It’s baffling to think that many Australians regularly go to the gym or attend yoga classes and yet neglect their oral health.
It’s estimated that 30% of Australians currently go without dental care (source: National Oral Health Alliance) whether due to the cost, fear of dental procedure, being too busy, unavailability of services or other reasons. In addition, more than 70,000 hospitalisations in 2016-17 for dental conditions may have been prevented with earlier treatment (source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare).
The true cost of neglecting your oral health
Hospitalisations are expensive especially when it comes to extensive tissue infection (e.g. the hospital stay, surgery and treatment, ongoing examinations and medications). Aside from the upfront cost, neglecting your oral health can actually affect your quality of life and your accomplishments.
For instance, you have a job interview or a potentially upcoming promotion in your company. You have thoroughly prepared for the interview or presentation. However, on that crucial day you experience a toothache (which could be the result of poor oral hygiene, tooth decay and failure to visit the dentist for few years).
No matter how severe or mild the pain is, surely the toothache will affect your performance during the interview or presentation. Although your credentials and preparations are solid, that single toothache event can make you miss the opportunity.
Aside from career and business, this similarly applies to your social and family life. It’s hard to enjoy the special gatherings and romantic dates if you have a toothache or any other oral health problem. Apart from your presence, your confidence will also be affected by the toothache, gum disease or bad breath. You won’t be able to enjoy the conversations and express the true you if your mind is always on something else. Or, you will be absent from those gatherings or dates in the first place.
The huge financial cost of poor oral health
Let’s now talk about the expenses. It’s estimated that $8.7 billion was the total expenditure on dental services (excluding those in hospitals) here in Australia (2012-13 data). Individually, people directly shoulder more than half of the dental costs. For instance, the cost of a single dental check-up can cost from $150 to $305 (with $231 as the average). This is way cheaper compared to the cost of root canal therapy and periodontal disease treatment.
One single missed dental check-up can actually become multiple required dental visits due to ongoing treatment and surgery. This also means you’re potentially trading $150 in exchange for thousands of dollars of expensive medications and treatment.
The expenses even get higher because of the potential huge losses in productivity and opportunities. Instead of taking the time to undergo a quick dental check-up (an average check-up may take 20-25 minutes including inspecting the teeth, gums, tongue, lips, gum pockets, palate and inside of the cheek), you will now be talking about several hours under treatment because of poor and neglected oral health.
That time could have been spent in being productive and moving ahead. Also, it will be hard to focus your thinking on the future if there’s a problem in the present.
Are you too busy to visit the dentist?
When is the last time you visited a dental clinic? If it’s more than two years already, your oral health is already compromised. Significant damage to the teeth, gums and bones might have already occurred. Keep in mind that bacteria are working 24/7 in producing acids that damage both the teeth and gums.
It even gets worse if your last visit was five to ten years ago. The bone supporting your teeth may have deteriorated. Although age is also a huge factor, poor oral health also contributes to that deterioration. It can be very difficult or costly to fix that once you reach that stage.
Perhaps you’re too busy to make that appointment but if you think about the true cost of neglecting your oral health, it can transform your perspective about the importance of visiting the dentist. If it’s important to you, you’ll make the time for it no matter what.
Neglecting your oral health may result in huge losses in money, time and opportunity. But if you take care of your teeth and gums, there will be fewer things that could disrupt your progress. If you’re paying attention to your diet and physical fitness, it’s also worthwhile to pay attention to your oral health too.