Straight Teeth Talk: The economy and your dental health

Jan. 3, 2012 at midnight
Updated Jan. 2, 2012 at 7:03 p.m.

Large metal fillings can act like a wedge and crack and split the teeth

Large metal fillings can act like a wedge and crack and split the teeth

By Mac Lee

It's all in the national news; dentists are suffering because of the economy. Since I give seminars to other dentists, am on the board of a nationally-known dental educational group and I run with some very sophisticated dentists, I know the press is reporting the truth. People are putting off going to the dentist and are blaming their actions on the economy.

Here is another way to look at the situation; your teeth do not know it is a down economy. Injured or infected teeth can't heal themselves like the skin or bones can. Regardless of the economy, decayed teeth are going to continue to decay, gum and bone disease will spread more, eat more bone and infect other parts to the body and cracked teeth will continue to crack. These diseases really don't care what the stock market is doing.

Replacement value of your teeth

One of my team members lives in Bastrop. Her house was located right in the middle of the fire a few months ago. She knew nothing on the status of her home for many days. Naturally, she researched her insurance policy, which showed she was covered for replacement cost meaning she would be paid for what it costs to rebuild. She was blessed that her house was one of two left standing on her block. One thousand, six-hundred homes were totally destroyed. Those that are being rebuilt had to begin with tearing the foundation down, too.

Using the same thought process and replacement value technique for teeth, the dollar sum of replacing all of them would be a staggering $84,000 to $140,000. Think about this before you call me crazy.

Not counting wisdom teeth, everyone should have 14 teeth on the upper and 14 on the lower. Each healthy tooth sits in solid bone and is its own entity, just like the houses and their foundations in Bastrop.

If a tooth is lost, replacement to the original state would require a surgically placed implant just like new foundations.

It also would require an all porcelain crown, which would represent the house. Fees for this one tooth range from $3,000 to $5,000 per tooth depending on the area you live in and the skill of the doctor.

Multiplying the low and high fee times 28 teeth, you will get the unbelievable replacement cost.

Rationalizing what we buy

Just last week, there were riots over the Air Jordan tennis shoes. There were mobs demanding to be the first to pay $180 for a pair of shoes. Nike has done a better job of making tennis shoes appear more necessary for the good life than the dental profession has teeth.

It is easy to rationalize buying something you want like shoes, a car, diamond ring, etc. On the other hand, it is even easier to rationalize not doing something like dieting or going to the dentist, right? I mean who wants to have someone stick their hand in your mouth, poke around it, mumble a few things and then tell you the bad news?

Reasons for not going to dentist

The top rationalizations for not going to the dentist in 2011:

1. Don't have dental insurance

2. The economy

3. Insurance will not pay for the service

4. Hate dentists

5. Kids in school

6. Single parent

7. Don't want to hear the bad news

8. Every time I go, something is wrong

People in their 30s, 40s and even 50s still have fillings that Mom and Dad paid for. Once Mom and Dad quit paying the bills, the teeth have been on their own. These large, metal fillings can act like a wedge and crack and split the teeth as seen in the pictures above.

One or both of these teeth are going to be lost. Once there is decay, a cycle of dental repair and re-repair begins and continues for the life of the tooth.

Would you go to the dentist if you knew it might save you a fortune in the future? Of course, only you can answer that.

Mac Lee is a dentist in practice in Edna. He is the co-founder of Dentists Who Care, a national movement to educate the public on modern dentistry. If you have dental questions you can call him at 361-782-7191or visit him at



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