Keeping up with oral health care helps prevent problems like tooth decay (cavities) and gum disease. It also helps treat problems like swollen, sore, or bleeding gums and a mouth that dries out due to illnesses and medications such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, and osteoporosis. Understanding how your dental procedures are classified can help you navigate your coverage and avoid surprises regarding cost. Procedures are usually categorized as Preventive, Basic, or Major.
Most dental services divide procedures into preventive, primary, and significant. Those that fall into the preventive category involve routine procedures to maintain good oral health and identify potential problems early, saving patients pain and expense later on. Those categorized as essential typically involve straightforward therapeutic techniques that address existing issues. Procedures that are more involved or require anesthesia or surgery are considered significant. States can increase access to oral care by encouraging a diverse workforce of health professionals, providing scholarships and loan repayment programs for student dental hygienists, expanding community health worker training opportunities, relaxing supervision requirements, increasing telehealth services, and encouraging the use of well-staffed low-cost dental clinics. They can also encourage participation in federal dental care programs for underserved populations.
Dental problems can impact people’s overall health and have been linked to chronic conditions like heart disease. Research shows that regular oral health checkups help prevent issues from becoming severe. Dentists look for and treat minor problems during these visits before they erupt into bigger ones. Your plan may cover preventive services, including bite-wing x-rays, routine cleanings and exams (including fluoride treatments), and screening for oral cancer.
For those who do not have private insurance, access to dental care is especially important. Many state and federal programs provide low-income individuals with dental coverage, such as Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit for children. Governmental policy can reduce barriers to dental care by expanding eligibility for these programs and reducing financial barriers like copays and deductibles. In addition, the Federal government can support workforce training for dentists, dental hygienists, and other oral health professionals.
A dental health professional will help you develop a regimen to avoid oral problems such as tooth decay and gum disease. It is up to you to implement this routine, however. Brushing twice a day, flossing every day, and using mouthwash as a rinse help to keep bacteria at bay and get rid of plaque, which causes tooth decay. During preventive visits, your dentist will also screen for gum disease and detect early signs of damage to teeth or roots. It could save you from needing future, more involved dental procedures. Preventive procedures often include regular cleanings, dental exams, and x-rays.
In many cases, PPO plans cover these at a low cost once plan members have met their deductible. These services may also include dental sealants and fluoride treatments. Your provider will advise on the duration and frequency of these services. Your provider may limit teeth cleanings to 2 per year and x-rays to bite-wing only every six months.
The goal of the highly specialized field of orthodontics is to realign bites and teeth. Typically, orthodontic treatment is administered via braces and clear aligners. Orthodontics goes beyond aesthetics and offers significant oral health benefits as well. Malocclusions like crooked and overcrowded teeth frequently create breeding grounds for plaque accumulation, causing tooth decay and gum disease. Malocclusions can lead to poor chewing efficiency, affecting digestion and nutrient absorption.
Orthodontic care reduces the risk of oral health issues by addressing crowded and crooked teeth, improving jaw alignment, and facilitating better cleaning practices. It also helps reduce strain on jaw joints and muscles, reducing the risk of temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). Additionally, orthodontic care enhances smile aesthetics to boost confidence and social interactions while encouraging proper dental hygiene. As a result, it is considered a vital component of oral health care. A radiant smile improves self-esteem, which can reduce stress and improve moods.