Am I too old for braces? We have seen many a patient start contemplating how much longer they think they will live and if it’s worth spending the money. Even people in their thirties have considered themselves too old for orthodontics. After some education and quality one-on-one time, focusing on their needs, most patients change their minds.
I’m happy to say that we currently have patients at Rolling Oaks Dental in their seventies in the middle of orthodontic care.
When adult new patients at Rolling Oaks Dental are presented with comprehensive dental care options, orthodontics is often a part of the discussion. Many adult patients have crowding of their teeth that has gone untreated for years and has gotten worse and worse. Sometimes, patients lose a tooth and do not have it immediately replaced. This can result in teeth shifting and rotating near the space. Before treatment such as a dental implant can be considered, restoring the space for adequate function and hygiene purposes must be considered. Patients that have an excessive overbite, open bite, or cross bite must often consider orthodontics as part of a comprehensive dental treatment.
After disease, infection, and dental decay is addressed, orthodontics is frequently the second phase in restoring a patient’s natural dentition back to optimal health. You might think that cost is the number one concern for adults when it comes to whether or not they will consider orthodontics. Interestingly, it’s usually not the first thing most adults are worried about.
So what’s the number one reason most adults hesitate to get the orthodontic treatment they need?
Most adults don’t want to consider orthodontic care because they think it will make them look like a teenager. They think that no one will take them seriously if they have braces. It transports them back to a time to adolescence where they might have been mocked or ridiculed for something or other, and they somehow construct the idea in their minds that getting braces will take them back there again.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Here’s why.
First of all, advances in technology have made orthodontics come a long way from where it was when you were a child. Procedures that can cut treatment time dramatically are available. Clear braces make orthodontics a little less metal mouth and a bit more stylish. If Invisalign is an option for you, you may be able to get the orthodontic treatment you want without ever having to wear braces.
The second reason is the most important one. Your perception of what an adult with braces represents to others is totally wrong.
When you see someone on a track or path, jogging and listening to their favorite tune, do you automatically think something negative about that person? What if you see someone eating a healthy meal? What about if you see someone that just got a nice haircut or a great new outfit? Do you think poorly of them? No, you don’t. As a matter of fact, you think the opposite. If you see someone taking care of their health, you automatically think positive thoughts about that person. Have you ever seen someone in their eighties riding a bicycle? It’s awesome! If you see someone of any age wearing some nice clothes and sporting a fresh new haircut, you automatically think, “man, I like the way that person presents themselves, very professional, it shows how much they care,”. People that take care of themselves and that are actively improving themselves usually elicit a positive response. They care about themselves. They want to be better today than they were yesterday.
So now let’s talk about you. With braces. Without excuses. Taking care of your health. Taking care of your appearance. You are making an investment in yourself and in your body, your most valuable asset that you have on this planet. People don’t perceive you as a wannabe teenager with some kind of problem. People see you as a confident adult, doing your thing to take care of yourself. Self improvement is something that the best strive for every day. Improving your smile. Improving your dental health so that you can keep your real teeth for your entire life. These aren’t things that people frown upon. Quite the opposite. People will admire you for your commitment to your health. It’s a beautiful thing!
I Can’t Afford Quality Dentistry, Can I?
One of the biggest reasons patients don’t come into our San Antonio dental clinic and get the dentistry they need is because they think they can’t afford it. Fear of high costs prevents a lot of patients from ever setting foot in a dental office, but it shouldn’t be this way.
Let’s start with a few things we know to be true:
1. Delaying necessary dental care always results in the eventual costs of care being higher.
2. There are financing options available for dental patients on almost any budget.
Maybe it happens in Beverly Hills, but here in my San Antonio dental clinic not many patients can walk through the door and drop a few thousand dollars in cash on the table and pay for a treatment plan up front. That’s almost unheard of, actually. Here are three ways that the average patient can pay for quality dental care.
1. CareCredit/3rd Party Financing. Many patients in our practice use CareCredit. It’s basically a health care credit card. In some cases, no interest financing can be set up. It’s also possible to finance a plan for 24 months. We have had a lot of patients apply that think they have bad credit or have recently been denied for a regular credit card qualify for CareCredit. It’s a great tool for patients to receive the care that they want and need. When it’s used responsibly, it can ease the burden of costs. Let’s say that you and your family have dental treatment needs and the out of pocket cost is $2000. If you get approved for CareCredit, that’s only $167 a month for one year, which is much easier to handle than $2000 right up front. Let’s say you have $2000, but hey, $2000 is still $2000 and you’re going to feel it a little bit. You’ve got good credit, so why not just get CareCredit and set up auto-draft on your bank account for the monthly bill. So many patients do this; it is quite common.
2. In-House Financing. Some patients just don’t want to get a new credit card. They might have good credit or bad credit or whatever, they just don’t want to get a new credit card. With all of the different credit cards and reward cards and debit cards, it’s understandable if you don’t want to have one more thing in your wallet or one more company to deal with. That’s where in house financing comes in to play. Most dental clinics have billing software that allows them to set this up for patients so that they can pay for the care that they need. A lot of times we’ll ask patients “What’s a monthly amount that you could contribute to invest in your dental health?”. Once that amount is determined, patients can start making payment toward their care, and it is auto-debited from their bank account or charged on their credit card. Once the ball is rolling, patients typically finish all of their care.
Whether you realize it or not or want to admit it or not, there is a psychological advantage for patients when payments are broken up into digestible pieces and when the entire process is automated.
Think about your smart phone bill. Let’s say you pay $120 for service. What if the phone company came up to you every January asking for $1440. You would probably try to get by without a smart phone for a few months/weeks/days until you finally ponied up the money because you need the phone. $120 each month is digestible, so it doesn’t seem like a big deal. How many people have their cell phone bill come right off their credit card or right out of their bank account? I know it’s not everyone, but it’s probably most people. Since the system is automated, doesn’t that make it easier to accept the expense? If you had to get a pen and paper out and write a check every month, it may wear you out psychologically. You might constantly second guess your decision to have the phone even though you know you can’t be without it, completely wasting your time and your thoughts.
As if it wasn’t obvious, I brought all that up to illustrate that paying for dentistry is the same way. The options and psychology of the whole thing are exactly the same. When payments are broken up and automated, we are much more able to put matters in perspective. I would imagine that if we asked 100 people what they valued more, money or health, most people would say health, if not all people. Is this how people really act? No. Many people only worry about their health when it’s too late. That is especially true with dental health. Here’s my argument, disagree if you want: financing options allow patients to take actions that match up with how they really feel.
3. Borrowing Money/Finding a Way. The uneducated patient with a neglected dentition walks around with compromised dental function, ashamed of their appearance and smile, and never does anything about it. They never seek a comprehensive examination from a dentist they trust and they never find out the true cost of the treatment they want to have. They worry that the cost will be too high to achieve what they want and they will never have any way of paying for it. Perhaps they are even embarrassed that they can’t afford what is needed. I truly feel bad for this patient. You don’t know what you don’t know! Dental phobias are another big factor that can get in the way, as well as lack of time, but those are different blog posts.
I’ve noticed something interesting over the years. Patients come in to my dental clinc needing care and the cost is more than they can handle. We offer financing options, but nothing seems to work out. Some of them disappear and never come back, which is sad. Others, however, disappear and they come back with money and get the dental treatment that they’ve always wanted. they want. When someone really wants something and they value it, they always find a way.
We are proud to work in a privately owned dental clinic. Corporate health care and corporate dentistry is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the health care industry every year. It’s a trend that is projected to continue. While it is difficult for me to understand, there are many people out there that simply don’t care one way or another if the dental office they go to is owned by a dentist or owned by a group of investors and the dentist is an employee. Who cares, right? As long as they take my insurance, it doesn’t matter. I have a message for the people that think that way: it matters. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Turnover. Sugary drinks and cigarettes and not flossing are all bad for your teeth, but so is changing dentists all of the time. Every dentist has a slightly different philosophy of treatment, and patients and dentists seem to be happier when they both agree on the approach to a patient’s care. If you’re meeting a new dentist every year and establishing a whole new relationship and philosophy each time you step in to the office, it can be frustrating and inconsistent. Corporate offices not owned by the dentist tend to have dentists passing through, coming and going all of the time. That’s not good for patients looking for consistency and quality in their dental care.
2. Decision Making. When a dentist is an employee at a corporately owned shop, there’s usually a manager or two telling them what to do. This is a terrible situation. A dentist typically has 8 years of higher education and training to deliver quality care to human beings in an ethical manner. For a dentist, there’s really not much worse than being told by a middle manager to be more aggressive with a patient’s dental care so that some corporate bonus can be met. It’s an incredible conflict of interest that not only negatively impacts patients care, but it also negatively impacts their attitude toward the profession as a whole. A dentist may be aware of a better way to handle a case or treat a patient, but in a corporate setting it might not be the decision of the doctor and patient. It might be someone else’s decision how care is delivered.
3. Quality materials. All businesses are in business to make money, but health care has traditionally been held to a higher standard than a convenience store or a fast food place. Only a dentist truly understands how important it is on every level to use quality materials for the restorations and prosthetics that go in a patient’s mouth. The materials and labs are expensive and represent a significant portion of the monthly bills in our San Antonio dental clinic. If you don’t work with these materials in your hands every day, you just don’t know. For a manager in a corporate chain trying to figure out ways to cut costs and make more money, the dental lab bill is no different than the toilet paper bill. It’s just another place to cut costs, and they do it. The dentist suffers by having to work with less than ideal resources, and patients suffer with compromised care for absolutely no reason.
When I tell people that I own a San Antonio dental clinic, they ask me when I’m going to open up my second location. The answer is I’m not. Our purpose is to deliver high quality dental care to a few thousand patients in the community we serve. The corporate chains can do what they want to do, but that doesn’t have any effect on our purpose and goals. We firmly believe that there are people out there that believe in quality care and a quality relationship with their health care provider, and that’s why we opened our doors.
It doesn’t seem like corporate health care and corporate dentistry is going anywhere. Our mission is to serve those that want a level of care beyond that, and that’s what motivates us every day. We’re not a corporate chain, and we’re proud of it.