Today’s topic is not pretty, but unless you have $8,000 earmarked for your friendly neighborhood periodontist, it could prevent a lot of pain — both dental and financial. Periodontal disease is an infection that affects the gum tissue around the teeth, the fibers that hold the teeth in the jawbone and the bone itself.
Bacteria get caught between the teeth and also 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.
If you remove the soft plaque from the gum margin around the teeth, you will toughen the gum and prevent the disease. Here’s how to do that:
1. Floss between the teeth and under the gums. This is the only way to remove plaque effectively from between the teeth.
2. Use a power brush such as a Oral-B Professional (everydaycheap skate.com/oralb) or Phillips Sonicare Flexcare (everydaycheapskate.com/sonicare) to effectively scrub and vibrate the soft plaque away.
3. Use a rubber tip stimulator (available at drug stores) to massage the gum between the teeth. This toughens the gum and makes it more impervious to bacterial infection.
4. Have a good professional cleaning at least annually.
Dental floss is cheap. You can get yards and yards of it at any drug or grocery store for a buck or two. Most rechargeable, battery-powered toothbrushes sell for $60 to $100. A professional cleaning and exam varies across the country, but runs around $50 to $140.
If you absolutely cannot afford a powered brush, the best alternative is to brush with a soft-bristle, nylon toothbrush. The bristles should be pressed between the gum and the tooth surface at a 45 degree angle just as you would use a scrub brush to clean the angle between a floor and a wall. Brush horizontally, back and forth. 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. 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 $1,600. If there is bone damage (called periodontitis), which needs surgical intervention, the surgical fee could tack on another $3,000 to $4,000. If bone needs to be re-grown by various bone regenerating methods, the cost may be an additional $300 to $400 per tooth. If you are unfortunate enough to have untreatable periodontal disease, extraction of hopelessly diseased teeth could cost $100 or more per tooth. And a full set of dentures will run up to $8,000.
Here’s a plan: Spend a little time and money now to prevent gum disease so you can spend that $8,000 on something else more enjoyable.
Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.
To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.