• February 9, 2012
  • Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh

Knowing what we know about the cost of dental treatment should be an incentive enough for us to avoid any need for treatment. However, teeth and mouth are a part of the rest of our bodies and are usually the first organ to show signs of deteriorating health, unhealthy habits and unsustainable lifestyle. On the other hand, often, being healthy and extremely body conscious can also be detrimental to the health of our teeth (and mouth in general). The only way to know if your mouth is truly healthy is to regularly consult a professional, or make that a team of dental professionals: a dental hygienist and a dentist.

Long term view for your health can save your teeth and your wallet!

If you view dental health as an essential component of your overall health, you need to adopt a view that you want to remain healthy not just until you are no longer concerned about your smile or your ability to eat barbecue steak, but well into your old age. As such, you need to understand that there will be some maintenance (or to use a car analogy: ‘service’) costs along the way.

  • Educate your children about the importance of good nutrition and good oral hygiene. The earlier they begin to understand that teeth need to be looked after, the easier it will be for them to make healthy choices later in life.

The more regular your visits to the dentist, the earlier the diagnosis of any problems. This means: earlier intervention, less complex and less invasive treatment and less cost (back to the car analogy: regular oil change is far less dramatic than an engine change).

  • Find a dental team you are comfortable with. Establish a good relationship with the whole team at your dentist’s practice. Make them aware of your intention to keep your family’s teeth healthy for the long term and your commitment to regular preventative care. Ask them to give you a detailed account of your current condition and all your treatment options- both short term and long term.
  • Take your children to the dentist from an early age. Get them used to the environment and a non-threatening preventative care approach. They will find it fun and novel. Hearing how important teeth are from other people will only confirm what you have been teaching them at home and make it easier for you to reinforce the message at home.
  • Model healthy choices and responsible behaviour to your children by visiting the dentist for preventative care (maybe even taking the kids along to see that you have to do it too). Often, mums will sacrifice their own visits to the dentist in order to cover the children’s expenses. If the children don’t ever see you do it, they won’t keep it up for long, either.

Most dental practices offer some concessions for children and families of their patients. The more family members attend the practice and the more regular the visits, the more likely the practice is to reduce their fees for the family. Having whole families as clients is a big compliment to any practice and they make sure you are well looked after!

Importance of ‘Treatment plans’

As you age, your dental restorations will age, too. They will need to be replaced over time and eventually, will become more complex. When you need to ‘catch up’ on your dental health (e.g if you haven’t seen a dentist for a number of years and some treatment will be needed soon), you will need a ‘treatment plan’ from the dentist.

The best definition of a treatment plan I can come up with would be that it is ‘the most appropriate course of treatment which dentist and client arrive at after considering the client’s overall set of medical, practical and financial circumstances’.

These plans are ‘blueprints’ for long term health and don’t always have to be completed quickly, so ask your dentist to prioritise the recommended treatment for you.

Your dentist can also construct a ‘long term treatment plan’ for your reference. This type of treatment plan would contain problems or treatment you can anticipate over the long term (usually about 2-5 years) instead of items which have to be addressed immediately. Some people find it confronting to see the total cost of all this future treatment, but you must remember the need for treatment will still be there regardless of whether you do or don’t know the cost well ahead of time.  Instead of worrying about it, anticipate these costs in your family’s budget and prepare for it years in advance.

Your dentist can help by updating your long term treatment plan every year, every couple of years, or as needed. Having a treatment plan you can keep enables you to refer to future costs of treatment and plan for them in your family budget well ahead of time. It also helps when choosing the right private health cover, upgrading cover or obtaining a quote from your existing health fund on your future rebates.

Most health funds have 12 month no claim (waiting) periods on major dental treatment, so planning ahead is essential. We will discuss treatment plans, health funds and some tips on saving costs and budgets in the next instalment of this series.

If you wish to know more about what “The Dentist at 70 Pitt Street” do for our clients to help with their dental expenses, you can contact us on (02) 92326367.

Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh
About The Author

Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh

Catherine-Anne is a New Zealand-qualified dentist. She holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Sydney University and she has a broad range of experiences from working in both the public and private sector.


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