WEST ALLIS, WIS., May 5, 2014 – You don’t have to wait until your tooth is infected and hurts to see a dentist. In honor of Root Canal Appreciation Day on May 11, choose to make your oral health a priority because taking care of your teeth will never be easier or less expensive than it is today. 

The Wisconsin Dental Association’s Own Your Smile oral health literacy and public awareness campaign is motivating adults statewide to make good oral health a priority by seeking affordable, preventive care in member dentists’ practices for long-term value with or without dental insurance.

Practicing good personal oral hygiene (brush two minutes twice a day and floss daily), eating a healthy diet with minimal consumption of acidic, sugary beverages and seeing a licensed dentist for routine dental exams and cleanings are all key to maintaining excellent oral health.

Unfortunately, uncontrollable factors such as genetics and transmission of infectious bacteria also contribute to dental infections. Ignoring cavities and other forms of dental disease can lead to pain and increased treatment costs.

It costs an established, adult patient in Wisconsin on average $26 per month over a 12-month period (2013 Schenck Dental Fee Survey) for two routine cleanings and dental exams and one set of X-rays — necessary for comprehensive and accurate dental diagnosis.

Compare this preventive, pain-free option to: $142 per filling, $151 per extraction, $661 per simple root canal or $1,026 per crown (2013 Schenck Dental Fee Survey).

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ “Healthiest Wisconsin 2020 Baseline and Health Disparities Report” shows the number of emergency room visits for non-traumatic dental complaints increased 20 percent from 2006 to 2010. Wisconsin adults 18 – 44 years old were in the ER the most for dental-related complaints with 1,091 visits for every 100,000 individuals in this age group.

The cost for one dental-related hospital ER visit in the United States can be as high as $1,000 if it includes painkillers and antibiotics for infection according to a story by The Associated Press in USA Today.

“Unfortunately, ER treatments only provide temporary relief. An individual must still seek care from a licensed dentist for treatment of the underlying cause and good dental health over the long term,” WDA President Dr. Julio Rodriguez, a general dentist in Brodhead, Wisconsin, explained.

The state DHS also reports four out of 10 adults had at least one permanent tooth removed due to tooth decay or gum disease. Tooth loss was almost equally distributed between men and women with 36 percent of these patients between the ages of 18 and 44.

In the good news category, Wisconsin ranked fifth in the 2013 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index with 72.4 percent of residents saying they visited a dentist in the last 12 months. Wisconsin has ranked in the top 10 states for dental visits every year since Gallup and Healthways began daily tracking in 2008.

“Regular, preventive care is an affordable choice for most people, saving them pain, dollars and time in the dental chair over the long run,” Rodriguez said.

“And, contrary to popular opinion, a dental benefit plan or insurance is not required to see a dentist,” he added.

The WDA advises individuals and families to carefully review the cost of a dental benefit plan before purchase. Compare the average annual cost of a household’s dental bills with the proposed annual expenditure of 12 monthly premium payments. Determine if it makes more financial sense to pay out-of-pocket for dental care than to pay a monthly premium.

WDA member dentists help patients make their oral health a priority with treatment plans and payment options that may include cash, check, debit card, personal credit card, patient credit agreements, third-party financing plans or installments.

Visit the Own Your Smile pages on WDA.org to view oral health videos and educational infographics and to learn about choosing a dental home, the importance of health histories and steps everyone can take to enjoy a lifetime of good oral health.