In response to the rising price of dental care, California recently passed a bill to make the treatment of tooth decay more accessible for everyone in the state.
The high cost of dental care and lack of coverage that affects thousands of Americans, and California has decided to do something about it. Coupled with innovative cost-saving programs, a new law allows dental hygienists to treat cavities with a temporary filling, a rule designed to help those in remote and underserved communities.
Cost of a Cavity
If you have somehow managed to avoid a cavity your entire life, consider yourself one of the lucky few. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 92% of adults aged 20-64 have experienced some sort of tooth decay.
Given that the average cost of a single permanent filling runs you between $100 and $200, it’s not surprising that many people can’t afford to properly treat cavities. Compounding the problem, 44% of those who suffer from untreated tooth decay live below the poverty line.
A recent article from the Los Angeles Times profiles Paul Glassman, a professor of dentistry at the University of the Pacific, who has worked for years to help the underserved receive the care they need by spearheading a new practice called “tele-dentistry.”
Glassman’s practice closes the gap in affordable expertise for those in remote and impoverished areas by putting more affordable dental hygienists in direct contact with patients through the internet.
Interim Therapeutic Restorations
The state of California has taken large-scale steps to make projects like Glassman’s possible. A bill (detailed here by California Legislative Information) passed in September of last year not only requires Medi-Cal (the state’s version of Medicaid) to cover the services, but it also changes the law regarding how hygienists can independently treat patients.
By allowing dental hygienists to perform procedures without a dentist on-site, the bill saves time for dentists and money for residents.
Procedures like cavity fills are also becoming more affordable, as dentistry trends have shifted to what are called interim therapeutic restorations, or ITRs. ITRs are a low-cost treatment typically used in underserved communities in the United States and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, both as a restorative and preventative measure.
The tooth decay is removed carefully by hand, rather than with a drill, and therefore requires no anesthetic. It is then filled with a temporary cement that lasts for several years.
Bringing Down the Cost
As the cost of the majority of dental work continues to escalate, however, innovative programs like Paul Glassman’s are becoming increasingly crucial for those in need. Unfortunately, these programs are still a rarity, and many low-income families still have little or no access to affordable dental care. That’s why there’s SingleCare.
SingleCare lets users search for procedures and appointments from a network of doctors in their area, connecting them to the right provider at the right price. With SingleCare, you only pay for the care that you need, and users pay an average of 36% less than what they’d pay out of pocket on dental work.
Now you really don’t have an excuse to make that trip to the dentist!
(Main image credit: Nancy Dushkin/flickr)