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DISCLAIMER: The decisions and savings described by the author are specific to her own context. All savings were made while under the supervision of her own dentist, with regular check ups every six months. This article does not constitute medical/dental advice. All dental health decisions need to be made by consulting with your own dental care practitioner.
In this article, I would like to share my big success with taking control of my own dental care. My total savings related to these decisions was $790. What is important to note here is that I maintained – and even improved – my dental health while saving this money.
In a previous article, I had emphasized the importance of preventative dental care and check ups and how these can help you SAVE in the long run. This article builds on the previous article by sharing how I made some decisions to manage and take control of my own dental care after getting back on track with it after a difficult time in my life.
How I discovered dental care mattered
First, here is a bit of background to the article: After losing my partner to cancer, I struggled with a paying for a lot of basics of everyday life – like my dental care. I now regret that I neglected it. Lesson learned! After reaching out to an excellent local dentist who had a new patient deal, I discovered I had numerous cavities and was looking at over $1200 in dental repairs, all due to my neglect of myself.
However, at that time, I was told by my new dentist to get a preventative filling on the front of one tooth, which has a problem area where the enamel has worn down and the gum has receded slightly. My gut instinct told me to resist the suggestion and see what I could do for my tooth through natural means. I waited two years to share my successes, because I can now confirm that what I did worked. I’ve been able to maintain the health of this one tooth using the below advice. The health of this tooth has been checked every six months, and a recent X-ray has even shown that it is indeed healthy.
Money saved by the declined preventative filling – $160
First, I would like to share that I did not take this decision to decline the filling lightly. I was scared! However, I am an intuitive person. When the procedure for the preventative filling was described, I had an immediate image of harm coming to the tooth. I don’t know where this image came from. There were many other fillings to be performed on my teeth, but they were all confirmed cases of tooth decay.
What had caused this damage? The dentist felt that I was grinding my teeth at night, and that this had caused the issue. I decided to start trying to reduce that problem, and just wait until my next check up, six months later, to see how the tooth was doing.
Money saved by buying a night guard – $350
After just having spent $1200 on restorative dental care, I did not have the $400 to have a custom night guard built for me. So, I decided to try one of the versions available in my local drug store. It took a few attempt to find a night guard that worked for me, but these are so cheap, that I still saved money.
Through my learning process, I now know to look for several features.
1) Check the label before buying to ensure the night guard is free of harmful plastics and latex.
2) Look for one that has a molding tray that holds the guard in place during the molding process
3) What helped me get a good fit was that the night guard included instructions on how to PRACTICE the molding process before you heat the guard.
4) The night guard is guaranteed for fit. If you try to fit it twice and it doesn’t work, they will send you a new one, no questions asked.
The fit of my drug store-purchased night guard is absolutely perfect and comfortable. I even sort of look forward to putting it in at night. It never falls out. I am confident it has helped reduce the damage to this tooth through night grinding, so I can keep the tooth intact without a preventative filling. All for under $30!!!
Money saved buy buying a budget-friendly electric toothbrush – $120
The surface of this tooth is a bit rough, and I was quite concerned about it getting a cavity there. For this reason, I finally bought an electric toothbrush. My dental hygienist had recommended the idea to me, and I felt it was now time to act. Because I had been living off-grid, I had been extremely reluctant to add to my electrical load. I now realize that this battery-operated toothbrush uses such a small amount of charge that it is quite manageable and very worth it, even in off-grid set ups.
How I saved money on this purchase is really due to my wonderful hygienist. She knew I was on a budget, and told me to buy the cheapest electric toothbrush I could find. “Don’t worry about it having different settings or any fancy features,” she said. Following her advice saved me big money. I found the most budget-friendly electric toothbrush I could find – a brush on sale for only $16. I can use my own rechargeable batteries in it, too.
Money saved by reducing my use of fluoride toothpaste – $160
I did elect to use fluoride to treat this tooth daily. I know that many natural dental care people will not agree with this choice. In most of life, I’m a centrist, hesitant to dive into extremes. So, when my hygienist recommended brushing with a high-fluoride toothpaste at night to protect this tooth, I followed her advice.
However, I didn’t like the idea of exposing my other teeth to the fluoride. What was my compromise? So, each night, I take the tiniest (I mean TINY!) amount of this toothpaste onto the tip of my right index finger. I use a tissue to dry the surface of the front of the tooth and then spread the paste sparingly onto the tooth.
So far, I am getting excellent results by doing this. By not brushing with this toothpaste, and only using the tiniest amount, I have been able to use the same 40mL tube for two years now, and it is still over half-full. This tube of toothpaste costs $10. If I estimated I went through a tube of this toothpaste/month, this means I’m now saving $160/year here.
Want to take a bite out of your dental care bills?
We all face difficult decisions regarding our own dental care and sometimes of those we love. Could you see yourself trying any of the ideas offered here? Do you have one you can share with us? Please tell us in the comments below.
Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. She has just launched her website, Half Acre Homestead. Colette invites you to stop by and visit this work in progress! Coming soon in 2022 is her exciting new online program. Interested in Resiliency, Preventative Health, and Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Housing (to name a few!)? Stay tuned for more details!
21 thoughts on “How I Saved BIG By Taking Control of My Own Dental Care”
I’m 72 and have all my original teeth. Yes, some have been capped because of chips when I was training horses haha. They headed straight for the mouth!
Recently I was told about a toothache that I needed surgery to remove said tooth or a root canal. Shudder. So I asked him if there was any other way. He suggested a huge course of anti-biotics. $10 for the bottle, hundreds for the procedures. I chose the ten bucks. So far so good. (I shuddered when he said the words root canal. How many times have we said I’d rather have a root canal than… Be careful what you wish for.)
My daily routine includes brushing and using mouthwash twice a day. I floss after every meal, and I only drink water, tea, coffee, and milk, but be careful of the milk which has sugar in it. If you do have caps like I do, do not ever skip flossing.
Medicare pays for office visits, but the expensive procedures are limited.
Hi Marie, How Inspiring! I am 52 and hope to be in your shoes, so to speak, with all my original teeth when I am your age. Good for you. I am so delighted to hear that your tooth is doing well so far. I will definitely say a prayer for it! What is so helpful about your story is how you asked your dentist if there was ANY OTHER WAY!!! I think all Frugalites will benefit from adding this simple question to their list. It is always to a good feeling to know that you have done everything that you can. Thank you so much for sharing, Marie!
I have heard of folks having success keeping their teeth and gums healthy with oil pulling. Unfortunately I didn’t learn of this until my periodontal disease was too far gone.
Hi Grammyprepper, Oh, dear! I am terribly sorry to hear about your periodontal disease. I do oil pulling daily. I absolutely swear by it. I had so much to say about the dentist issue that I will be sharing all of my natural dental tips in a future article. Thank you for mentioning this for folks who may be in need of this help, Grammyprepper.
My daughter had braces for two years as a young teen. Just after they were taken off, the dentist said she had four spots which were going to become cavities. She wanted to drill and fill them, but I was horrified. My daughter had never had a cavity. I think they were where the braces made it hard to clean them. I thought then she’ll have to deal with fillings which eventually fall out and weakening of her teeth for the rest of her life. I looked at the health food store and saw Uncle Harry’s Remineralization Liquid. I also switched to another dentist who thought it was worth a try. It was. After a month or so, the areas had been remineralized and were normal! That was in 2014. We just went to the dentist yesterday (the second one), and she continues to have no cavities! I highly recommend the product, look at the reviews on Amazon.
Hi Cia, Wow! This is a fantastic story about saying “no” to fillings and finding a better solution. Literally! ha ha! I’m so happy you mentioned what you found. I make my own remineralizing tooth powder and will be sharing that in a future post, too! So happy for your daughter that she continued her cavity free status. Hurray!
Fantastic article. I make my own tooth powder. 1/4 cup (food-grade, aluminum-free) baking powder, 1 teaspoon bentonite clay, sprinkling of mineral pink salt. Mix thoroughly and add a dash or two of food-grade peppermint essential oil. (optional) A small, shallow plastic container works well. Also, I add a moisture absorber packet leftover from a vitamin bottle. Drip some tap water on the toothbrush, tap off excess water and dip into the dry mixture. Mess free! Also, I keep my floss pick/harp (which is rinsed out and ready for multiple uses) on the cover of this container for air drying. 🙂 When the baking soda mixture is nearly empty, I toss the container and cover in the dishwasher and refill another container.
you say you use baking powder, then later you say baking soda. which is it?
Hi Nancy, Thank you for drawing attention to this. I am hoping that Ancient Mother will see this and can clarify her recipe.
TYPO! I’m sorry!! Baking SODA! 😉 Thank you for asking 🙂
Hi Ancient Mother, Thank you so much for taking the time to share your own recipe and tips to make it work. I hope you see this and can clarify another reader’s question: is there baking powder AND baking sode or both? (Note to readers: baking soda is actually one of the ingredients in baking powder). I hope we can clarify this for readers. Many thanks!
Yes, that was a TYPO! Thanks for asking! I did mean BAKING SODA. I’m sorry about my error. Look for an aluminum-free, chemical-free version, rather than Arm and Hammer which has lots of nasty chemicals. 😃
Fantastic! I was so happy to see that you had seen Nancy’s question. She may be mixing up some of her own tooth powder right now. Thanks for checking back and for responding, AncientMother.
I have been religious re: twice a year preventative (when on my parents plan and after being out on my own). Even if I did not have dental, I’d have paid out of pocket for preventative. Good teeth do not run in either side of my family which made me double down. I do have a good number of crowns and I too use the Rx fluoride toothpaste. I use it two days a week – hygienist said one or two times a week was sufficient to help. Not having city water means no fluoride.
And remember dental issues can affect your heart health. Another reason to do whatever you can to ensure good oral health.
Hi Selena, Thank you so much for sharing your own support of preventative dental care. You have offered a powerful reminder that dental issues can affect heart health. Sometimes it is not easy for me to find the money for my preventative dental care, but it is a high priority for me. Thank you for underlining the importance of this for the Frugalite community. Much appreciated!!!!
Great article with lots of good suggestions! If, however, you find yourself having to have extensive, expensive dental work done, and you don’t have the money to pay for it all at once, there is a solution. The Care Credit card can be used interest free for 6 months! Beware, however, that if you don’t pay it off within 6 months, they will charge you interest from day one. My dental hygienist told me about this card that can also be used for Veterinary care for your pets. What a life saver!
Hi Kathleen, Thank you so much for considering this other need of readers. While I didn’t have access to this credit card, my dentist did offer a kind of payment plan that was connected to applying for some credit. As I described in my earlier article, I found myself in need of extensive work at one time in my life. That is great that you shared your experience with The Care Credit Card to support other readers. I appreciate your sharing.
If you have local community college or dental school within reasonable distance for you they offer almost free cleanings from their students. Then if any work is needed they let you know. I have used in past when did not have insurance.
We are fortunate that have local clinic that has dental available from local dentist with referrals for low cost dental work–thats how I found my now dentist.
Tip my dentist told me was that drink your non water drinks with meals that way the food scrapes any sugar off teeth when eating. Otherwise drink sugar free (not for me) beverages.
Warning–root canals only prolong the needed removal of tooth which will eventually have more problems. Have seen it many times from people, that’s why I just have it pulled.
Hi Regina, Thank you for offering so many helpful tips to readers. How fortunate that low cost dental work is available in your area! I was not aware about this aspect of root canals. I must say that what I have heard about the procedure frightens me. Much appreciated for all of the info!
This is a great, seldom mentioned subject. I’m 74 and still have my own teeth, although they don’t look quite like they did when I was 24! I had an incident when my youngest child was around 10 or so that I’d like to relate. We all tend to trust our medical providers. I had been dealing with the same dentist for 10 or so years. He had done a few root canals and caps on my teeth. He also coated my boy’s teeth with a substance that was supposed to prevent cavities to some degree. A year or two later when I took the boy to that dentist, the dentist said the boy had ten!!! cavities. I said thanks and left. I took my son to another dentist that was a personal friend, semi-retired, and attended my church. He examined the boy’s teeth and said he had no cavities!!! Can you even imagine!! Now I seriously doubt that I needed all those root canals and caps too.
Hi Janie, Thank you for sharing your own success at 74 still with your own teeth. I was angered and saddened to hear your story. Now, I’m never one to paint all people of any group with the same brush (in this case, dentists), HOWEVER, everyone who reads…..if you take away from this article Janie’s story and my own and the need to advocate for your own teeth and/or those of your children….that would be great. At the very least, we would encourage everyone to get a second opinion when faced with any expensive estimate of dental care. My hope in sharing these articles is sincerely to help others. Thank you so much, Janie, for sharing this story. I hope you help some Frugalites out there to save money…and teeth!