Been putting off going to the dentist? You’re not alone. The pandemic caused some of us to delay dental visits for as long as three years, but other reasons patients have avoided care include general fear, embarrassment, and cost. We spoke with several top dentists in NoVA, and they all agree: No matter how long it’s been, today is the perfect time to schedule your overdue appointment.
Expect that first visit back in the chair to take a little longer, with X-rays, comprehensive cleaning, a full mouth examination, and an oral cancer screening. “At least an hour,” says Emilio Canal Jr. from the Dental Group at Reston Station. “We will establish a baseline, diagnose any problems found, and develop a treatment plan to return you to optimum oral health,” he says.
Here’s how they recommend dealing with common concerns.
Fear. “I read a study that said of top-cited fears, death is first, with going to the dentist being close second,” says Uppasna Chand, who practices at Smile Reston Heights and McLean Family Dentistry. Chand recommends discussing fears with your dentist. Her office installed televisions above the dental chairs that calm most patients. Similarly, Norachai Eddy Phisuthikul, a periodontist at Prestige Dental Specialists, says his office offers patients stress balls, pillows, blankets, and music headphones to help them relax.
Embarrassment. “I want my patients to know that I am here to help them, not judge them, which is a major step in moving forward with their treatment,” says Phisuthikul. It is never too late to see a dentist, adds Canal. “With proper dental care, usually we can turn oral problems around pretty quickly, but the longer you delay, the more limited your treatment options will be,” he says.
Cost. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll revealed that about half of U.S. adults have avoided dental care due to cost. In this area, Canal says visits including X-rays, cleaning, inspection, and screening generally range from $200 to $380 before insurance, depending on the number and types of X-rays. “Your relationship with your dentist should be close enough to talk openly about concerns and finances,” says Chand. For those without insurance, many dentists offer membership plans with a flat fee for cleanings and price reductions for restorative care.
Phisuthikul says his office works with patients to maximize their insurance benefits, and they also participate with CareCredit, which helps patients finance their dental treatment at their own pace.