Health Insurance

Prevent Costly Dental Visits By Adopting These 4 Dental Hygiene Behaviors

Dental care in Singapore is expensive and your health insurance won't cover most procedures, leaving you to pay for your dental care entirely out-of-pocket. Learn how you can affordably adjust your lifestyle to avoid costly dental visits.

According to a recent survey by the Singapore Dental Association, 89% of Singaporeans are concerned about dental costs. They're not wrong to be concerned, as common but necessary procedures like dental implants can cost several thousand dollars. Luckily, most dental conditions are preventable, which means you can reduce your risk of facing high dental fees simply by taking better care of your teeth. Below, we sum up 4 cheap, preventive behaviors you can do to save money on your dental costs over the long run.

If You Are Prone to Cavities, Ask Your Dentist for Fissure Sealants

While there are a few lucky people whose teeth are not prone to cavities, some of us seem to get new ones every year. While most cavities are easily treatable with a filling, others may continue to grow under the filling, leading to the need for a root canal. Unfortunately, root canals can get pricey—some public and private clinics charge over S$1,100 per treatment. What's more, root canals typically won't be covered by your private health insurance, leaving you to foot 100% of the bill.

To avoid these types of costly complications, you can ask your dentist if you are a candidate for fissure (dental) sealants. Fissure sealants are a thin coating that fills in the grooves in teeth, making them useful for people who are prone to cavities or have deep fissures in their teeth. The procedure is painless and affordable—costing less than half than a standard cavity filling.

Average Cost of Root Canals at Public Hospitals

This table shows the average cost of root canals for anterior, pre-molar and molar teeth at public institutions in Singapore

Don't Avoid Your Annual Dental Cleaning and Check-up

An interesting statistic the Singapore Dental Association survey found is that almost 1 in 5 people have not gone to a dentist in the past 3 years. However, annual cleaning visits are one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of serious dental problems down the line.

First, professional dental scaling removes plaque that you can't get rid of with regular brushing. Plaque removal is necessary because plaque contains bacteria that produces acids that can lead to tooth decay. Second, your annual dental check-up can also catch symptomless problems like the first stages of a cavity or gum disease. Early detection is key because these conditions may still be treatable with cheaper methods. Lastly, scaling and polishing services are much less expensive than treating a serious tooth problem—some clinics charge as low as S$60-S$85 for the treatment compared to the hundreds you'll have to pay if you need a root canal, tooth removal or implant.

Change Your Diet to Be Tooth Friendly

We've heard a million times that sugar will make our teeth rot, but rarely do we pass on dessert in order to maintain perfect dental hygiene. However, it may be worth taking a second look at your dietary habits if you want to protect your teeth from long-term damage. When you eat foods containing sugars, the bacteria in your mouth feeds on the sugar and creates acid. Too much acid destroys the tooth enamel and leads to cavities.

In fact, you should wait at least 30 minutes to an hour after eating acidic foods before brushing your teeth. Since acid weakens tooth enamel, brushing immediately after eating can damage the enamel. However, this doesn't mean you must completely cut out sugary and acidic foods. Even reducing your sugar intake or having an alkaline food, like cheese, right after eating something high in sugar can help reduce the damage.

Be Wary of At-Home Whitening Methods

Thanks to clever marketing, super white teeth have not just become a status symbol, but also an indicator of dental health. This has led to many people turning to teeth bleaching to get the coveted pearly white smile. However, professional whitening treatments are expensive, costing between S$700-S$1,000 per treatment session. Due to the high cost of professional whitening, people started using cheaper at-home whitening methods. However, at-home methods and DIY whitening can erode your enamel, making you more vulnerable to tooth decay. For instance, whitening gels and strips containing high levels of hydrogen peroxide can damage your teeth and gums if you don't use them properly. DIY treatments like using orange peels are also dangerous, as the acid found in fruit erodes your tooth enamel over time.

Instead of potentially ruining your teeth with unregulated at-home whitening methods, you can whiten teeth while keeping your teeth healthy by reducing your intake of enamel staining foods like wine, coffee and tea. You can also try gently whitening toothpastes or mouthwashes. Alternatively, you can look for whitening systems that have been approved by a dental association (i.e. certain Crest Whitestrips formulas have been accepted by the ADA) or have the required 0.1% of hydrogen peroxide content if you are adamant about whitening your teeth.

Good Dental Hygiene Benefits More Than Just Your Mouth

By practicing good dental hygiene, you are doing more than just saving money. Oral hygiene also plays an important role in reducing the risk of illnesses in other parts of your body. For instance, oral inflammation and gum disease may increase the risk of blood clots and increases the difficulty of managing diabetes. Furthermore, bacteria in your mouth caused by poor dental hygiene can result in infections in people with compromised immune systems. Thus, while proper dental hygiene can benefit your finances, its integral role maintaining overall health could be even more important.

Anastassia Evlanova

Anastassia is a Senior Research Analyst at ValueChampion Singapore, evaluating insurance products for consumers based on quantitative and qualitative financial analysis. She holds degrees in Economics and International Business Management and her prior working experience includes work in the capital markets sector. Her analyses surrounding insurance, healthcare, international affairs and personal finance has been featured on AsiaOne, Business Insider, DW, Vice, Her World, Asia Insurance Review, the Australian Institute of International Affairs and more.

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