Your Family Dentist Explains Dental Insurance

If you ventured an outing at Chuck E Cheese’s recently, you may have observed the loss of the vintage novelty that is the manifestation of merriment itself: The Token.  Yes, that cup of tarnished mouse engraved coins has been substituted for a plastic card, and like similar cards, it comes with a false sense of security as the freedom of continual swiping comes to an abrupt halt without warning or discretion.  This experience is all too analogous with your dental insurance card, as well.  Understanding your dental insurance benefits and how to manage them can help avoid any undesired surprises.

The first thing to know about dental insurance is that the common association of protection that comes with insurance is a concept that is simply immaterial today.  As opposed to working as a safeguard against unexpected calamity or unforeseen expenses, dental insurance, now, acts more as a discount coupon for routine services and the occasional necessary treatment.  According to one expert, “If car insurance were designed like a dental plan, an oil change and tune-up would be covered at 100%; shocks, tires, and batteries would be reimbursed at 80%; and accidents would be reimbursed at 50%, with an annual maximum limit of $1,000.”

Most dental insurances provide a maximum payout, typically between $1000 and $2000, that is used towards all or a percentage of various dental treatments after a small deductible is met, depending on the plan’s coverage.  Some routine treatment like cleanings and x-rays are covered at 100% and may not require a deductible, but other treatment is categorized by your insurance and coverage is variable from 50% to 80% or not at all.  For in-network dentists, the dentist has an agreement with the insurance provider to adhere to negotiated fees.  The dentist is obligated not only to adhere to these fees, but to collect any copays associated with them.  This is to avoid any discrimination between patients under the same plan.  Only if an office is out-of-network or if a service is not covered by the insurance plan can the fee be altered.

Of course, though understanding dental insurance is the responsibility of the patient, the reality is most dental offices offer services for verifying, estimating, and submitting your insurance.  This is beneficial as not only is insurance complex and perplexing, but so is the dental terminology associated with the treatment.  However, it is most important to understand that it is your dentist that makes recommendations toward your dental health and that your insurance coverage should never dictate your treatment and prevent you from receiving the care you need and deserve.

There is definitely more that can be said of dental insurance, and, as always, if you ever need help understanding your plan, call your dentist or feel to contact me for any questions at info@countrylakesdental.com.  Happy smiling!

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Your Family Dentist Explains Tooth Whitening

It’s the holiday season.  It’s time to relish in the Yuletide spirit as we stuff our stockings and pad the floor beneath our trees with long awaited gifts and a bit of cheer.  But as we carve the roast beast and invite visions of sugar plums to dance in our heads, let’s not forget to take notice of what is truly prancing into our mouths.  As we indulge in Christmas chocolates, cranberry sauce, and the ever-festive red wine, our teeth can only hope that Santa Floss is real.  However, it may not be too late to get off the naughty list and truly enjoy a “white” Christmas with a few tips on teeth whitening.

There are several ways to whiten your teeth, but let’s first understand how the process works.  Bleaching your teeth will lighten the color of your tooth enamel by removing both surface and deeper stains.  The active ingredient typically used is carbamide peroxide (not to be mistaken with hydrogen peroxide) which binds to the particles and removes them from your teeth.  This will not damage enamel, but can dehydrate teeth and expose pores or “tubules” in your teeth causing temporary sensitivity until the pores remineralize over time.

Over-the-counter teeth whitening systems can be an economical way to whiten teeth, but typically take longer as they have a lower percentage of the active ingredient.  Dental offices can provide a higher concentration of bleaching gel along with custom trays to take home for more efficient teeth whitening.  Even higher concentrations of gel can be utilized in an in-office dental treatment under professional supervision.  While in-office treatments are effective, this treatment coupled with take-home gel for touch ups provides the best results.

Of course, a proper diet and regular brushing aid in preventing tooth staining.  However, try to avoid whitening toothpastes that have harsh abrasives that can damage enamel.

After you have taken time to walk in a whitening wonderland, don’t forget to make the most of this season by cherishing those close to you.  May you and your family be blessed this season, and happy smiling!

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Your Family Cosmetic Dentist Explains Dental Specialties

I grew up in West Texas, and most anyone from there is aware of the unique mineral content of water.  My town was specifically known as “The Town without a Toothache” because the excess of fluoride in the water resulted in a decreased incidence of tooth decay.  Coincidentally for me, my dentist would clean my teeth on Saturdays when his hygienist was on a break.  As a result, a cleaning was about the extent of my dental visit, so my childhood perception of dentists is that they simply “cleaned teeth”.  The truth is my dentist was more than qualified in this aspect of my oral health.

So, you may ask yourself what dental treatment should you expect from your family dentist, and to what extent is your dentist qualified to provide certain types of treatment?  I raise these concerns because on January 21, a Texas Court ruled dentists who don’t practice one of the nine specialties recognized by the ADA may still advertise as “specialists” in Texas if they meet certain conditions.  An example of this is the term “Cosmetic Dentist”.  Even though most dental care in this age focuses on improving overall esthetics, no dental specialty is recognized by that specific title.

To be clear, a dental specialty recognized by the ADA is one that typically requires graduation from a post-graduate residency.  Therefore, specialists are capable of treating advanced dental cases.  On the other hand, dental specialties were born from general dental procedures, so your family dentist may provide some specialty services at the same standard of care, for example implants, root canals, or treating children.  It may be advantageous to have your family dentist treat these situations to avoid higher fees or over-treatment almost in the same way you would not visit a cardiologist to take your blood pressure.

The best way to determine if you or your child requires specialized treatment is to visit your family dentist to determine if a specialist is recommended.  Always have the conversation with your dentist to understand their level of education and comfort with specific procedures.

Maintaining a lasting relationship with your family dentist is invaluable in caring for you oral health and ensuring many happy smiles.

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Your Family Dentist Explains The Dental and Heart Connection

February is National Heart Month, and to raise awareness, I would like to share a story.  Before coming to our office, the wife of one of our patients told him that every time she visited our office, I was wearing a plaid shirt.  He mentioned it to me, pointing out that he has only seen me in my usual scrubs.  So, for fun, we decided to make sure at his next appointment, everyone in the office would be in a plaid shirt.  When he first arrived, he was taken aback to see at every turn another team member in plaid.  The entire spectacle warmed his heart. (In fact, the photo can be seen on our Facebook page.)

Why do I tell the story?  Simply to prove the point that the way to a man’s heart is not necessarily through his stomach.  In reality, there are several links between the heart and the mouth.  As research based dentistry evolves, we are beginning to see strong relationships between oral health and cardiac health.  Studies have shown dental patients with moderate to advanced gum or periodontal disease are more likely to have heart disease than those with healthy gums.

According to the Academy of General Dentistry, patients suffering with chronic periodontal disease are overall at a higher risk for a heart attack.  Some studies suggest that the bacteria found in gum disease can enter the bloodstream resulting in certain heart infections or cause inflammation of blood vessels resulting in blood clots and elevated blood pressure.  It has also been noted that oral health can hold clues to overall health and provide warning signs for other systemic conditions including heart disease.

For those already suffering with certain heart conditions, your cardiologist may recommend a strict dental regimen as a matter of prevention.  In some instances, taking antibiotics prior to your dental appointment may be necessary for further prevention of bacterial proliferation.

Your heart health is important, as well as your oral health.  To disregard either would simply be, well, heartbreaking.  Happy smiling!

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Your Family Dentist Explains The Six Month Dental Appointment Myth

We are all creatures of routine.  As a parent, one of my favorite routines is bedtime, specifically when it comes time to brush my kid’s teeth.  Not because they make it easy on me, willingly standing still and opening their mouths for a full two minutes while I make perfect circles around their little pearls.  Instead, as they squirm and resist, I am happy to continually remind them that their daddy is a dentist and they are lucky to get a professional cleaning every night, a routine many others only get twice a year.

That being said, it raises the question, “Why is it necessary to visit my dentist every six months?”  Some say the concept of routine dental exams began in the 18th century with Pierre Fauchard who wrote “Those who are diligent on the conservation of their teeth…ought to have them examined two or three times every year by an experienced dentist.”  Of course, more recently, dental insurance coverage has influenced many dental patients to only seek biannual checkups.  Interestingly enough, the ADA states to maintain your optimal oral health you need regular visits at intervals “determined by your dentist.

The reality is no dental patient is the same nor does everyone fit in the same dental routine.  Patients who may suffer with certain types of gum or periodontal disease may require more frequent visits.  At the same time, those adult or pediatric patients who are at a higher risk of tooth decay due to certain health conditions, disabilities, or poor oral hygiene, may consider a 3 or 4 month routine as a preventative measure.  Pregnant and nursing mothers at risk of pregnancy gingivitis should also modify their dental visits.  Some dental insurances will allow more frequent visits for those with periodontal conditions or women who are pregnant, but for the sake of good oral health, preventative measures may be essential despite insurance limitations.

Of course, the best way to determine what is best for you is to consult with your dentist at your next visit.  Make it a part of our routine.  Happy smiling!

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Your Family Dentist Explains Tooth Sensitivity

Fall has finally arrived.  It’s an end to those hot, Texas summer days, and we can finally venture outside and enjoy those long missed outdoor activities in moderate upper to mid-90 degree temperatures.  Before we know it, that northern cold front will coast in and send us into a chilling upper 80 degrees.  All kidding aside, the reality in Texas is it will be warm one day and freezing sleet the next.  Of course, if you are sensitive to the fluctuating weather in Texas, that is outside my expertise.  However, if your teeth are experiencing sensitivity to changing temperatures, I am more than happy to provide some professional advice.

There are many variables that cause tooth sensitivity, but it is best to first explain the anatomy of teeth to understand why sensitivity occurs.  To begin, healthy teeth are made up of an outer shell of enamel that, though very hard, is also porous.  Underneath the enamel is even more porous dentin that ultimately surrounds the pulp of the tooth, which contains both blood vessels and nerves.  The root of the tooth does not have enamel, but is made up of a substance called cementum that covers dentin and pulp and is also more porous than enamel.

When dentin is exposed, stimulants can make their way through tubules in the dentin that reach the pulp activating nerve fibers and causing pain or sensitivity.  Causes of dentin exposure can include tooth decay (cavities), tooth fractures, worn fillings, worn enamel or cementum, and exposed tooth roots from gum disease or hard brushing.  It is also common to experience tooth sensitivity after dental work as a result of exposed dentin or pulp trauma.

Sensitive teeth can be treated depending on the cause.  Treatments can include desensitizing toothpastes, dental restorations, fluoride treatments, gum grafting, or in severe persistent cases, root canal therapy.  If you are experiencing sensitivity, it is best not to hesitate as worsening symptoms can result in more complex treatment.

Of course, no one is more sensitive to the needs of your teeth than your dentist and understands your teeth have “fillings”, too.  Give them a visit.  Happy smiling!

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Your Family Dentist Explains Getting A Second Opinion

My four year old son is one of those “rowdy” boys.  Not only is he a roll down the stairs, swing from the rafters, and bounce of the wall kind of rowdy, but he’s also a great mentor for his two year old brother.  Of course, when I find myself in the midst of him jumping to me off the couch or tackling me from behind, what fascinates me is not necessarily is pure lack of fear, but more so, his unwavering sense of trust.  Wouldn’t be nice if we all felt that same amount of trust in everything?

In the dental field, there is nothing more important than a relationship between patients and their dentist.  However, sometimes that relationship of trust needs reinforcement.  This is where the worth of a second opinion can be invaluable.  Here are some tips and information about second opinions.

When you receive a second opinion from a dentist, it is important to explain the entire situation to the dentist so he can properly assess and determine your treatment needs.  Providing the dentist with any x-rays or treatment plans will help the dentist evaluate your initial diagnosis.  You may be expected to take new x-rays as each dentist uses different systems and x-rays from other offices may not be decipherable.

Always ask a dentist to show you any tooth lesions or defects that he finds either visually or with x-rays.  With the advent of technology it is easy to illustrate on a digital x-ray or intraoral photo exactly where any defects exist.  A good dentist will educate patients on how cavities or restorative deficiencies are identified and why they require treatment.  If the dentist is able to visualize or diagnose an issue, illustrating this to the patient verbally and visually should be straightforward.

Finally, ask lots of questions.  Never hesitate to engage in conversation with your dentist until you feel comfortable with your understanding of the situation.

Remember, every dentist is different, but you should always feel comfortable with understanding and receiving dental care.  Happy smiling!

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Your Family Dentist Explains Invisalign

Every smile is different and unique. It’s important for us to feel comfortable sharing our smiles with others.  Most often, the concern from patients that causes them to be unhappy with their smile is that their teeth are not “straight”.  Having received orthodontic treatment twice, I can relate to this concern.  Often times, orthodontic treatment is necessary to correct your bite and straighten your teeth, but the idea of braces can be discouraging for those who do not want visible silver brackets.  The solution is an invisible solution call Invisalign.

Invisalign is a concept that uses clear trays, or clear braces, that produce an orthodontic force to reposition teeth. The process of using Invisalign is simple.  Dental impressions, either digital or conventional, are taken to obtain a record of your teeth.  These records are provided to Invisalign where a digital record is made that allows the dentist and, you, the dental patient to see the results of using Invisalign.  The Invisalign treatment may require composite “buttons” to be placed to help move your teeth more efficiently.  These buttons are tooth colored and not noticeable.  When you approve of the final results from Invisalign, Invisalign uses advanced technology to create trays that you will wear to straighten and align your teeth.  The Invisalign trays are usually changed out about every two weeks and new Invisalign trays are placed to continue the movement of your teeth.  When the final Invisalign trays are placed and treatment is complete, these trays can act as an orthodontic retainer.

Invisalign is a great way to use clear braces instead of wires and brackets to straighten your teeth. One of the greatest advantages of Invisalign is the ability to view the results before treatment even begins.  After Invisalign treatment, not only will your teeth look great, but straight teeth help reduce plaque buildup and are easier to clean.

Clear braces may be an option for you. Make an appointment today to see if you are a candidate for Invisalign.

Dr. Matt

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Your Family Dentist is a Columnist for Lantana Living

Hello All,

I wanted to mention that I have been a columnist in the local magazine Lantana Living.  Monthly, I write informative articles regarding dental related topics.  I have included a links to a few of my columns and an article that was written about my family.  I will update my blog to include future columns.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these articles.

Dr. Matt

It’s Time to Thank Your Hygienist

Preventing Daily Teeth Grinding

Dental Tips for Back to School

Let’s Floss

Don’t Neglect Your Smile This Summer

Making Family a Big Deal

Cosmetic Dentistry from Your Family Dentist

Howdy, all.  It’s been awhile since my last blog, and I’ve received a lot of requests and questions from patients concerning the topic of cosmetic dentistry.  This is a very broad topic and general term that describes a variety of dental treatments.  In addition, cosmetic dentistry itself is perceived in various ways by different dental patients and dentists.  Regardless, proper understanding of the use of cosmetic dentistry can aid in improving dental standards, oral health, and even patient self-esteem.

When most patients consider cosmetic dentistry, they think of whitening or veneers.  Cosmetic dentistry as described by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentists is dentistry aimed at creating a positive change to your teeth and to your smile.  To me, the key component of this definition is realizing that it is a positive change to your teeth AND your smile.  This means not only improving dental esthetics, but also dental function.  The goal of any cosmetic dental procedure should not only produce visually appealing results, but results that are consistent with overall oral health.

In today’s dentistry, more than ever dental treatment aimed at improving oral health already focuses on improved esthetics.  With the evolution of advanced dental materials and dental techniques, basic dental fillings and crowns are more realistic and unnoticeable.  Composite fillings come in multiple shades and can be combined to match the differing tones observed in even a single tooth.  Non-metal crowns made of porcelain, zirconia, or specialty materials like EMAX, Empress, or LAVA can be shaded, as well, to match adjacent teeth.  Veneers or lumineers are also lifelike restorations that can improve your smile.  Even dentures and partial dentures are designed to match gums and teeth so that they can be worn discreetly.

Cosmetic procedures like tooth colored fillings, crowns, veneers and dentures are procedures that can be accomplished by most general dentists.  As cosmetic dental procedures increase in complexity, like multiple veneers, implant hybrid dentures, or full mouth restorations, it is important to ensure that your dentist has received advanced training to complete such cosmetic dental procedures.  Dentists who have completed an advanced dental residency or completed continuing education courses directed at cosmetic dental procedures are capable of providing proper treatment.  Dental specialists known as prosthodontists have completed a residency geared toward complex cosmetic dental treatment and are available for such procedures.  The comfort level at which cosmetic dental procedures are completed vary from dentist to dentist, so make it a point to consult with your dentist about any cosmetic dental procedure you may be seeking.

When it comes to cosmetic dentistry, the best approach comes down to the basics: frequent and consistent brushing, flossing, and regular dental appointments.  Good oral health is reflected in an appealing and pleasant smile.  As a dentist, I not only value the oral health of a smile, but the story behind it.  I make it my goal to ensure with every happy moment, your smile is bright and beautiful!

Happy smiling!

Dr. Matt

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