If you dread dental costs, you're not alone. Prevention will help you save on costs because if you keep your teeth clean, you won't have as many cavities to fill. When you do inevitably have to visit the dentist, there are further steps you can take to make sure you don't break the bank.
It seems counter-intuitive to keep your dental costs down by visiting the dentist more often, but this is one of those cases where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Getting your teeth cleaned is a lot cheaper than extensive oral surgery, and fixing a single decayed tooth will cost less than a whole mouthful.
You probably already brush your teeth two or three times a day; if not, it’s time to start! However, it won't help if you don't brush correctly. Use a soft-bristled brush and replace it every two or three months as hard or bent bristles can injure your gums. Hold your toothbrush at about a 45-degree angle and try to give each tooth about 10 to 15 strokes. If you don't feel like counting each stroke, just brush for two or three minutes, trying to give equal attention to every part of your mouth.
Acidic foods like sodas, citrus fruits, tomatoes, coffee, and alcohol can soften and wear away at your tooth enamel. Try to minimize these foods in your diet. If you do eat them, be sure to drink water afterward to wash the acid away. Believe it or not, you shouldn't brush your teeth right after eating something acidic as you might brush away the softened enamel along with the food residue. Sugary foods are also bad for your teeth because plaque bacteria can turn them into acids. Because they aren't acidic the moment they touch your teeth the way something like orange juice is, it's perfectly safe - and even advisable - to brush your teeth right after eating something sugary.
If you do end up having to see a dentist for something more in-depth than a routine cleaning, don't despair. There are still plenty of ways to save. Many dentists will use a sliding scale to decrease payments for uninsured or underinsured patients, and some will allow you to pay in installments. If you live near a dental school, you may be able to get free treatment there as students need to practice their skills. If you go that route, don't worry; they operate under the supervision of a dentist. Because they need to be exhaustively thorough, however, your treatment may take much longer than it would with a traditional dentist. Many areas also offer free or low-cost dental clinics for the uninsured or underinsured.