All posts by Dr Scott Harden

Don’t Let the Economy Take a Bite Out of Your Dental Health

March 2010

A weaker economy means many people make emotional decisions because of more limited resources resulting in quick fixes such as extractions. These decisions ultimately cause more serious long-term problems that are more expensive to fix later. This is a rising trend and I believe warrants discussion.

What do you all think about our present economy? Are we in a recession? Have we moved past our economic downfall and begun a recovery? The economy has been a subject in the spotlight of all our interests now for several years with haunting topics of bank bailouts, bank closures, government loans for the automobile industry, unemployment and healthcare system reform to name a few.

The American economy entered into a recession in December 2007, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, as the acclaimed expert on this matter. In August 2009, the Federal Reserve Bank announced the recession was ending. The bank cautioned that the recovery would be slow and that unemployment was likely to remain into 2010. The economy is improving based upon many parameters but rebuilding is a gradual process.

It is a time to reevaluate our needs and wants. “What is important?” Although we cannot control the economy, we can control what we do with our own finances. The Serenity Prayer states “God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”. We must re-evaluate the factors that are important in our lives and make the necessary corrections to put them at the top of our “to-do” list. Reprioritizing is necessary, just like taking a trip that requires constant adjustments to ensure you get to our destination. The GPS in my car says it best, by saying “recalculating route”, every few minutes during a trip. The final outcome of any goal is always better with constant evaluation and adjustments.

The goal of this article is to have you take a snapshot of present goals for you and your family in this present economy and relate it the importance of your health, more specifically your dental health. Prioritize what is important. Reorganize these goals to ensure your dental care is a major focus near the top of the list.

Whether rich or poor, starting a new job or retired, many people put their dental care (and their other healthcare) as a low priority. This can be for psychological reasons, financial issues, priority issues, or time management issues. People putting dentistry low on their to-do list contend with the cost of dentistry with disposable income rather than budgeted income, and therefore don’t always have the money necessary for needed dental care. Less disposable income for dentistry means teeth become more disposable. It is cheaper to pull teeth than fix them and unfortunately that is a path many take in a weaker economy. Many people have no choice. But those that do have a choice need to make a conscious effort to ensure dental health is a high priority.

This economy offers everyone the opportunity to reconsider what is best for their family members and themselves. Primary “needs” are shelter, food, health and religion and should be placed at the top of our priority list, to ensure balance in our personal lives. Luxuries, on the other hand, should always be found at the bottom of our list; no matter whom you are. Luxuries are “wants” and should be viewed as a reward once achieving your primary needs. As Americans, we are a very blessed people and should be careful to restrain from frills until we have first achieved the primary needs for our family and ourselves.

Dentistry, unlike many medical procedures, is not cost prohibitive. Fees are still reasonable. What’s most helpful is budgeting for dental care.   The budget can be in advance (i.e. personal savings, flex plans) or it can be conveniently accomplished through payment plans or dental financing companies that help the patient with interest fee financing. The goal is to ensure patients have options for achieving their dental work to avoid making rash decisions they will regret later.

As we ascend out of this economic recession, reprioritize your goals from what’s most important to what’s least important, based upon your family budget. Make dentistry and your healthcare an important focus, placing it high on your priority list. Have a budget for dental care to ensure optimal health, so you can make wise decisions rather than emotional ones. Realize there are numerous financial avenues available to you and your family for dental care.

Maintain regular check-ups and cleanings at the dentist. This will permit preventive dental care to be implemented more and minimize severe dental problems that could otherwise be avoided.