We Frugalites live by many sayings, such as “A penny saved is a penny earned.” I take a great deal of pride in my ability to earn all of these pennies as they add up! However, there are times when even a Frugalite needs to spend money.
I want to share with you a hard-learned lesson where I thought I should stop spending, and just the opposite was true. During a difficult time in my life, I neglected my dental care. Because money was tight, I decided to save money by NOT going to the dentist. By sharing my story, I hope that I can help other Frugalites who might find themselves in similar circumstances in the future.
Why I began neglecting my preventative dental care
In 2015, my beloved partner Peter died after a year-long illness. Suddenly, I found myself alone and facing significant challenges, all without my best friend and confidante. Not surprisingly, I fell into a depression and was neglecting my health, especially my dental health.
During this same time, I faced some financial challenges, and my dental coverage at my previous job had ended. I reviewed my budget. When I got a reminder call to go in for my cleaning, I told them I wasn’t able to. This cycle of being short on cash and cutting out the dentist continued for about four years. All the while, I still wasn’t being very conscientious with my dental care.
One day, I got a flyer in my mailbox from a dental office opening in a new mall not far from where I lived. They offered a fantastic deal for new patients: only $175 for a complete exam and X-rays. Somehow, I knew it was time to get right with my dental care. I booked an appointment and got my exam.
And then I discovered just how bad it was
OH NO! The news that I had several cavities between my teeth that would take two further appointments to fill was devastating. I was looking at almost fifteen hundred dollars of dental work. Money was still tight. What had I done? I hadn’t saved any money and I had damaged my teeth. If I had only gone for a cleaning and check-up four years ago, I would have received feedback that my dental care was slipping. I could have done better.
Since then, I have done better. With the stern encouragement of my dentist and excellent hygienist, I have dramatically improved my dental care. Because I am taking better care of my teeth now, my dentist says I have a chance to keep them in my old age. I consider myself lucky to have learned this lesson when I did.
Preventative Oral Health Care: the dollars and cents
So, I’ve shared my own story. But is there any hard evidence that spending on the dentist will save you money? You betcha! To put spending those hard-earned pennies into perspective, I will also share some research on the financial benefits of preventative dental care.
Here’s what UIC College of Dentistry has to say about it:
“Preventative dental care practices –including early and routine treatment at the dentist, combined with good home care (brushing and flossing)—can save families money in the long run. These savings can be greatest for low-income families because they have less disposable income and more preventable oral disease. Studies have shown that for every dollar spent on preventive dental care – $8 to $50 can be saved in restorative and emergency treatments – and potentially more in additional types of medical treatment.”
The hard part is spending now when the savings may be years away. But it does add up to your benefit in the long run!
The connection between oral health and overall health
We can all list some of the outcomes of poor dental health: gum disease, dental pain, loss of some teeth, or even all of your teeth. All of these can add up to significantly impact our ability to speak, enjoy certain foods (think crisp or crunchy or things with small seeds), and even smile without hesitation. As well, you may find yourself missing work or in the emergency room with a bad tooth (both of these will cost you!).
However, were you aware that oral health can have a substantial impact on your overall health? More and more connections are being discovered between our mouth, our teeth, and the rest of our body. The Mayo Clinic calls your oral health “A window to your overall health.” It provides a long list of diseases that poor oral health (and bacteria traveling from an infected mouth) may contribute to, including infections of the lining of your heart, cardiovascular disease, birth complications, and even pneumonia!
That can certainly put that dental cleaning you’ve been putting off into a whole new perspective.
Ways to see the dentist when you are on a budget
If you’d like to get to the dentist, but do not have dental coverage, check out this article that lists some other options you can explore. Or maybe it’s time for you to audit your budget and look for savings to use towards dental care or make regular preventative dental care a big goal for you and your family.
In my case, I bit the bullet and bought into a modest dental plan before I had all the work done and the cavities filled. The savings of almost $1500 made a big difference to me, and I’ve been happy to pay $80 a month to have dental and other extended health care as my “safety net” since then.
What if I can’t buy into a dental plan?
If buying into any plan is not in the cards for you right now, here are some other possibilities
- Go to a dental school student clinic for lower-cost dental work and cleanings; these clinics may also accept Medicaid.
- Ask your dentist for an informal payment plan. I know one dentist in a small town who allows patients to pay what they can over time towards larger bills.
- If your credit is good, you may qualify for a no-interest payment plan through some creditors like PayBrite.
- There is a free dental day every year in our small city, where people can come on a first-come, first-served basis to receive either cleaning or a filling on that day for free.
- If you are a veteran, you could explore what benefits you might qualify for here.
Dental pennies saved, spent, and earned
Regardless of your budget or where you are at, I hope this article inspires you to brush twice a day, floss once a day, and get excited about the penny-saving potential of preventative dental care!
How have you gotten through tough times and still managed dental care for yourself and your family? Do you have other suggestions on accessing free or low-cost preventative dental care in your area? Please share your thoughts and stories in the comments!
About the Author
Colette is a seventh-generation farmer and homesteader. She grew up in the suburbs of a large Canadian city, but spent summers in her childhood visiting her family farm. She has worked professionally as a researcher and writer for decades, all the while travelling the world. She always knew she would return to the area near her family farm in Eastern Ontario, Canada and is now happily living not far from there on her Half-Acre Homestead. Soon, she will be launching a website full of tips for Frugalites and homesteaders alike. If you subscribe to the Frugalite email list, keep an eye on your inbox to be one of the first to see it!