1920.jpgHaving a beautiful smile is pretty important, it makes you look good and feel good.  When people think of having a beautiful smile, they tend to think of just the teeth–keeping them white, having them straight, keeping them clean.  What many people don’t realize is that they wouldn’t have any teeth at all without a good foundation.

bridge-246913_1920.jpg

Teeth are supported in the mouth by fibers and ligaments, similar to elastic bands and trampoline springs.  trammpolin-2635260_1920.jpgThese fibers and bands attach to the bone and gums around each tooth.  If there’s no foundation of bone and gums then there’s nothing for the teeth to be attached to and they will fall out.  This is usually because of a disease in the mouth called periodontal disease.

So to me, a beautiful smile is not only those dashing teeth, but also healthy gums and bone.

 

If the gums and bone aren’t in good health, then the teeth, regardless of how stunning they are, will not stay in the mouth for very long.

How many of you worry about your figure?

Are you exercising daily?  Do you diet to drop extra weight?  Do you watch what you eat?  You can tell when you are in good shape just by pulling up your shirt and looking at the abs and the presence or absence of that six-pack.

 

That’s exactly the way your gums are.  Your gums can either be fab or flab.  When gums are healthy, they are tight, they are stippled like those sculpted abdominal muscles.  They are not swollen, they do not bleed, they are not flabby.  Why does that matter?  Because of several things:

In all my years as a dental hygienist I have only seen a handful of people who have really healthy gums.  Now to me, that is really scary, because if gums are a crystal ball to total body health, then they are telling me that most people are not in good health.

How can you go from flab to fab?

When you are trying to improve your figure, what is it that you do?  Well, you will exercise!  Daily lifting weights, running, jumping, all lead to tighter and more firm muscles.

exercise-841167_1920

That’s the same thing you want to do with your gums.  They need some “exercise” every day to make them tighter and more firm.  This exercise should include several of the following:

 

 

I have found the that the best home care tools for firm, healthy gums are a sonic toothbrush and and a waterpik.  The others are helpful but don’t produce as great of results.

When I was younger I told myself that if I just exercised more, I could eat those five cookies and still maintain my trim figure.  Wrong!  If you’ve ever thought this way you know it doesn’t work.  Exercising alone does not keep you in good shape.

What else do you need to do to prevent flab?

You need to eat better!  The gums are responsive to good nutrition just like your body.  The following are some great guidelines to go from flab to fab in your gums, and also your body:

  • cut out junk food (chips, fries, etc.)
  • cut out soda pop
  • cut out sugar
  • reduce carbohydrates (notice I didn’t say “none”)
  • eat low glycemic foods
  • increase proteins
  • increase nutrient dense rich food (vegetables, whole grains,etc.)
  • increase antioxidants (seeds, berries)
  • increase healthy fats (olive oil, avacados, nuts, coconut oil, etc)
  • drink more water

Your gums are especially sensitive to nutrition. Bad eating habits may not show up in your figure for a while, but they will in your gums in the form of swelling, bleeding, and puffiness.  This sets you on the path of disease.