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The pain from a damaged or decaying tooth can be excruciating if not treated quickly and effectively. It can also lead to more severe health issues. Finding a local dentist was a simple task through the beginning of 2020. Many people already have regular dentists and a simple phone call usually lead to an appointment. The COVID-19 virus changed things for most people, however, including those in need of emergency dental services.
The Health Policy Institute of the American Dental Association (ADA) shows 78.7 percent of surveyed dentists show they are open as of October 2020, albeit with a significantly lower patient volume. This is an improvement from May of 2020 when 60.3 percent of dental services were only open for emergency services. This is good news for patients needing dental work from basic to emergency, but how safe is it to visit a dentist during an ongoing pandemic?
The CDC provides guidance for dental settings during COVID-19. This is helpful, but how easy is it to find out if dental service providers are following the guidelines? Read on to find the best dentist in your area, information about emergency dental services and safe dental practices during COVID-19.
Most Common Dental Services
A dentist provides many services from basic cleanings to advanced procedures. These services include simple cleanup, braces, dentures, and gum cleaning. They also include more complicated procedures such as root canal, oral cancer examinations, bonding, and more. Some procedures are one-time necessities and others are performed annually during regular checkups. Listed below is general information about a variety of common dental procedures.
Cleaning teeth properly takes more than brushing them at home twice a day. Dental cleaning procedures are performed annually as part of regular checkups, and reach behind, around, and in between teeth in ways brushing at home cannot. The average out-of-pocket price of dental cleaning was between $90 and $120 pre-COVID. Dentists are charging more per visit now, however, in order to offset the cost of purchasing additional safety gear.
The root canal procedure involves opening a tooth in order to remove infected areas inside it. This process is done in place of extraction because keeping your natural teeth helps keep your mouth, face, and jaw healthier. The price of a root canal procedure varies depending on the location of the tooth being treated and how badly the tooth is damaged. For example, teeth located in more easily reachable positions cost less than molars in the back. Out-of-pocket fees can range from approximately $750 to over $1,000.
Teeth whitening is another common dental procedure. Some would say it is not a necessary treatment during a global pandemic. Still, many people want their teeth to look as good as possible and the whitening process certainly helps in that regard. There are toothpaste with whitening formulas for a fraction of the cost of a professional whitening service. There are also more expensive over-the-counter options, which are priced from approximately $25 to over $100. The average cost of a teeth-whitening procedure at the dentist ranges from $650 to over $1,000. This cost varies based on products used and proprietary dental fee structures.
Extracting a tooth is the next step after a root canal cannot fix a problem. Teeth are extracted because of severe damage or infection unable to be corrected by any other means. They are also extracted for some orthodontic procedures to correct crooked smiles, install braces or secure jawlines. As with root canals, the cost to extract a tooth varies on tooth location and ease of access. Charges can range from $75 to $200 per tooth unless the tooth being treated is impacted. Impacted tooth removal can cost as much as $800 to $4,000 per tooth.
Braces and Dentures
Braces and dentures are both means of correcting or replacing teeth. Braces are used to correct alignment issues and problems with biting. Dentures replace missing teeth. Dentures can be partial or full, the latter being commonly known as false teeth. Braces are expensive and can cost approximately $2,500 to $7,000 and above. The cost of dentures varies widely based on the number of teeth being replaced and the types of products/materials used. Prices as low as $600 are common for basic dentures. However, implant-supported dentures can cost as much as $50,000 due to using existing teeth as support and a more complicated procedure overall. They also act more like natural teeth, making chewing and talking a more natural, pleasant experience.
Gum Disease Surgeries and Oral Cancer Examinations
Gum disease (Periodontal) is an infection of the gums and jawbone. This disease can erode both gums and teeth to significantly dangerous levels, requiring surgery to be corrected. The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis. Gingivitis is capable of being reversed without surgery. Periodontal is more serious and surgery is usually the only way it can be treated.
Oral cancer examinations are stressful and challenging procedures for patients to undergo. Oral cancer initiates in cells formed inside the throat, mouth, and/or tongue. The examination involves searching for lumps and/or tissue irregularities in the mouth and everywhere else from your neck up. Tissue discoloration and lesions are also symptoms.
True periodontal surgery can cost upwards of $10,000 when the problem is more severe. Simpler gum disease treatments can cost as low as $500. Perhaps due to the somber nature of an oral cancer examination, some dentists do not charge to perform one. Many tests come back as false positives, unfortunately, which is another possible reason some dentists do not charge. Those who do charge examination fees charge $35 to $65 on average.
How to Find the Best Dentist in Your Area
Finding the best dentist in your area is relatively easy to do thanks to modern technology and a plethora of patient reviews. Not all insurance covers dental procedures and when they do, they are not always covered in full. This is why a website such as Zocdoc is helpful in ascertaining the names and contact information of local dentists and, which insurances are accepted at their practices. New patient specials are available in some dental offices. Some offer free x-ray for patients. Same-day services are also available.
How to Stay Safe When Visiting the Dentist
Staying safe while visiting the dentist is a primary and viable concern for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Personal responsibility is a big help. Wear a mask and gloves if possible and stay a minimum of six feet away from other patients while in waiting areas. The dentist's office should have hand sanitizer available but it is wise to bring your own, just in case they do not. Finally, before making any appointments, ask your dentist if they are following all CDC-recommended safety protocols. Make certain your dentist, the dental assistants and the receptionist will all be wearing masks, gloves, and other necessary safety gear. Finally, ask your dentist to clearly explain the risks involved with your potential visit so the best and safest choices can be made.