Tooth or consequences: the cost of bad oral hygiene

Good oral hygiene including regular dental visits can do more than give you an attractive smile. It can also help to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, help you retain your teeth as you age, and help to preserve the shape of your face. 

As if there weren’t already enough reasons, a healthy mouth may also help protect you against serious medical conditions, including heart attacks, stroke, digestive problems and pre-term births.1

Dental and health problems caused by poor oral hygiene can be expensive or simply unaffordable if you don’t have insurance to cover them. Case in point, in 2011, 41% of dental care in Canada, or $4.6 billion, was paid out-of-pocket by individuals.2 And 2014 figures show that the average Canadian household spends over $2,250 out-of-pocket on health and dental expenses such as prescription drugs, dental care and more.3

Manulife Flexcare® Health and Dental Insurance Plans are designed to help protect you against out-of-pocket health expenses including dental care, prescriptions, eyeglasses and more. Plans are customizable and affordable. 

A contributing factor to poor oral care in Canada is the number of people who avoid the dentist due to the high cost. A 2014 report shows that high cost keeps over 6 million Canadians from getting the dental care they need. But that avoidance comes at a price: medical research shows that avoiding the dentist’s office could land you in the doctor’s office.4

At any given time, over 500 different types of bacteria are living in your mouth. These bacteria form plaque, which accumulates on teeth along the gum line and between teeth, and can cause gingivitis. If left untreated, this can lead to serious gum disease known as periodontitis. 

This can eventually result in tooth decay and gum disease, requiring costly dental procedures and gum surgery. Pain from abscessed teeth, extractions, cavities and gum disease can be so debilitating it causes people to lose income or miss school. Not to mention the high cost of antibiotics and various dental and oral surgeries. 

Research shows that people with gum disease including gingivitis may be at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke, and the risk increases with the severity of the gum disease.5 Any cardiovascular disease can result in the need for medical intervention, therapies and medications, which can have significant costs associated with them. 

Protecting your family with a Manulife Flexcare Health and Dental Insurance plan can save you hundreds of dollars a year out-of-pocket. You choose your coverage and pay only for what 
you need. All Flexcare plans include a dental benefit that covers a recall visit every 6 to 9 months. Regular checkups can help maintain a clean and healthy mouth and teeth. 

Bacteria in the mouth can also find their way into the digestive tract, where they may cause intestinal failure, irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders. 

Advanced gum disease may even increase the risk of delivering low-weight, pre-term babies, via oral toxins released into the bloodstream which interfere with the development of the fetus. Pre-term infants may face a lifetime of medical complications and costs.5

And there are more diseases linked to poor oral health. Gum disease can cause diabetic complications. A New York University study found a link between gum disease
and Alzheimer’s disease, in bacteria found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, and the mouths of people with chronic gum disease.6 Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health linked gum disease to pancreatic cancer, citing a 64% increased risk of pancreatic cancer among males with periodontitis.7

There’s another benefit to good oral care that many people don’t know about: some serious illnesses can be detected early by symptoms visible in the mouth. AIDS and diabetes often first present as lesions in the mouth for example. Early detection by a dental professional is key to successful treatment.8

Tips for good oral hygiene: 

  • Protect your family with Manulife’s Flexcare Health
and Dental coverage. It’s customizable, covers exams, cleanings and more and can save you hundreds of dollars. 

  • Brush a minimum of two times at day. Use a fluoridated toothpaste and brush for at least two minutes. 

  • Floss daily to help remove plaque and food from between your teeth. 

  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fibre, fruits and vegetables and low in sugar. 

  • Make sure you are getting enough vitamins A and C to help ward off gum disease. 

  • Don’t smoke and if you do, quit. Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are linked to gum disease and oral cancer. 

  • Avoid or limit alcohol consumption. Drinking indirectly contributes to poor oral health by causing a dehydrated mouth, which can increase bacteria. 
  • Visit your dentist regularly for exams and cleanings. 

Having Flexcare Health and Dental coverage from Manulife can protect you and your family from the rising cost of health and dental expenses not covered by private or group plans, and save your family hundreds of dollars a year. Consider it an investment in your family’s health and future. 

This article is part of a continuing series of informational articles about the issues impacting health care in Canada. Manulife offers a range of insurance and banking products to meet the changing needs of Canadians, including Health & Dental coverage.

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