Patients have many misconceptions when it comes to dental insurance. I cannot address all of them but I am going to highlight a few of the most common things we see in our office. Don’t misunderstand and think that what I am going to say means I love to deal with insurance companies because no one likes to deal with insurance companies. Unfortunately, insurance companies are not going to go anywhere anytime soon so I just want to try and make the process not so painful.
1) You must know your insurance information. What I mean is that you have to provide the name of the insurance company, your ID number, the address and phone number for the insurance company, and the name of the employer who is providing the insurance. All of this information should be on your dental insurance card but if you are not provided a card you need to bring this information with you to your appointment. There is not a large database out there that tells us who you have your insurance through. If you do not give us the information then we have no idea what insurance company to send the claim. If you had one type of insurance and your company changed the policy you must provide the new information, your old insurance company does not have the new information nor do they care. When a medical office calls you and requests insurance information it is because we have been told by the insurance company that the information we have is not valid. If you do not return these calls in a timely manner your account can accrue interest that you are responsible for because you did not provide the correct information.
2) Don’t Listen to Your Friends! There are thousands of different insurance companies and there are hundreds of different policies for each type of insurance. Just because your neighbor has BB insurance does not mean that if you have BB insurance your policy covers the same procedures or at the same percentage. If you receive insurance through an employer then someone in the company has decided what procedures will be covered and at what percentages they will be covered. That means your neighbor may be able to have a crown and only pay 50% while your insurance covers 0%. If you have an individual policy than you chose what types of procedures were covered and at what percentages. We also see patients that work for the same company but choose different policies get upset that their coworker had better coverage. If you are given different levels of insurance to pick make sure you look at what is and is not covered before you sign up. There may be a significant difference in premiums but that also means there is most likely a significant difference in what is covered. Once you sign up for a particular policy you usually cannot change until re-enrollment comes around the following year.
As a dental office we feel your pain when it comes to dealing with insurance companies. The people in charge of insurance can spend hours trying to rectify one patient’s claim. We do understand that when you call an insurance company it can take a long time to find out the correct information. Please keep in mind that sometimes you, as the patient, are the only one who can contact the company to get that information. Our hands are tied by privacy notices and confidentiality practices but we do everything in our power to fix the issue before we contact you.
Tooth Whitening Options
There are numerous whitening products on the market and it can be confusing on what to use, what works, and how they work. If you have been in the dental aisle of your local drug store recently you have seen the overwhelming number of choices that are available over the counter and this does not even begin to include what is available in your dentist’s office. There are two ways that you can “whiten” a tooth. The first is by removing the deep stains which is done by products that contain peroxides. The second way is removing the surface stains which can be achieved by chemical and/or physical agents. Before you begin any whitening process you should speak with your dentist. Not all products will work for all types of discoloration. Cavities, fillings, crowns, etc. will not “whiten” and many people are unaware where these things exist in their mouths.
In general, all toothpastes help remove some of the stains that we expose our teeth to on a regular basis. However, whitening toothpastes have additional polishing and chemical agents that help make them more effective stain removers. These toothpastes are great at removing surface stains, but they do not change the actual color of your teeth. Be aware that using these products can cause your teeth to be more sensitive to cold.
Over-the-counter Bleaching Products
There are several over-the-counter whitening products on the market. These products are great at brightening your smile but they do not create drastic changes. The concentration of whitening agent in this type of product is usually less than you will find in products you receive from a dental professional. As with any whitening product, you should see your dentist or hygienist first for a full exam to be sure there are not underlying causes for the stains on your teeth and for recommendations on the best product for your teeth. Tooth sensitivity is the most commonly seen side effect but you may also notice irritation of the soft tissues both of which are usually temporary.
Professionally Applied Products and Dentist Dispensed Products
The products in this category usually contain a higher concentration of whitening solution so that you get a faster more dramatic change in color. This can be accomplished with custom trays that you wear at home or an office visit where the whitening agent is applied in the office for a prescribed length of time. With the trays the whitening is completed over a 2-4 week time period and with the office visit application the whitening process is completed in about 1 hour. As with any whitening process, you may experience increased sensitivity to cold that is usually temporary.
If you are looking for a way to improve your smile, whitening is a safe and effective way. Be sure to have an exam by your dentist or hygienist to discuss what product may be the best for your teeth and your desired results.
One of the questions I get asked on a regular basis is “Why do I need to brush my teeth twice a day?”. There are several reasons why you should brush your teeth twice a day but the most basic reason (not a dental reason) is that it makes your breath more pleasant for your fellow family members, co-workers, and friends. I can tell you from experience and the stories I hear from patients, the coffee you drink in the morning or the gum you chew on the way to a meeting does not replace good oral hygiene. Very few people will honestly tell you that your breath is a problem but they are talking about it when you are not around.
Our mouths are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. They are warm, they are wet, and there is a constant food source. Because of these conditions everyone’s mouths are filled with millions of microscopic creatures that continuously reproduce. You never know what type of bacteria you have come in contact with so the cleaner your mouth is the less likely you are to have issues with cavities, uncontrolled periodontal disease, and bad breath (if the cause is dental related). No matter how amazing you are at brushing and flossing (and I know all our patients do it to perfection) it is almost impossible to get every bit of plaque and food debris out of your mouth. Overnight, while you are sleeping, the remaining food debris starts to decompose (think garbage can left in hot sun), the bacteria create waste products (yes, the same type of waste products we produce), and the cells that make up the tissue in your mouth degenerate and decompose. All of these wonderful things sit in your mouth creating wonderful smells and tastes. This is why you have “morning breath” when you wake up.
By brushing our teeth twice a day we are hoping to lower the levels of bacteria breeding in our mouths, remove as much of the food debris as we can from all the surfaces of our teeth, and expose our teeth to fluoride to help make them stronger. If you only brush once a day you are letting the bacteria win. We cannot change the warm, moist environment and even if you choose not to eat the bacteria will feed on the dead cells in your mouth, so brushing and flossing are our best tools to fight tooth decay and periodontal disease. Yes, even with the best oral hygiene the bacteria may still win out and a cavity form but if you don’t fight the fight, they will win the war.