Why is Dental Insurance and Dental Health Not Included in Regular Healthcare?
Though dentistry is a medical practice, and is a very important part of an individual’s bodily health, both the medical system and insurance programs do not see it this way. They actually never have. For some strange reason, anything dental related is considered separate from these institutions. Dental insurance and dental health plans are not typically included in regular healthcare, which ends up leaving patients in a pricy predicament that produces negative results. At Carolina’s Dental Choice, we won’t leave you confused as to what is and is not covered. We are committed to taking care of all our patients, and this begins with understanding that dental health is bodily health.
There are countless tales of woe depicting situations where individuals with mild to severe dental issues are not able to receive the care they need because their healthcare provider simply does not cover dental. These individuals end up having to live with the pain caused by cavities, chipped or dead teeth, or even more complicated issues requiring dental surgery. Dental care is simply not seen as a part of one’s health. This makes absolutely no sense. To say there is no link between a person’s dental health and his or her overall health, is completely untrue. Just ask any dentist. Poor oral health can devastate the rest of the body. So why don’t regular healthcare providers see it this way? Well, it’s a bit complicated and extremely antiquated.
A Strange History
Nowadays, dentists are known to be highly trained professionals who have endured numerous years learning their craft but this has not always been the case. An article in the Atlantic provides a brief history of dentistry. The article states that up until the 1800s, all dental problems were taken care of by local barbers. Sounds a little strange, huh? Imagine popping in for a quick shave only to have your barber explain that he needs to pull a few teeth. The local barber could become a primitive dentist in a pinch, often times even conducting minor surgeries as well. This was this way dental worked for years because surgery and medicine were seen as two completely different practices. A barber could also be a dentist and a surgeon, since these practices were messy and barbaric. Bad teeth were yanked from the mouth. Open wounds were sewn back up without numbing agents. It didn’t really take someone well practiced as it did someone who could handle dealing with lots of blood and screaming. Whereas the practice of medicine was more refined, requiring intelligence and finesse. Deciding what would help a patient cope with pain and injury took time and education. So it makes sense for the separation between dentistry and medicine. At least it makes sense for back then.
But once anesthesia and numbing agents came about, everything changed. Patients could now be put under or numbed, and the practice of surgery and dentistry became more sophisticated. People began to study oral health more seriously, leading to a true profession in the field of dentistry. Even though the idea of dentistry was changing to something proper and professional, the stigma of its previous uncivilized nature was never dropped. Students wishing to pursue studies in dentistry had difficulty
gaining acceptance into medical schools, and they were often left to teach themselves.
The Stigma Continues
Up into the mid 1960s, dentistry was still seen as something not quite connected to our bodily health. It just didn’t carry the same level of importance to society as other medical practices. And when Medicaid was finally established, dental was not included. But that was over fifty years ago, and we know so much more now. It’s clear that oral health is indeed directly connected to our overall health. But for some reason, today’s healthcare providers typically only offer dental for children and pregnant women. The rest of us are on our own. And this is a scary thought seeing how anything beyond a teeth cleaning can end up costing a lot of money. And for those who cannot afford such procedures, they are left to live with the pain. And sadly, this pain usually evolves into more serious issues that cost even more money.
According to The Atlantic, “Just 12 states include the full suite of dental services, including common procedures like crowns and root canals, for Medicaid patients. Three offer nothing at all. The rest provide something in between—usually a list of preventative procedures, like cleanings and X-rays, and sometimes extractions and fillings” (Khazan). And the article goes on to say that when state budgets get tight, guess what gets cut first? Yep, anything to do with dental.
It Just Doesn’t Add Up
Think of the results of poor oral health, bad breath, missing, or discolored teeth can, at the very minimum, reduce confidence. They can even keep you from getting that job you want or impact relationships with friends and loved ones. On a larger scale, poor oral health can effect your very being. Dental problems can cause chronic headaches, diabetes, and heart problems. Nerves that are connected to your mouth can reverberate pain to other parts of your body, resulting in pain all over, not just in the mouth. Yet our healthcare providers continue to see dental issues as completely separate from other bodily health problems. But aren’t our mouths, and everything inside of them, a part of our body? Uh, yeah. How is it logical then that health insurance plans can decide which parts of our body are to be covered? It just doesn’t add up.
It Gets Worse
It’s bad enough that most dental needs are not covered by regular insurance providers, but what’s even worse is that what is covered is incredibly confusing to understand. Usually, the dental procedures included are labeled as “Additional Benefits,” implying they are extra services rather than those that are normally in need by everyone. Healthcare providers also like to explain that they are not required to provide the dental services listed, and that they have the right to discontinue the coverage of any or all of them whenever they want. This means you can go to a dentist one day to have a cavity taken care of, and then come back the very next day for the same procedure only to find out it’s not covered any longer. Healthcare customers are often left in the dark as to which procedures are actually covered. There have been cases of individuals who were covered for a more complicated procedure, such as a root canal, but were not covered for something simple, like a routine cleaning.
What this confusion does, besides cost us more money, is encourage people to not see their dentist regularly. Whereas it is strongly recommended to visit the dentist for a cleaning and checkup every six months, most people only see their local dentist once a year at best. Some just don’t go at all. And this works right into the hands of the healthcare providers. We pay to be insured, they make dental so confusing we don’t end up using it.
Let Us Take Care of You
At Carolina’s Dental Choice we are just as upset about the current state of dental insurance as you. That’s why we are clear and up front about everything. We will not only let you know which insurance companies we accept, but we will also help you understand what procedures are covered. Dental care is a health issue, and we take it very seriously. It’s time to get what you are paying for. Begin to take advantage of your provider’s dental coverage, as big or little as it may be.
By: Andrae Bergeron
CCP Web Design